Struggling with a case of the post-divorce blues? Once the divorce is final, you might find your anger has shifted to sadness for what you’ve lost. That’s a normal stage in the grieving process, but it’s important to take action to get “unstuck.” Here are five things you can start doing today to overcome post-divorce depression and feel better.
- Sleep and eat well. Insomnia and the “divorce diet” will fast-track you to clinical depression. If you’re having trouble sleeping and eating, take steps to get yourself back on track. White noise machines, melatonin (an over-the-counter natural sleep aid), and guided meditation soundtracks can help lull you to sleep. If the thought of preparing a meal feels overwhelming, try eating frequent, small, grab-and-go snacks such as cheese sticks, nuts, and yogurt. If a good night’s sleep and a healthy appetite continue to elude you, visit a medical professional to see if medication can help. You’re bound to feel better when your body is running smoothly.
- Get support. When post-divorce depression strikes, your first instinct might be to isolate. And divorced people often lose friends who take sides, or find themselves excluded from social gatherings now that they’re single. But a lack of human connection will just exacerbate your divorce blues. Reach out to those who have your back. Meet friends for coffee, a movie, or a hike. Try to talk about things that have nothing to do with divorce. Being with others will often take you out of your head and make you appreciate the people in your life. And if you find that you’re using your friends as your divorce therapist, it’s time to see a real one.
- Develop a mindfulness practice. Ruminating about the past and worrying about the future will make you feel victimized and helpless. Remember: divorce is painful, but suffering is optional. Practicing mindfulness will change your relationship to the present so you learn to accept things you can’t control — your ex! — and focus on the things you can control – your own choices. This can help lessen post-divorce depression. To learn more about this practice, consider attending a mindfulness workshop or doing a Google search for popular books on the subject.
- Harness creativity. Immersing yourself in a creative endeavor is a great way to stay in the present and process painful feelings, instead of wallowing in them. So get off the couch and use your imagination: write, draw, play music, cook a meal, plant a vegetable garden. You’ll get a reprieve from despair and have something positive to show from it!
- Be grateful. Positive psychology research has shown a correlation between gratitude and increased happiness. Gratitude helps you build resilience, appreciate what’s good in your life, and improve physical and mental health. Even if you have an ugly divorce, there are plenty of things to feel good about. Begin your day listing ten things you’re grateful for. Appreciating “little things” such as a hot shower, a firm mattress, and the air you breathe, will remind you of what you have going for you.
The way to manage post-divorce depression is to do the opposite of what you want to do – for instance, crawl under the covers. Consistently taking self care steps will build new habits and help you build skills to navigate difficult feelings and move forward.
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