June 20, 2022

My first divorce exhausted me in mind, body, and spirit. I felt like I had just been kicked in the stomach all the time for about 4 years. I felt so much anxiety about all of the life changes occasioned by divorce that I couldn't even open my mail at certain times. I would think, "I don't have the energy or the money to address whatever is in that envelope, so I'll worry about my career first and then clean up the financial mess." Of course, my career was in shatters at that time too--and I didn't have enough life energy to address the problem. If you think this kind of depression is not a real thing, you haven't been there. If you have been there, you understand.

People make bad decisions when they are in constant fear and exhaustion. I did too. When you are in enough pain, you will do almost anything for a little relief, even when you know what you are doing is not right or good for you. Trying to teach people who are bereft of life energy morality never works. They probably already know what you were telling them, but they are in so much pain, they don't care. In a way, it's exactly like refusing to open your mail, thinking "I have to get through the next hour. I can't even think about how this might eventually come back to haunt me."

Some of you are overloaded, having all the responsibility for your children as a single parent. Some of you do not get your children nearly as often as you want and you are in pain over it. Many of you struggle with career setbacks that either resulted from your divorce or contributed to it. Most of you feel like it is a challenge to live from day to day even without worrying about dating and social life. I feel your pain.

These are a few ideas I think might be useful to you:

1. You are not exhausted by your circumstances. You are exhausted by your thoughts. Negative and powerless thoughts are a big source of depression and anxiety--and they can be stubbornly difficult to change. They are especially difficult to change when we have associated them with being a good person. If my identity was being an exemplary husband and father and church member, it might be very difficult for me to accept that my life no longer looks like that. It may be very difficult for me to let go of the thought that "no other success can compensate for failure in the home" and adjust to the idea that God has a plan for me and this "tragedy" was part of it. To reclaim your life energy, you have to shift away from the heavy thoughts and embrace thoughts that are lighter and more hopeful. A lot of our life coaching practice is helping people to do that.

2. Exercise. There is nothing that punches anxiety in the face as well as exercise. Believe me, I know you don't feel like you can. I know you feel like you don't have the energy for exercise. But the boost of endorphins you will get from a good workout (or even a mediocre one) can give you an amazing level of relief for several hours or even an entire day. Don't think about it. If you do that, you will talk yourself out of it. Put on your shoes and go for a run or head for the gym and lift weights.

3. There is no shame in taking medication. I am not suggesting that as the "go to" remedy for depression or anxiety. However, if you're unable to make the other things work such as thought work, exercise, prayer, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques, a trip to the doctor might make a big difference in helping you to get beyond depression and anxiety more quickly and help you minimize its destructive influence in your life.

4. Find a deeper spiritual purpose. It's almost a cliché in our faith that "everything happens for a reason" or "you are meant to learn something from everything you go through." Severe trials present an opportunity for deepening faith, maturity, and receiving revelation and insight. God did not put you here to just suffer and never know why. He will meet you in the wilderness if you let him. But follow that pillar of fire by night and eat the manna that falls from heaven. Don't build a golden calf. Having faith in God does not mean trying to do everything yourself. It does not mean being hyper focused and worried. That will drain your energy. So, discover the purpose in what you have gone through and begin to live life at a deeper level than just repeatedly thinking that the plan of God has been thwarted or it was not supposed to be this way. I recommend prayer, pondering scripture, journaling, and meditation.

5. Seek good friends. Having an emotional support system is one of the most important things you can do. You might feel like you don't have time to socialize. You don't have time not to. If you are depleted of life energy, wise friends can make all the difference.

I would love to hear your thoughts about dealing with the exhaustion that sometimes occurs in mid-single life too. Feel free to share with the group what has worked for you and what hasn't. What have you tried?
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