It was the first holiday season that defied any kind of familiarity. Mediation for our divorce had yet to be scheduled, and I had moved from the home and relationship I’d helped create over the last 24 years. I felt somewhat like the solitary stocking that had been hung with care over the fireplace, blazingly out of place, and lacking real purpose. It was an unpleasant resemblance.
I took full ownership of my decision to move out before the holidays, and be the “un-paired stocking”, but it didn’t make it any less weird or uncomfortable for my kids or me, or even my soon-to-be-x-husband. My choice to move out at the end of September was made with much consideration, motivated by a healthy dose of self-care. At the time, my husband and I had already told our kids that divorce proceedings were underway, and home life had become a surreal exercise of co-habitation for everyone. There are really no rules of “disengagement” and life was bumping along in a very costly way for me, and quite frankly, for everyone in the household.
The crux of my debate over when to move out revolved around my desire to preserve a “normal” level of holiday happiness, even if it was an illusion. But tensions were already high, so it was silly to act as if things were okay.
If you’re caught in the spin of when to file papers, when move out, or when move forward with other divorce procedures, my advice is to make that decision based on what is best for your well-being, not on holidays or other notable dates.
The “timing” was complex for a number of reasons. I didn’t need to open the calendar to know Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and two of my children’s birthdays, were all part of the event line up before year’s end. Because I was a stay at home mom, moving out also meant I would need to find a job, establish a place of my own, restructure a new household, and juggle a number of issues I had yet to anticipate, even before the divorce was final. And I still chose to open the door to the unknown and step through.
I need to add that my decision was entirely motivated by the astronomical amount of love I have for my children. It was clear I would not be able to afford the home we currently lived in and I was determined to do what I could to minimize the disruption a divorce would create in the lives of my six kids. So it made sense to me to move out and have the week-on, week-off custody arrangement supported by at least a half-familiar territory.
So here I was, alone in a new place, hoping my kids would sense the familiar among the strange, the love among the pain, and appreciate the holiday season, despite the fact that from this point forward, it would be adorned with the ornaments of a divorce.
For those in relationship crisis, the holidays can effectively complicate things, turning hopes for comfort and joy, into something to dismay. Whether or not you personally observe the major celebrations in November and December, society brightly slams the hype into an already difficult situation, intensifying any existing challenges. Seasonal pressure can dramatically affect daily routines, resulting in an entire list of outcomes that would top Santa’s ‘naughty’ list.
Undoubtedly, the stress experienced from such taxing elements is a cocktail that does more than leave a bad taste in your mouth; it wreaks havoc with your body. Every system in your body is affected by stress and the signals are numerous. From tight muscles to stomach aches, from insulin to cholesterol level shifts, our body works to regulate its environment. With the continual triggering of physical reactions in the body, there is natural wear and tear that occurs. This becomes an issue if there is no relief. According to the American Psychological Association “It’s not so much what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other bodily systems that become problematic.” [http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx] On going stress not only produces immediate health issues, but can result in long term problems as well.
Here are 4 tips that can help you ward off stress, and support a conscious approach for increased health and well being.
- Breathe. Pause and be aware of your breath. Just taking five-minutes for a breathing break will help lower stress. If you need to find a private place to contemplate your inhale and exhale, do so. Deep breathing exercises can help reset your mindset.
- Increase your natural vitamin dose. You can do this simply by giving yourself a bit more time in nature. Take a walk around the block and grab a dose of Vitamin D from the sun. Choose to eat tuna or salmon at your next luncheon. Powdered greens are a great way to boost your vitamin needs in a quick way; just add a tiny packet or scoop to your next glass of water.
- Give yourself permission for radical self-care. Make it radical…whatever that looks like for you. Take a long bubble bath, schedule a massage, hire a babysitter, or indulge in 15 more minutes of relaxing music. An honest, indulgent boost can give you a needed gift of self-awareness and self-love.
- Rest. Sleep is paramount. Your body needs the time to regenerate and rebuild. Research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems.
Doing what you can to reduce stress for yourself will create immediate health paybacks, and those friendly benefits could spread to those you care for as well. The accumulation of holiday and relationship stressors can definitely affect how you navigate the next few weeks. Know you are worth the effort and time for what is important to you. Having a healthier, happier life is a choice that is made each day, and making healthy choices during stress-filled times is critical. Do what you can to keep your health a priority and honor the challenges as they come.
Whatever difficulties you may be facing during a relationship restructuring, know you are not alone in the craziness. I understand how upended things can get. My pre-divorce holiday season had it’s own version of visits from Christmas past ghosts and Christmas present joys. It was like hosting a party for estranged relatives who insisted visiting at the same time; an uncomfortable mix of what was, what might have been, and what is coming, mingling with the one thing that really mattered, What IS. Such a gathering may not reflect familiar festivities, but the love and resolve for creating connections through new conversations can be rich and rewarding.
Above all, be nice to yourself; it’s oaky to be patient with your own process. Peace to all. ~ Asia