It’s over. Although you thought divorce could never happen to you – because you had cracked the code of happy marriage and you could always talk things out – the relationship you entered years or even decades ago is now officially null and void. It’s time to jump-start your new life.
Many divorces share a common theme – mainly the ‘’it was not working anymore’’ phrase – but all divorce-related stories are different in their own way.
Maybe you married your high-school sweetheart decades ago, and once you reached middle age, you realized you had grown in different directions and were no longer compatible.
Maybe your marriage was short because you fell in love and rushed to the altar before really getting to know your now ex-spouse, and you discovered the deal-breaker(s) after the I do’s.
Maybe you had children and decided to give your marriage another shot for their sake; maybe one of you had an affair and/or decided to call it quits; or the two of you made a mutual decision that parting ways was for the best.
But now, it is over, and you’ve at least started (or maybe even completed) the process of unraveling your shared married life into two separate lives: legally, financially, and physically. Regardless of how you reached this point, the important question you must answer now is: “Where do I go from here?” Here are a few pointers to get you thinking about how to jump-start your new life after divorce.
Here’s a guide on how to jump-start your new life and figure out where you go from here.
Give Yourself Time to Mourn
Regardless of which camp you were in (the spouse that decided to leave or the ‘left behind’ spouse), you need to give yourself some time to mourn. Don’t just think you can soldier through this period and keep it all bottled up inside, hoping that you will end up patting yourself on the back for your stoicism. This attitude is an extremely unhealthy way of approaching the issue. Even if the divorce was something that you wanted or if your life is objectively better after, it can still feel like a loss.
This is an entirely normal process, where you will have to handle a flurry of conflicting emotions. You may feel guilty about what happened, or wonder what exactly went wrong and if there is any way to change things. While experiencing feelings of remorse is part of the healing process, it is not a good idea to dwell on them. You might feel like the divorce has left an empty space. But that is not necessarily a bad thing – it is an opportunity to fill it up with something meaningful.
Physical Exercise can Help You Deal with Loss
Whether your goal is to keep your mind occupied, adopt a healthy lifestyle, or just create a reliable outlet for all your negative emotions, exercise can help you accomplish those goals. Consider adopting a workout routine suitable for your current level of fitness – the Piyo home workout program, for example, is a great start for fitness rookies. NOTE: If you’ve been sedentary for a while, get a checkup with your family doctor before starting a new exercise program.
While exercising, your focus is entirely on yourself – and your body rewards your efforts by releasing neurotransmitters called endorphins. A response to stimuli like stress, fear, or pain, endorphins interact with parts of the brain responsible for controlling emotion and blocking pain. They can also trigger positive and invigorating feelings, often called a “runner’s high.”
You are investing time, effort, and sweat to make yourself feel fitter, stronger, more skilled – or for the workout endorphins, to feel tired enough to sleep, or to achieve some other goal you set for yourself.
Because it requires deep and unchallenged focus, exercising puts you in the present and makes past issues seem less important. It is very hard to think about that time when you could have acted nicer, said something more diplomatically, or to create various other scenarios to rewrite the past while you are struggling to defy gravity and run towards the top of a hill or performing a challenging exercise.
Here are a few simple exercises that will help you cope with stress and negative emotions:
- See-Saws with Dumbbells: This works the lower back, the glutes, with a particular focus on the hamstrings. To accomplish this exercise, you will have to summon all of your existing balance, flexibility, and foot stability. Grab two dumbbells, raise one of your legs backward and bend the other knee, making sure the weights touch the floor before raising your head. Do 10 to 15 reps with each leg. See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC1dlMDsk0E
- Single-Leg Squats: We will give it to you straight, this exercise is not entirely easy to pull off, but once you finally master it, all those negative emotions will disappear. This workout will stimulate your core balance and strength. Ideally, you want to squat all the way down until you reach the heel and flat foot. However, if you are a fitness rookie, there is no shame in placing your hand against the wall for an extra level of stability. See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_Ca2YRRdtE
- Arm and Leg Extensions: For this exercise, you will need to gather all your core strength and balance if you don’t want to fall over. Begin by standing on your hands and knees, making sure your wrists are in perfect alignment with your shoulders, and your knees are aligned with your hips. Raise one arm and the adjacent leg. You can start by doing 10 reps for each side, and then advance as you are getting more comfortable with exercising. See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUIfByeeNYo
When performing these exercises, keeping form is very important; when you lose form, injuries happen. The videos above demonstrate good form.
Try New Things to Help Jump-Start Your New Life
After spending who knows how many years with another person, it is very easy to fall back into old habits and routines after the divorce papers are signed and sealed. However, this is the perfect opportunity to either try out new things or revive old interests and hobbies that failed to receive enough attention while the marriage was still ongoing. Here is a short list of things of new things to consider:
- Looking for a new job;
- Redecorating the house/living space;
- Changing your whole wardrobe, trying clothes that are out of your comfort zone;
- Return to school to pursue either old or new degrees;
- Pursuing old or new hobbies;
- Get more involved in the social scene (for example, going out with your coworkers or participating in company events);
- Watch more films/tv shows;
- Schedule more time for relaxation.
Even though no happy and fulfilling marriage ends up being dissolved, knowing this does not make divorce easier to deal with. However, as hard and inescapable as it might seem at first, divorce is actually a great opportunity to pick yourself up, turn over a new leaf, and dedicate yourself to your growth as a person and self-improvement.
Give yourself some time to mourn, but do not dwell on things you can’t control and regret your decision, pursue new hobbies, and exercise as much as possible. Naturally, you might have some difficulties snapping out of the divorce blues and start rebuilding your life. This is entirely normal, and nobody is saying you should rush. As long as you are taking a step-by-step approach and remain consistent, you will manage to jump-start your new life in no time.
Barry Clarke is a fitness instructor with a degree in Human Nutrition. After work is done, he finds happiness and relaxation in writing. He is an editor at protect your health, a blog that aims to be an important resource on topics like diets and workouts.