This article was published on divorcemag.com on February 7, 2023
Focusing on your emotional health during divorce can help you improve both the process and outcome. Read on for proven strategies to help you get on track and stay there.
If you are anywhere in the divorce process, you are likely overwhelmed by all the decisions and uncertainty in your future. It’s easy to spend sleepless nights searching for answers, or binging Netflix with the hope that when you wake up it will all be over. It’s a brutal irony that when we need to be at our best, we are feeling at our worst.
It can be easy to prioritize everything but your emotional health but focusing on it can improve both the process and the outcome of your divorce.
Following are some proven ways to reduce stress and improve coping skills so you can show up as your best self as often as possible.
1. Engage a Support System:
The how looks different for everyone, but the why is consistent: we are all human beings who are meant for connection. No one does better going through it alone. I suggest starting with two key decisions: first, choose your safe person, someone who has your back 100 percent. And second, identify three-five things that are most important to you during this process: dinner at home every night, tucking in the kids, working out in the mornings, etc. Next, align your asks to reflect those priorities. It’s important to make that special person aware that you may be asking for more support than normal. Chances are they will be happy to help and grateful to have a specific way to do so.
2. Take Care of You:
This isn’t just about R&R, it’s about setting yourself up to be successful as you navigate this difficult time. When our bodies are totally exhausted and depleted, we don’t make the best decisions. Would you want your kids to go to school for a big test without sleep or breakfast? Here are a few do’s and don’ts to guide you: Do: • Find even a little time each day to recharge in a way that feels good to you. Some good options include meditation, napping, journaling (a great way to process emotion and heal) and exercise. • Stay connected to the people who love you. Staying at home under the covers for too long can make you feel worse, not better. • Give yourself grace and space. Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend! No one is perfect and you will make mistakes. How you handle them is what matters. Don’t • Let the judgmental, uninvited voice in your head take over. Give him/her a name and kick them out! They don’t deserve your time and focus. • Underestimate your opportunity to impact the tone. When you take the high road, your ex/spouse will often follow your lead. At the very least you’ll feel better about yourself. • Dwell on a mistake. Learn from it – if you’re not happy about how you feel, think about how to do better, and do that the next time.
3. Engage Your Strengths
Think about another time in your life when you overcame a major obstacle. Write it down, and then ask yourself:
• What attributes did you bring to that difficult situation? • How did you regenerate your reserves? • How could you apply those strengths here? • When you think about how you want your life to be in 3-5 years, what strengths will people see in you?
You have come through difficult times before, and you will get through this, too. Can you use some of the methods that have worked for you in the past? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a list and identify small steps you could take toward accomplishing each thing. Then take the wins! Did you wake up today feeling better than yesterday? Did you cross something off your list? Good work!
4. Clashes, Conflict, Co-Parenting & Compromise
They are all part of divorce and have one important thing in common: COMMUNICATION. If you have children, you will have to adjust the relationship with your spouse / ex to become healthy co-parents. Speaking about each other with kindness and respect is a gift to your children and yourself that will directly improve long-term relationships and reduce stress for yourself and your kids. When facing difficult decisions, ask yourself:
Is this communication a demonstration of my best self?
Is this decision based in love?
Use 10-10-10. How will I feel about this choice in 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 months?
Do I love my children more than I hate my ex?
If you’re triggered by a text or email, first decide if you even need to respond. If you must, use Bill Eddy’s BIFF Method to deescalate: Brief, Informative, Factual, and Firm. Try stating, “I disagree with that characterization,” and nothing more. These are just a few of the many ways to help you process the emotions associated with divorce in healthy and productive ways. Whatever you choose, remember that you’re worth the effort, both today and for the amazing future that’s out there for you.