After divorce, it’s common to go through a stretch where you feel broken down and defeated. For many, that sense of defeatedness can last quite a while. It can even persist well beyond the end of the legal process.
Wellness coach Lisa Arends, author of “Lessons From the End of a Marriage,” has first-hand experience going through a painful divorce and knows what it takes to pick up the pieces and find post-divorce happiness.
Arends recently shared with us some of the most important tips that can help guys overcome that sense of hopelessness during divorce.
Take time to mourn
For many guys, divorce is akin to a death and involves a similar grieving process in order to fully heal.
“I like to recommend coming up with some sort of ritual to grieve the end of the marriage,” Arends said. “In our culture, we do such a good job of marking the death of a person, but we don’t necessarily do a good job of marking the death of a marriage. I think you need to do that before you really are ready to move on to the next step.”
How you mourn is entirely up to you. Some people literally throw divorce parties. Maybe you just need to take a week to feel crummy before you start to pick yourself back up.
Don’t wallow in self-pity for too long, but understand that it is perfectly OK to feel bad about what happened. Just know that feeling is not going to last forever.
Focus on the right stuff
While it’s important to take enough time to grieve, there comes a time when it’s time to move forward.
To get yourself going in the right direction, Arends recommends thinking of your energy like a pie chart. You only have so much, so when you’re feeling defeated you might be allocating too much energy to counterproductive actions like fixating on your pain or obsessing over your ex on social media.
Devote your energy to self-improvement and building for your future.
The road to recovery after divorce is often long and arduous. At times, it might seem like you’re not making much progress. So make sure you give yourself credit when you do make steps in the right direction.
“Mark all of the little successes you have, no matter how small,” Arends said. “I remember I pretty much threw a party the first day I could eat an entire meal after my divorce – I was so excited. It doesn’t matter how little it is. Mark all of those little milestones you make along the way.”
Get up and move
Exercise isn’t just good for our bodies, it also improves our mental health. That’s because when we exercise, our brain releases endorphins that make us feel good. So a good workout is one of the single most effective ways to battle feelings of depression.
“When we don’t move, our minds feel stuck as well,” Arends said. “So get that body moving and the brain will start to move forward with it. I can be something as simple as going for a walk. It can be yoga – one of my personal favorites for divorce. It really doesn’t matter what it is, just get the body moving and the mind will follow.”
Channel your anger
You never want to let anger consume you, but it is possible to utilize those negative emotions you’re feeling for self-improvement.
“Anger is not necessarily a bad thing, if you know how to manage it,” she said. “But if you don’t know how to manage it and direct it, it becomes overwhelming and destructive. So use that anger intentionally to fuel you in the direction you want to go.”
Take some time to set some intentions and goals and make sure the energy is driving you in that direction and not just spinning you out of control.
“It is amazing once we apply gratitude to things how it really shifts our mindset,” she said.
Arends recommends making a gratitude list. Every time you start to feel frustrated or defeated, jot some things down you are grateful for. This is an extremely effective way to shift your mindset so that you focus more on the positive developments in your life.
Arends said she would even go as far to write a thank you letter to the person who has caused you the most hurt.
“You don’t ever have to send it, but just learning to say thank you opens up a world of possibilities,” she said.
One of the best ways to cultivate feelings of gratitude is by practicing mindfulness. Mountains of research show that this is a good way to improve your overall level of happiness regardless of what you’re going through.
For more tips on surviving and thriving after divorce, visit Arends’ website at lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com.