Divorce

Having Happier, Healthier Post-Divorce Holidays

Weathering the holidays after a divorce can be difficult for a newly-single parent. You’re trying to make sure the season is a fun, festive time for kids whose family photos will likely look a lot different this year than last, while possibly balancing the wants and needs of the other parent.  

But, even with all of those demands, it’s critical to take care of your own physical and mental health, particularly if the despair of divorce left you depressed. Here are some suggestions that could help you and your loved ones have a happier holiday season. 

Share the Season 

Under most circumstances, both divorced parents should share the joys of the season with their children. To make that as painless as possible for everyone involved, it’s important to set a schedule you can agree on and communicate clearly. Rather than visiting one another’s new homes — which may well be decked with holiday decorations you once shared, or sadly under-adorned — consider dropping off and picking up the kids on some neutral ground that’s festively festooned for the season.   

If the kids are staying with your ex for a while, make plans to spend time with others rather than going it alone. You may also consider joining a support group or signing up for volunteer opportunities. Doing for others will help keep you from dwelling on your divorce, according to Divorce Magazine. Studies have also shown that volunteering can lower depression, increase people’s sense of well being, and even lead to a longer life span. Experts say the positive effects could come from the good feelings volunteering creates, the increased social connections, or the simple act of getting off the couch.   

In addition to making time for others, you should devote some days to self-care. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating right, and exercising. Burning off some calories justifies some guilt-free holiday indulgences. Finding time during the hectic holiday season to work up a sweat and balancing good nutrition with an occasional slice of pie will also help boost your spirits without having the same effect on your weight.  

Watch the Weather 

If your mood declines with the temperature, don’t discount depression as a run-of-the-mill bout with the winter blues. It might be a case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For most, symptoms start in the fall, stretch into the winter months, and become more pronounced as the season continues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although it’s less common, spring and summer bring on seasonal affective disorder for some. In either case, symptoms could include changes in appetite or weight, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating.   

Specifically, symptoms of fall- and winter-onset seasonal affective disorder could include:  

  • Oversleeping 
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates 
  • Weight gain 
  • Tiredness or low energy   

It’s normal to have some down days, especially after a life-changing event like divorce. But if you feel depressed for extended stretches and can’t get excited and motivated to participate in activities you typically enjoy, it might be time to seek help. This is especially true if your appetite and sleep habits have changed or if you indulge in alcohol to feel comfortable or relaxed. If you have persistent thoughts of death or suicide, it’s critical to call your doctor even if you haven’t experienced other signs of depression.    

After a divorce, you may feel as though you’re doing double duty as a parent during the holidays. But taking care of your own physical and mental well-being when you have so much to do for friends and family isn’t seasonal selfishness. Rather, it’s essential to helping everyone have a happier, healthier holiday season that will bring up warm memories for years to come. 

Author is Paige Johnson      Paige is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist.  website http://learnfit.org/