‘Tis the Season: Five Strategies for Surviving the Holidays Despite Divorce

Memories of Christmas’ past can be haunting. If you’re divorcing or divorced, the season can become an emotional minefield — especially if your split is contentious. And if you have young children, the problems may be compounded by custody arrangements.

Beneath all these challenges is a season that society tells us should be the happiest time of our lives. When your reality doesn’t match up with this ideal, it’s easy to feel downright depressed.
But you don’t have to suffer through the season. Psychology Today blogger, Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D. provides these tips for taking a proactive approach to holidays.

1. Get Moving: Nothing beats the blues like aerobic exercise. Strap on your sneakers and take a power walk or run. Even better, enroll in a Zumba class and dance away the blues. Or head to a yoga studio to practice the body-mind connection in a soothing atmosphere.

2. Minimize Happy Hour: Holiday parties are fraught with more than ugly Christmas sweater contests. If you’re feeling blue, resist the urge to indulge in alcoholic beverages — especially if you’re alone. Although a glass of wine or a beer may initially calm your nerves, alcohol is a depressant that can actually make you feel worse. (Likewise, you may want to lay off the cookies and egg nog since sugary treats can also impact your mood.)

3. Connect with Your Community: Find some perspective by getting out of your own situation. The holidays provide lots of ways to help others who are less fortunate than you. Make volunteering a new part of your holiday tradition. (You may even make some new friends in the process.)

4. Give Yourself a Gift: If you feel the need to retreat from holiday festivities this year, it’s OK. Give yourself a gift and (politely) tell friends and family that you need to break from tradition this year. If you find feelings of despair, depression or anxiety creeping in, seek out the services of a therapist to help you sort out your feelings.

5. Lighten Up: If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), going through a divorce during the holidays may aggravate the problem. Be proactive and let your doctor know that you’re going through an emotional time so he or she can address the physical symptoms with light therapy or other treatment.

Truth is, the holidays can be difficult, even under the best circumstances. That’s why over the holiday season, Nolan Byers will explore some of the most common holiday stressors —shared custody, changes in traditions, family functions — and strategies for managing them. Check back next week for another article about how to navigate through the holidays and into a happier, New Year.