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December, 2016 | The Naked Divorce

How to Survive Christmas Alone: Part two

This is the second part of the series. Haven’t read Part One yet? Click here.

 

Okay, so you’ve pulled up your reindeer-print socks, you’ve got into the Christmas spirit (cabinet), you surrounded yourself with awesome friends and family until Boxing Day, perhaps you even scored a cheeky kiss on New Year’s Eve. But now what?

Everyone feels a lull after festive celebrations, and it’s not just the sugar comedown.

You pour all that energy into buying presents, preparing food, meeting with friends… there’s all the excitement and build-up and cheer and organised fun and then – it stops. Back to reality. Grey skies, if you’re in the Northern hemisphere. January, stretching out before you. Pretty much everyone is starting to feel a bit “meh”. If you’re preparing to start your first year in a long time as a singleton, it can feel rough.

If you’re preparing to start your first year in a long time as a singleton, it can feel rough

So how to stop yourself sinking back down into despair? How to make sure you don’t undo any progress you’ve made over the Christmas period to get yourself in a better headspace?

The important thing is this: don’t lose momentum. To feel strong, vital and in control, you need to be active.

Inaction is a very, very common problem after a breakup or a divorce. You sink into a passive state and you wait for things to change. You wait to feel better. You wait for the pain to pass. You wait to want to do things again. You wait for your ex to realise their mistake. You wait for someone to fix you. You wait for a new perfect partner to come along.

It doesn’t work.

The longer you wait, the more stagnant and helpless you become. The more your emotions will crystallize. The more “dead” you feel inside. You need to take the reins and turn the situation around for yourself.

So start by making yourself a New Year Resolution that will actually help you to start healing.

Resolve to let go of your suffering.

If you’re totally honest with yourself, is there a teeny – or not so teeny – part of you that’s actually clinging on to the pain your feeling? If so, why?

Ask yourself: what do I actually get out of being in this situation? What’s the upside?

For example, are you using your pain to get away with being downright lazy, or avoiding responsibility?

Does it give you a free pass to sleep all day, drink too much, eat whatever you want?

Or maybe it’s putting you at the centre of attention?

You’re getting pity and sympathy from your friends?

Or you get to feel righteous because everyone has damned your ex as a terrible person that’s totally in the wrong?

Is there something a bit intoxicating about the moral high ground?

Is part of you enjoying the drama?

Or are you frightened to death of what you’ll feel when you stop feeling all this anguish?

Give points and examples for each of these, if you suspect they might apply.

Be as honest with yourself as you possibly can, even if it hurts. Even if it makes you feel embarrassed. Even if it undermines your narrative as the helpless, wronged victim in the situation. Even if it means you might have to have to drag yourself off the sofa, do things you’d rather avoid doing, and start taking responsibility for your own emotional state.

Because that’s the next step in all this: working out how the choices you make to be passive are hurting you.

Write down how your wallowing state is negatively impacting on your life. What are you losing, or missing out on, by hiding away and feeling miserable? How does letting the spectre of your ex dominate your thoughts hem you in and stop you doing what you want? How is the constant need to have friends comfort you and feel sorry for you putting strain on your relationships? What is the cost to your health, to your career, to your vitality and well-being? What is the cost to your future love life and the chance of you meeting anyone else?

Scared yourself enough yet? Good, because it’s time to knock this wallowing on the head. It is time for you to ACT.

For each negative impact you’re listed, think of an action that could counter it. Think of a positive action you can take that will give you a sense of purpose.

That will help you to feel like you’re growing, that you’re vital, that you’re connected to others. That will get you far away from the sofa as you possibly can. Perhaps you’re going to start running again.

Perhaps you’re going to make sure you see friends for drinks or dinner twice a week, come hell or high water. Perhaps, for a little while at least, you’re going to ban any mention of your ex from conversation and focus on your friends’ problems instead.

Start small: that’s fine. Set attainable goals – but once you have, force yourself to work towards them.

When you feel yourself starting to slide, go back to the list you made and ask yourself why you’re drifting back to a self-pitying, self-damaging state. Get yourself back on the right track.

The point is that you’re replacing passivity with ACTION. Action breeds more action. It’s not a race. For now, you just have to set yourself on the right track. Once you start putting one foot in front of the other, it will get easier with every step.

