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Going through a divorce is difficult for all parties involved, and the holidays can only make things a bit more difficult. The holidays have this extra power to unearth long buried emotions triggered from fond, nostalgic, or unpleasant memories. Psychologist Edward Farber says we idealize the holidays based upon the past, and this can influence our expectations for them moving forward. There also tends to be extra stress during this time of year from shopping, planning, and coordinating schedules. This is why it’s important for those who are divorced to seek a bit of extra help and support during this time of year. It is possible to thrive during the holiday season in the wake of a divorce, especially with the following tips from experts in the field who work with divorced couples on a regular basis.
Prepare for Some Difficulty, but Don’t Dwell on It
While it’d be unrealistic to expect this time of year to be executed with ease, it can also be detrimental to focus on the anticipated difficulties this time of year can bring. Thoughts can be powerful tools for manifestation, and anticipating hardships, or dwelling on the negative will only attract more difficult times into one’s reality. In fact, Dr. Jane Framingham relates the power of positive thinking to improved physical health. Instead of setting oneself up mentally for a difficult season, it’s best to try focusing on the positive aspects this time of year will bring; having a solid plan for how one will spend the holidays in order to have the right amount of support available from friends or family, the right amount of time set aside for self-care and relaxation, and a solid plan for how any children involved will be splitting up their time between two families this year.
Know It’s OK to Say “No”
If the holidays are typically spent doing many things with friends, family, the community, charitable organizations, etc., know that it’s OK to switch things up a bit this year. Saying “no” to things one once did during years past is OK, and sometimes essential, for maintaining good self-care. In fact, LCSW Susan Pease Gadoua promotes starting new traditions during the holidays after a divorce. If having a busy schedule this season just isn’t going to cut it, it’s OK to scale back a bit to allow for more alone time for reflection, self-care, and personal development. Do be careful, however, of tendencies toward self-medication and self-isolation. And if it wasn’t one’s tradition to engage in charitable acts this year, it’s a great time to start, as this too is beneficial in taking one’s mind off difficult emotions during this time.
Learn the Difference between Solitude and Isolation, and Avoid the Latter
While it’s OK to say “no” and scale back from a busy schedule this year, it’s also not a good idea to spend a majority of one’s time alone. Self-isolation may sound tempting, especially if one is feeling down this time of year, but it’s not the healthiest option for combating feelings of loneliness or depression. Some time for reflection, being alone, and taking care of oneself is essential, but self-isolating from friends, family and support networks can contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression. In finding a balance between isolation and solitude, one should first become aware of the difference between isolation and solitude, as discussed by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Cultivate a Mentality of Gratitude
Having a mindset that is thankful, and full of gratitude is one of the best pieces of advice the experts have for divorced couples this time of year. Making a list of things one is thankful for each day during this time can have great benefits toward one’s mental health. In fact, directors Marsh and Keltner at UC Berkeley believe having a mindset for gratitude and thanksgiving attribute to one’s overall sense of happiness. Having a mindset that is focused on gratitude is one of the most powerfully healing things a person can consciously practice each day. This mindset will not appear overnight, but with daily effort, it can be possible to cultivate a mentality of gratitude that will carry on for a long time to come, and reap positive rewards.
The holidays hold much potential for both positive and negative experiences each year, and it’s often the ways we approach them, and react towards emotional triggers during this time, that can determine our overall emotional and mental functioning from Thanksgiving through the New Year. Speaking with a trained therapist or counselor can help to process feelings, combat moments of weakness, reactivity toward triggers, nostalgia that may arise, and more. Everyone could use some help sometimes, and even the best therapists need good therapists themselves. We’d love to help you find any support needed during this time of transition.