For those of us that are separated, it can be a tough time trying to make it through the holidays after divorce. I have friends that have told me, “I just wish I could hibernate – starting from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Day”.
If you feel that way too, there’s nothing wrong with you; it’s completely normal given what you have gone through. Although a spectrum of uncomfortable feelings inevitably come up for you, it can’t be very enjoyable to dread an entire holiday season, right?
Here’s the deal: As you read this article, I am going to ask you to make a commitment to yourself to stay open. If there is a strategy that resonates with you, great; if not, let it go.
7 Steps to Handle the Holidays After Divorce or Separation
The holidays after divorce are a great time to reignite or consider starting spiritual practices. You can implement something as simple as a breathing technique which promotes calmness and lowers blood pressure.
There’s also prayer, meditation, reading scripture, fasting, and developing a focused awareness of the beauty of nature, which is very inspirational. Additionally, this might be a perfect season to consider visiting your local church, synagogue, or temple for a sense of solace by communing with those of the same faith.
2. Team of Support
It is human nature to isolate and retreat when you are in pain. However, the company and comfort of friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who understand and care for you can be a transforming experience. The best thing you can do for yourself, especially during the holidays, is to reach out to others.
Those of us that have gone through a tough break-up, separation, or divorce know what it’s like to experience the negative side of emotions all too well. Negative emotions like anger, fear, self-pity, and others can be under-expressed or over-expressed. Here are a set of questions that may help you:
- Do I acknowledge my emotions without trying to push them down?
- Are there emotions that I overdo (perhaps anger, depression, self-pity)?
- Do I use my emotions to control others and get them to do what I want them to do?
It is extremely important to start, maintain, or even increase your physical activity especially when you’re not feeling a great of amount life during the holidays after divorce. We all have probably heard that being physically active reduces hormones that cause stress, anxiety, and depression. The last thing you may feel like doing is to get up off that couch and go for a bike ride, take a walk, or go to the gym. Although feelings are important, in this case fact is more important. I remember someone who was going through a very rough time, and she started out by walking one block a day, because that’s all she could do. The next week she increased it to two blocks, then four, then six. She now walks three miles every day! So please, for yourself, start moving every day, even if it’s a small start.
We are creatures of habit and it’s hard to break out of them. It is especially difficult when it involves a past significant relationship. The area most challenging is in the area of our thoughts and attitudes. For me, I struggled with thoughts like, “I will never get my life back” and blaming attitudes like “this is ALL your fault!”. Learning how to shift thoughts, feelings, and behavior is a process, but it can be done with time and practice.
Here’s a strategy that my coaching mentor, Magali Peysha, came up with that I found very helpful (I changed to event examples that might me more relevant to you):
6. The Three P’s Strategy
This strategy is beneficial when dealing with attending specific events like going to a holiday social, family function, or weekly soccer game where you see your ex with their new significant other.
A. Purpose: What is the deeper purpose of this gathering event or meeting? What do I really want as an outcome of this event, circumstance, or situation? Why am I doing this? Think of an event and repeat it a couple of times out loud as well as internally.
B. Posture: How do you normally get in your body in this stressful environment (i.e., breath, feelings of stress in your face and neck, shoulders, etc.)? Then create a new posture (i.e., How would I physically show up for this? What would my breathing be like? Where would I put my hands to remind myself of my purpose?).
C. Presence: The only place we have total mastery is in the present. If I am feeling anxious, then I am probably thinking about the future; if I’m getting disappointed, I’m probably thinking about the past. If I am being present, I can be aligned with my purpose and my posture. Practice it every day for three minutes and do it in the car prior to your arrival.
When we approach the holidays after divorce, our energy level has a tendency to be low, sometimes very low. When I refer to energy it could be vibrationally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above. There are many exercises and techniques to increase these levels, but one of my favorites is practicing gratitude. It could be as simple as reminding yourself three things you’re grateful for while you’re brushing your teeth every morning. Or, perhaps starting a gratitude journal, like I did. Whatever you choose, it is a practice that can enhance your life in more ways than you can ever imagine.
Eckhart Tolle said: “It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”
In the presence of your current difficulty, what is the good that you can be grateful for today? Today, among other things, I was grateful for the beautiful sunrise with gorgeous pink cloud, as I walked my adorable Rat Terrier, Ricky:
Nutrition is also key to getting better as a whole person. And, sadly we use food for non-nutritional issues like comfort. I’ve done it too. With the holidays approaching, it’s not easy. However, would you consider making small changes? How about smaller portions, cutting down on the carbs, or the sugar? Or, throwing in a salad there somewhere? You could do that, right?
Lastly, supplements can be a real booster for you during this time. For example, St. John’s Wort is one of the most commonly recommended herbs for depression, and it has a reputation for reducing anxiety and calming moods. Also, Vitamin B5, otherwise known as pantothenic acid, is considered a good supplement for depression. Deficiency in pantothenic acid may cause fatigue and depression.
As you enter the holiday season, on the heels of a break-up, separation or divorce, remember that this is your time to bring healing to every aspect of your being. So pick a strategy or two mentioned above and give it all you’ve got because YOU are worth the effort!