You may be so flooded with feelings that it may seem impossible to sit at a table, across from your spouse, to talk about the big decisions that must be made when one person decides that the marriage is over. You wonder, “How can I get through this?” Even though it is common, divorce is a life crisis, and one of the most stressful experiences you will have in your life. Whether it is your spouse’s decision or yours, the fear, anxiety, and grief can feel overwhelming. You may feel angry or struggle with feelings of shame or guilt. Here are some ways that you can take care of yourself:
- Slow the process down. Don’t make big decisions in a crisis. Take it one day at a time and focus on calming down the emotions before you tackle big decisions about money, or moves, or the children. If your divorce process has started, talk about the pace with your spouse and/or your professionals. Sometimes the pain is so great that “ripping the bandage off fast” seems appealing. But research shows that slowing down the process eases the pain and you are more likely to make decisions about which you will feel good later.
- Even with a pace that feels more manageable, give yourself time to heal. After the divorce is over, it may take a year or more to fully heal and recover. Be kind to yourself, and take it one day at a time.
- Turn to your social support and don’t isolate. Talk to your friends, family, a divorce support group. Talk to your divorce coach or your therapist, or turn to your faith counselor. Just don’t let your kids be your confidantes, it isn’t good for them. Your kids need to know that you have other sources of support. Even adult children should be reassured that you have other sources of support.
- Do at least one thing every day that you enjoy. This could be a walk in nature, coffee with a friend, listening to music, reading, a comedy show or a game with your children. Physical activity and nature are healthy for body and spirit.
- Breathe deeply and often. Stop at least five times a day to take 3-5 deep belly breaths. Why? When you are anxious, you tend to breathe less, to breathe shallowly or to hyperventilate. Deep breaths relieve muscle tension, so you feel more relaxed physically. When you feel physically relaxed, you feel more emotionally relaxed and in control. Breathing feeds oxygen to your brain so you can think more clearly. And that feels good too.
- Plan something to do with a friend after each legal meeting. This gives you some time to debrief with another trusted adult, so that you don’t take your emotions home alone or to your kids.
- Make sure that you are eating regularly, eating healthy foods, and getting enough sleep. Limit how much alcohol you drink—it won’t help your sleep or make you feel better.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether you might benefit from medications to alleviate your anxiety, depression or insomnia.
Remember, you will get through your divorce and recover. If you follow these tips and give yourself some time, you will be able to manage the stress and reduce the conflict of your divorce, so that you can heal.
Ann Buscho, Ph.D., is a collaborative divorce coach and psychologist in Marin County.
Photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.