 

What New Year Resolutions are you making this year?

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How to Survive Christmas Alone: Part One

How to Survive Christmas Alone: Part One

Christmas is a tough, tough time for the newly single. Ultimately, it’s a holiday that’s all about spending time with family and the people you love, which can feel like a slap in the face when your family unit is splintering or you’re slowly, painfully, falling out of love.

Everywhere you look, it seems the world is rubbing your nose in it. You’re surrounded by images of happy, loved-up couples, festive romantic comedies, adverts reminding you to buy a perfect present for that “special person” in your life. Not to mention the prospect of sitting through Christmas dinner with that emotionally defective great-aunt who can’t help asking intrusive questions about your divorce. What a minefield.

Faced with all of this, I can understand why part of you wants to tell your family you have the ‘flu, cancel your plans and curl up in a ball under a duvet for the whole of December, wallowing in your misery.

Don’t do that. Seriously: don’t. Self-pity is an indulgence all of its own – but not the Christmassy kind. You ARE going to get through this. Here’s how.

1) Force Yourself to Do Festive Things

Get into the Christmas spirit. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even though the niggling voice in your head is telling you it’s pointless and not to bother. Why let all your little Christmas traditions, the things you’ve always done and that make you happy at this time of year, disappear along with your relationship?

Buy a tree and decorate it, dammit. Put up those fairy lights or wreaths. Dig out the most ridiculous Christmas jumper you can find and get your festive playlist all cued up. Light the fire. If you’re lucky enough to get snow, rope in your friends or your kids (or your friends’ kids) to build a snowman. Laugh. Fill the house with Christmassy smells.

This is your home, it’s Christmas, and you’re free to make it as wonderful or beautiful or kitsch and cheesy as you like. Do it hope however you want to make a safe, cosy, joyful environment to be in.

2) Make Christmas All About Other People

Its super hard to drag yourself out of your own negative emotions, but one of the best ways to get out of your own head is not to let things become all about you.

Doing stuff for other people will make you happier. It will make you feel more useful, more valuable, more connected, more alive. And when better to do that than at Christmas, a time that’s made for giving and caring, being warm and generous and kind?

Take a minute to write a sincere, heartfelt note in the Christmas cards you send. Throw yourself into picking or making lovely presents and treats for your close family and friends.

That’s doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune: just think really carefully about what you can give them that has real meaning or would be special to them. Take pleasure in their pleasure.

Be social: invite your besties over for mulled wine and mince pies, turn on the cheesy Christmas music and have a good giggle. Browse Christmas markets with friends. Go see a play or a film with a mate. Ask your siblings how they are and really listen to the answers. Offer to babysit for a frazzled friend while s/he does their last minute shopping. Make an effort to turn up to the parties, dinners and drinks you’re invited to – even if it means bringing a friend in tow for moral support.

Even better, go a step further and volunteer.

Serve Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter. Send present parcels to Children in Need. Help out at a soup kitchen. Spreading some love and showing some solidarity with those who feel lonely and vulnerable – and who are in an even shittier situation than you – is good for the soul, good for your community, and good for you.

3) Practice Gratitude

You probably don’t feel like there’s much to be thankful for right now – but I promise that after you’ve started on steps 1 and 2, it will feel a lot easier!

Get into the habit of writing down at least one thing you feel grateful for at the end of every day. Make it something specific, like a kind word from a stranger, or how a friend went out of their way to make your afternoon fun, or the way your kids hugged you and said they loved you before they went to bed.

This help you to shift your mindset from focussing on the pain and negativity you’re feeling to the little nuggets of joy in your day. It helps you to remember the good stuff, and to look out for it.

Christmas makes this easier, not harder. It’s a time when everyone’s making an effort to meet up, when presents are exchanged, when you see people you’ve been meaning to call for ages. Everyone around you is in high spirits and willing to do nice things for each other. There are parties to go to where you can drink too much and perform ill-advised karaoke.

If you have kids, they’ll be making you presents and cards for you at school. You can get away with drinking Eggnog and Kir Royal and hot chocolate with booze in it. There’s yummy food everywhere to eat, guilt-free.

That’s a lot to be grateful for. Don’t let yourself forget it.

Feeling stronger and more festive already?

Click here for Part Two.

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