How Do I Take Care of Myself During My Divorce?
A divorce is one of the hardest things to walk through. The best way to describe how I felt going through my own divorce is with a scene from one of my favorite ‘80s movies, The Princess Bride. The main character, Westley, wakes up in the pit of despair. He quickly realizes he is hooked up to “the machine,” which is slowly and painfully sucking the life right out of him. And there was absolutely nothing he could do.
I remember days that I barely made it out of bed. I would have to throw my right foot off the mattress, hope I had enough energy to follow through with the left, and then actually stand up. I could only focus on what was directly in front of me… the next few seconds, minutes, or perhaps an hour if I was lucky. As someone who looks at the world through a “glass half full” perspective, I had no idea how to navigate depression.
The devastation and fallout from a divorce are real.
As I walked through this difficult season, there were certain things that helped make it more bearable, even tolerable. Things that, as I look back, were paramount to my rise out of the pit of despair. As you face this season of difficulty, my hope is that you will be able to take what has helped me and apply it to your own life.
Here are seven things that can help you during your difficult season:
1. Exercise. For me, daily workouts were key. Exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression. It increases hormones such as serotonin, which relieves feelings of depression. It can also help you start feeling better about the way you look—another added benefit of exercise.
2. Music. My You Are Strong playlist included songs such as “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, and “You’re Gonna Be OK” by Jenn Johnson, and it was on repeat for months. Listening to positive, encouraging music can help lift you out of negative thought patterns.
3. Friends. I was (and still am) intentional about surrounding myself with supportive, life-giving friends who were on call to talk with me anytime I needed a boost. However, make sure you keep your circle tight… you don’t need a whole bunch of friends, just a few who are loyal and there for you no matter what. I encourage you to always have at least two friend dates on the calendar each week. Connecting face-to-face with your friends is extremely important.
4. Journaling. My favorite quote from the book Draw the Circle is “Journaling is one of the most overlooked and undervalued spiritual disciplines.” I’ve kept a journal for as long as I can remember. Daily journaling keeps an accurate record of your thoughts and feelings. This allows you to read back through your journal and see how far you’ve come and how many prayers have been answered, and it also helps you process your feelings in a healthy way. I highly recommend journaling!
5. Grieving. It’s okay to be sad. Grief is part of the healing process. I was given excellent advice by my counselor. She told me to set a time limit (mine was 30 minutes) and grieve, cry, yell, be mad, or whatever I needed for 30 minutes… and then stop. This gave me permission to feel the loss and then also a hard stop to set it aside and not get stuck there.
6. Thankfulness. A great way to combat negative thought patterns is with thankfulness. I started each day with something I was thankful for. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for—whether it’s that you woke up that morning, you can see the beautiful blue sky, or that you have a roof over your head—it’s so important to start each day with thankfulness.
7. Scripture. One of my favorite verses is “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Renewing the mind is so important when forging a new thought pattern, especially when fighting depression. The best way to do that is to select a few key verses and commit them to memory. Anytime you start to go down the negative thought pattern path, speak those verses out loud to renew your mind.
·Does feeling like you are in the “pit of despair” resonate with you?
·How often do you find yourself struggling with depression? Is there a specific time of day that is typically harder for you? The middle of the night? Late evening? Weekends?
·What types of negative thought patterns do you battle?
·After reading the seven things, are there some you are already doing? Which ones stand out and seem like they could help you?
·There is always something to be thankful for. What are you thankful for today?
Call to Action:
As you walk through this difficult season, choose two of the seven items above to start implementing in your everyday life. Be intentional with them. Once they become more of a habit, add another. Pretty soon, over time, you will find life more bearable. And I promise you, you will rise out of the pit of despair and into a more joyful, thankful, and peaceful life.
Written By: PJ Friedel
PJ is a copyeditor for North Point Ministries. She has two college-aged daughters and is excited about being an empty nester. PJ will turn 50 this fall and is looking forward to the second half of her life. She loves the outdoors, adventure, friends, ‘80s rock, and reading.