The official document that finalizes your divorce is called a "decree." It's a formal, legal acknowledgement that your marriage is over. But long before you reach that official milestone, you must take on going, decisive action to ensure your personal well-being. The "10 Decrees of Divorce Survival" will help you cope with -- and ultimately triumph over -- the many challenges you face during this difficult process:
1 Do unto others. Vow to do something for someone else every day. It can be as simple as paying someone a heartfelt compliment or as meaningful as volunteering in a soup kitchen. The point is to take the focus off of yourself and on to someone else. You'll find that doing good for others makes you feel good.
2 Cancel your pity party. Think you've got it bad? There are plenty of others who have been dealt way worse hands than you. Tell yourself: "There are so many people who would gladly trade their day for my very worst day, in a heartbeat." And believe it, because it's true.
3 Stop being angry. If your ex has hurt you, it's natural to feel anger towards him/her. But at a certain point, you have to let it go, because ultimately, your anger will harm you, not your ex. It will eat away at you and prevent you from focusing on your future and experiencing joy.
4 Be grateful. Every religion, philosophy, and New Age belief system extols the power of gratitude. There must be something to it! Instead of constantly bemoaning what you've lost, switch your focus and spend time thinking about what you've got. When you're feeling particularly low, your gratitude may be for very basic items: a roof over your head and food on the table. When you're feeling more empowered, you can be grateful for your resilience, talents, and new opportunities. Without a doubt, you've got an infinite number of reasons to be grateful. Make a list. Refer to it and add to it often.
5 Spare your children. If you're a parent, remember that your job is to be there for your children, from the moment they're born and throughout the rest of your life. While children (of every age) can be a great comfort, always put their happiness first, ahead of your own. Think about what they need to feel secure and to stay strong and take steps to provide the resources that will make that happen. Always be truthful with them, but save any sordid details about your ex and the divorce for your friends or therapist.
6 Stay healthy. Countless studies have shown the benefits of exercise, especially the cardiovascular variety. It's really a "magic pill" that works on your physical body as well as your emotional self. You don't have to run a marathon; just find some kind of activity that you like and commit to doing it at least three times a week. You'll look and feel better, guaranteed. Also pay attention to your diet. There are two possible reactions to extreme stress: some people turn to junk food for comfort, while others lose their appetite all together. Neither option is beneficial. Be conscious of what and how much you eat and strive for a healthy balance. (And while sharing a bottle of wine with friends is a pleasurable, healthy way to connect with others, turning to the bottle when at home alone will bring depression and isolation, not comfort).
7 Reach out to others. Your friends, acquaintances, and loved ones want to help you, but often, they simply don't know how to proceed. Many of them aren't sure what you need, so they may pull back and remain silent. However, once you take the initiative and reach out to them, they will be happy to provide what you need, from a dinner invitation to advice about lawn maintenance. You'll be surprised at the incredible outpouring of love and support (often from people who are not your closest friends).
8 Educate yourself. There are plenty of books, websites, blogs, etc., (like this one) offering all kinds of advice about the many aspects -- legal, emotional, social, and financial -- of divorce. While you should always take "expert" advice with a large grain of salt, read as much as you can about divorce and its aftermath. You will undoubtedly find ideas that resonate with you and that provide new perspectives on your situation. You never know where your next inspiration will come from. And the old saying is true: knowledge is power.
9 Strive for indifference toward your ex. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin, and neither will serve you well once your relationship ends. While it's easy to transform the intense love you once felt for your ex into intense hatred, to move forward, you need to break the strong emotional attachment between you. You must consciously stop thinking and obsessing about your ex. He/she has moved on -- and you have to as well.
10 Make a new plan. You may find that your post-divorce life is radically different from the life you once expected. However, if you want to be truly happy, you must come to terms with this. It's up to you to create a new, fulfilling, happy, and productive life. No one can accomplish this for you. Here's the bottom line: to move forward, you have to let go of the past. Change and reinvention are scary, but once you take the leap, you'll feel empowered and excited about your possibilities. Adopt the wise words philosopher Joseph Campbell as your credo: "We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
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