Newly Divorced and Surviving the Holidays

The Holidays are upon us once again and for many of you, this might be the first time around as a new unit, I.E. without your ex. It’s a difficult time, no doubt about it, and just another step in the transition into a new life after divorce. If you plan for this season you can make it easier on yourself.

Emotions may overwhelm you right now. Know that you will have major bouts of sadness, anger whatever. Go easy on yourself. Take good care of yourself and give yourself as much nurturing as you can muster. If you had a friend who was in your shoes, how would you treat her? With love and compassion? I think so.

Get in touch with the things that you know lift your mood and stay away from anything that upset or saddens you. So if trimming the tree with old ornaments makes you sad don’t. Go out and get new ones or sit with the kids and make them yourselves. Again, do things differently now that your life is different.

Do the things that make you feel better. If you had no obligations and no limitations what activities would you engage in to make yourself happy? Would you go to the theater? Spend the day at the museum? Get a massage and facial? Go hiking?

Watch out for expectations. There is so much pressure to have the most wonderful time of your life during the holidays. Unrealistic and unachievable expectations set us up for disappointment and resentment. Accept the difficulty of this time of year and your loss.

SET BOUNDARIES Explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year, and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle. Learn to say no as it will define you. Also learn to say yes to the things that will make you feel better.

Make certain that you do not isolate yourself. If you are sharing the kids, ensure that you have somewhere to go on the day that the kids are with your ex. I have in the past even invited myself to a good friend’s home and they welcomed me with open arms. Remember, everyone is busy during this season and sometimes they just need a friendly reminder. Get out of the house. Your pain and depression may tempt you to lock yourself away but force yourself to go out even if it’s only for a short time. Look into a divorce support group in your area. They help tremendously.

Seek Support Have the phone number of your counselor, clergy-person, life coach, close friend or hot-line taped to your phone. Call someone when you are feeling really low. No one said you had to go it alone.

Cut yourself some slack. Don’t go crazy this year shopping and cooking and whatever if you can help it.

Don’t forget all the stress and depression busters: exercise, yoga and meditation. These are scientifically proven ways to combat the negative effects of stress on your mind and body.

If you can afford it, make plans to get away. I remember a time when I was brand new in NYC and New Year’s was looming like a black cloud. I made last minute plans to go away to a health spa for a few days and it was wonderful. I met great people and made life long friends. During these tough economic times that might not be an option for you but that does not mean you can’t find an alternative.

DON’T numb the pain with drugs or alcohol Numbing emotional distress with chemicals creates more depression. Try the stress busters instead.

Practice gratitude. Think of the things in your life that are good and right: health, shelter, food, children, family, friends, pets, a job, freedom, safety, self-esteem, new beginnings and the beauty that surrounds us.

Volunteer: There is nothing like giving back to make you feel better and to show you that there are always those who are so less fortunate than we are. Head for a shelter, a soup kitchen, a hospital whatever.

A new year is just around the corner. Use the New Year as a starting point for a new life. Begin doing things differently. Try on new activities. Engage in new ways. Stay in action! It is the small, actionable steps that lead to empowerment and positive change.

This too shall pass. You will survive the holidays. Watch out for pity parties been there and done that! Remember, it is how you choose to handle the holidays that will have the greatest impact on your experience just like it is how you choose to handle what life has given you that will make the greatest difference in your life.