Using Self Care to Cope with the Stress of Divorce

Divorce is a process. Division of property, meetings with lawyers, court dates, a move and dozens of little things will place demands on your time and attention. Even an amicable divorce can leave you feeling stress and frayed around the edges, making self care extremely important.

Schedule time for yourself

To emerge from your divorce stronger and ready to take on new adventures and challenges, block off time for yourself on your calendar. When you schedule an appointment related to the divorce, schedule a corresponding amount of time for you to spend on a relaxing activity that will help you work through your feelings.

If an hour to hour time match isn’t possible, consider giving yourself 30 minutes for every hour at court, at the lawyer’s office or on hold with the electric company. Meditate. Invest in a massage. Get your nails done. Go to the movies. Any activity is acceptable as long as it provides you with a break from the logistics of ending a marriage.  

Embrace your emotions

Crying is also an acceptable activity. Consider going five rounds with a punching bag if you have anger. Spending time on your emotions is important to avoid feelings of depression, but you need to focus on letting out how you are feeling and then moving on with your day, week and life. When you share children with your former partner, you can sit down with the kids and discuss how you feel, draw strength from each other and determine a path forward.

Invest in a counselor or find a support group

When you need help to process your emotions or recover after a negative relationship, spend time with a counselor or support group, even if it is a group of friends. This is even more important if you are leaving an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. A counselor can help you work through any wrongly assigned feelings of blame and develop the tools you need to approach future romantic relationships with new eyes.

Make peace with the breakup

Divorces take many shapes. Some partners mutually agree to leave a relationship based on waning feelings, and there are truly no grudges. Other times a breakup is more hostile. No matter which type of breakup you are experiencing, you need to spend time discerning your emotions and then seeking closure for any loose ends.

Do this as early as possible in the divorce process to avoid dragging excess baggage forward or impeding any progress made toward a settlement. If you want to thank your former spouse for being there for you during a difficult period in your life, do so. When you need to acknowledge hurt to truly move forward, do so clearly. Should circumstances in your divorce prevent you from saying these things to your former partner in person, write them down on paper, read your words back to yourself and then burn or shred the paper to help let go.

Spend time on your health

Your health needs to be one of your top priorities during a divorce. Whether you are childless or a mother, spending time on personal fitness and proper rest will help you stay focused during the legal proceedings and develop confidence for a return to the dating scene. When you have kids, the increase in energy provided through regular exercise will help you better manage parenting alone and juggling daily schedules solo. Exercise also helps keep feelings of depression at bay and increases your body’s endorphins — a chemical that make you feel more positive.

If you don’t already follow an exercise program, develop a plan. It can be simple. Think about walking 30 minutes each evening alone or with your children. Pick up a kickboxing DVD at your local retail store and start punching out your feelings. Join a gym and spend a few days a week sweating out on a treadmill or the elliptical. Take in a yoga or Pilates class to regain your inner balance.

Focus on picking foods to eat that you enjoy and that are healthy. You no longer have to balance the dietary preferences of two people and can nosh on your favorite salad every day or indulge in all the homemade hummus you want. A good diet will make achieving your fitness goals easier and keep you energetic while navigating a new life.

You also need to get your sleep each night. It can be too easy to lay in bed thinking about your past relationship or worrying about the future, but fight the temptation. If you need some help sleeping, invest in some herbal tee and develop a nighttime ritual to help you unwind. It can include a relaxing activity like bathing, limiting screen time on your phone in the hours before bed and better regulating your caffeine intake.

Master your finances

As a new single, taking charge of your finances is necessary from day one. You can no longer rely on an extra income helping to balance the checkbook. Assess all of your monthly expenditures and your income immediately to determine if you need to make cuts to stay afloat or are fine maintaining the status quo.

Reexamining your budget as a single may also help you find ways to economize or eliminate costs you acquired as part of a couple but no longer want to expend dollars on, such as a Netflix subscription or season tickets to a sporting event. Eliminating these unwanted expenses will free up your cash flow for the things you want now, such as to travel more or pay for a family vacation for you and your children.

Start a journal

Don’t think of journaling after a divorce as a mandatory daily writing exercise. Instead, explore the therapeutic benefits of putting your thoughts down on paper when you need to express private feelings. When your emotions flare up after a dance recital or an evening eating alone at the bar, write down how you feel and explore ways to improve the situation for next time.

Jot down letters to yourself about what you want out of your life in the future and craft a plan for obtaining that life. Write about the career move that will allow you to better support your family. Explore hobbies you want to develop and volunteer work you want to do. Examine your prior relationship and what you want from a new romance.

Change your space

If you relocate during your divorce, you still need to change up your space when it brings negative emotions to your life. An old bed in a new apartment may still make you feel alone, so find a way to mix it up. Add new linens, buy larger throw pillows or donate the bed and sleep on an air mattress for a few months until you find your center. Don’t hang on to items that make you feel bad. When you stay in your home, rearrange your furniture or mix up your room uses to create a new environment and realign your thinking.

Stay open to possibilities

As the divorce unfolds, stay open to the possibilities in your life. If a new career opportunity fills you with optimism, explore it even if the timing isn’t perfect. When you are asked out on your first post-separation date, don’t feel obligated to say either “no” or “yes” based on the expectations of friends or family. Assess how you feel and provide the answer you think is best.

The dissolution of your marriage and the way you move forward is your business. Share the information you want to share about your divorce when you are ready and navigate your way through your new life at your own pace. The best way to take care of yourself is to listen to your inner voice after consulting with those who know and love you best. But always make sure the decisions you make are yours and then own them. The best way to take care of yourself is to be 100 percent you.


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