Let’s face it: Divorce sucks. Trying to cope with the volumes of things gone awry stemming from your separation are enough to drive even the most balanced of us temporarily insane. It can be exhausting, and it can wear you down.
Learning to embrace a few simple ideas into your daily living will definitely increase the amount of positive energy you feel and decrease the days of stress and depressing thoughts.
On the days that just don’t seem to let up, keep in mind that feeling down is completely natural, normal, and expected as you transition to a new life without your previous engagement. There are going to be rough days emotionally, days you want to cry, days when everything seems like it is intent on your destruction, days when the sky is gray and every little thing you do only reminds you of loss. Cheer up, it only gets worse.
So, here’s a quick list of just a few things you could be doing every day to make sure that when depression arises and gray clouds are hanging overhead, you can still find some silver linings.
Also, I really should point out that most of these are mind-numbingly simple and obvious. There is a reason that people encourage these activities; because they work.
Eat right. This should be so obvious as to really not require mentioning and yet, I cannot begin to tell you how many people report food issues when talking about depression. We must feed ourselves well to stay both mentally and physically healthy. Most people either eat too much or too little when stressed, and often eat the wrong things. Keep yourself surrounded with healthy choices, and pay attention to how you relate to food. We feel best when we put things in our body we need and if we listen carefully to the urges our bodies have, they often are indications of deficiencies. If you’re always craving cheeseburgers, perhaps you simply need more protein? If you want salts and sugars, perhaps you’re dehydrated? If you crave fried foods, maybe you need more simple carbs in your diet? Obviously, you’ll need to educate yourself about what your particular body type and age appropriate foods should be to maximize your health. Do so.
Again, you should know this already. Get off your ass and do something. Every day, for at least 20 minutes. Get the bloods flowing. I don’t care if you run around the block, do yoga, go to the gym or dig ditches in the sun, but you need to work your body. Especially in our culture of ease, this becomes critical. Find a strenuous activity that you enjoy (or really despise but have the discipline to force yourself through) and work to make it a daily habit. Remember, it takes around 30 days to turn an activity into a habit, so keep at it.
Talk about it. Probably one of the worst problems facing newly divorced men is the feeling of being all alone with our feelings. Most men haven’t created support groups to feel safe to talk about their feelings with, or they have that one buddy they can confess to, but even then still don’t really get the emotional support needed when going through a traumatic experience like separation and divorce. Find people to talk to. It can be a best friend, a mentor, a paid professional or even an actual support group. Whatever avenue feels most appropriate for you, I cannot stress enough the importance of being able to talk through your feelings. Within the AA communities they often speak of finding and having a “sponsor”; one person that you can always reach out to, regardless of time of day or direness of circumstance. I truly believe we can all use a good sponsor, and more won’t hurt. If you don’t already have someone like this, make it a priority to find them. If you do have this support in your life, use it. Often.
Find something else to do. We tend to get stuck in our emotions. When we feel down we like to pick at the tender places. We stew, we fret, we worry. The best way to get over it? Do something else. We need to interrupt the inner voices with activity. Go do your laundry, take a shopping trip, take a jog, read a book. Hell, even watch television. DO something else. Change the channel in your head by giving it something else to focus on. These periods of intense emotional anxiety can actually be turned into very productive periods in our lives. Think about how many great pieces of art and music came from these periods. Those people got out of their depression by acting upon it. (Ok, so maybe they just created great works and then drown in their own tears and vomit, but hey, this is supposed to be cheery and upbeat!)
Pursue your passions. This is self explanatory. It’s hard to be depressed when you’re focused on something that makes you happy.
Find a gratefulness practice and apply it. I don’t care whether you worship Satan or butterflies, the point is this; Take time, as often as it occurs to you, to simply find in yourself the place that feels grateful to be alive. From that place, find a way that feels good to you to honor that moment. Learn to be grateful. I am reminded of a profound, if terribly cliché saying, “Happiness is not in having the things you want, it is in wanting the things you have”. Learning to appreciate the gift your life is helps make the bumps a little smoother.
Start your day out positively. This last one is also pretty easy to get. Try to create a morning routine that feels good. Maybe that’s good coffee and a bagel for you or maybe it’s a morning workout routine before dawn. Maybe you like to read the paper or take an extra long shower. Whatever gives you the space to enter your day with ease, create a habit of it.
I guarantee that if you only applied any two of these ideas above to your daily routine, your emotional sense of well being is going to increase. Keep it up and you’ll be a happier person in your new life as a single person faster than you ever expected.
Next week we’ll look a little closer into the idea of establishing a gratefulness practice as an excellent way to combat stress and mitigate depression.