Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Tips for Coping with Depression & Loneliness after a Breakup or Divorce

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Disclaimer

I am not a licensed therapist or doctor. The information shared in this post is based on my own personal experience of depression. I offer these suggestions as a friend. However, if you feel you are suffering from serious depression, as one soul to another, may you find the courage to ask for help from therapists or doctors so as to alleviate your suffering. Even if you feel you don't have the financial resources or know where to begin, just start asking for help and believe the help you need will come.

Depression

In my 20s I suffered from crippling depression. After a long struggle with denial, I found the courage to ask for help from friends, family, therapists, and doctors. I used whatever tools were available to me to heal and come out of the darkest periods of my life. I was lucky enough to receive the best of care, and there isn't one moment I regret from my experience of therapy. I am more loving, alive, and open because of this experience.

Nevertheless, I'm an artist. I'm a sensitive soul. Like other introspective people, I have moods that have come and go. However, thanks to all the healing work I did in my 20s these periodic moments of depression and sadness pass and fade more quickly now.

This list of my top ten ways that I have learned to cope with sadness, depression, grief, and loneliness are not solutions to a problem. They are not methods for healing what is at the root of my depression rather they tools that keep me in the flow of life while I am mending the bit of my soul that may be struggling with loss, shame, or regret.

I have used all these things throughout my life and in particular after having experienced a traumatic breakup of a relationship and most recently during my divorce.

While you are healing from the loss of your precious relationship, may you find a bit of comfort in these things that serve as reminders that you are alive and loved.

Bike or Walk

One of the best assignments a therapist gave me was to go for a bike ride. When you're angry or feeling hurt, emotions can get trapped inside your body. Doing vigorous exercise forces you to breathe deeply and helps release emotions. Biking feels a bit like a novelty so it's also inherently fun. However, if you're not into biking, then walking is something that is easily accessible, can be done anywhere, in all types of weather, and throughout your day. If you feel social, go to the park to be around other people and animals. This type of aerobic exercise naturally raises the level of dopamine in your brain and feelings of contentment.

Practice Gratitude

Thank the stuff in your life that may be triggering your depression. Thank the relationship that didn't go the way you expected. Thank the job that didn't work out and the boss that didn't understand you. Thank the experience of having less money then you wanted at this stage in your life. Thank your kids for creating havoc in your life. Have gratitude for all the uncomfortable things that didn't go the way you wanted and try see that they are there to teach you so much more than what you desired.

Cultivate Comedy

Digest funny movies, TV shows, theater, or books. They don't have to meaningful. Sometimes they can be just slapstick and silly. After my divorce, I watched every season of Wings on Netflix and even though it wasn't the best comedy TV show there was something in the humor and characters that made me laugh and kept me grounded.

Create a Routine

If you are experiencing the kind of depression where you struggle to get out of bed, go to work, keep the house clean, etc. Try creating a simple routine. Commit to three things such as when you will get up in the morning, when you will go to bed, and that you will eat three healthy meals a day.

Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Eating well is truly important when you're going through a rough period in your life. Shopping in the fruit and vegetable aisle is such an uplifting experience. Everything is alive and fresh. The colors and smells are vibrant and engaging. Spend time getting to know the people that work in this section of your grocery store or your local farmers market. I have this secret belief that people who work with fruits and vegetables are generally pretty happy people and have a lot of joy to share.

Dance

Go out dancing, find opportunities to take dance classes, or dance at home alone in your pajamas. Whatever feels right for you. Take an opportunity to listen to music and move your body. We are made up of vibrations -- waves of energy -- and the more you dance in your life the more you tune into your natural beauty. Click here to find some suggestions for community dancing.

Seek Beauty

Every day look for something beautiful in your life to admire: a tree, animal, painting, delicious food, face of a friend, or rocks on the beach. Whatever you see, look for its beauty.

Play Games

Laughter and games go together. I'm not talking about gambling where you are trying to win and beat people as a primary objective, but rather seek out games for the pure enjoyment of having fun and being with people: soccer, freezbe golf, tennis, cards, board games, crossword puzzles, etc.

Volunteer Your Time 

Look for an organization where you can volunteer your time helping others. We need each other and we need to feel as if we are able to contribute to the well being of others. Seeing yourself as a helpful part of the whole can keep you engaged in life.

Practice Loving Kindness Meditation or Prayer

Developing compassion for yourself and others is HUGE! Integrating a regular prayer or loving kindness meditation into your daily routine is helpful for getting out of your head and all your troubling thoughts so as to get you focused on the essential things in life. For how to do a loving kind meditation click here.