Self-Care During a Divorce

Divorce is consistently ranked in the top five most stressful life events. The other offenders are the death of a loved one, a major illness or injury, job loss, and moving. A divorce often involves moving so you get a double whammy of life’s top stressors. With kids involved, you must prioritize their well-being as well as self-care. To care well for them you must also care for yourself. The best thing that you can do is take a deep breath, set goals, and develop an action plan going forward for yourself and the children to ensure you will be set up for success. 

Your priorities may be tangible things like financial support, housing, food, utilities, and transportation, but your emotional state, and how you handle stress has a direct effect on the children.  Mental health and stress management must also take priority.

When going through a divorce it’s only natural to have a multitude of emotions and feelings that range from being sad, depressed, anxious, lonely, disappointed, betrayed, angry, and at times, hopeless.  It can be overwhelming to deal with this cocktail of emotions.

Elaine, a mother in Alabama told me that at first, she felt relief that her horrible marriage was over, and she could move on. She felt guilty for being so relieved, but then anxiety, fear, and anger over the financial fallout of the divorce took over. She reported feeling depressed to the point of “thinking bad thoughts to escape this nightmare.”

It is crucial is that you take care of yourself during and after a divorce. Some basic guidelines can help you find your way during such a difficult time. You need to get enough sleep; you cannot function properly without enough rest.  Proper sleep hygiene will aid in your healing. If anxiety is keeping you up at night look at ways to decrease your anxiety before bedtime. I have an app on my phone that takes me through some simple deep breathing exercises and reads me a “sleep story” it’s very soothing and I’ve yet to hear the end of a sleep story. 

Start a light exercise program. Move your muscles, change your thoughts. It is difficult to stay depressed when you are exercising regularly. Additionally, try to spend some time outdoors, the sun has very positive effects on our mood in general. Take a 30-minute walk when possible. This is something you can do with your kids to help reduce their stress as well. 

Schedule a time for meditation every day where you can reflect on the good things about being single and getting out of a bad relationship. Think about all of the things that you neglected to do for yourself because of your marriage.  Start focusing on yourself and enjoying the things that you gave up because of your marriage. For example, go have Mexican food because you love it and your former partner wouldn’t even consider going to a Mexican restaurant.

Get out the sadness every day. If you need to cry, cry, however, set a time limit on this activity. Try no more than ten minutes. This will allow you to feel in charge of your emotions. Reach out to some old friends, the ones that you lost touch with because of your marriage. 

Don’t forget to eat regularly and try to eat a healthy diet.  Beware of comfort foods and the negative consequences of eating them for too long.  A healthy diet will help your overall health and help you to heal quicker. Make sure that you have compassion towards yourself, not compassion for donuts and Dorito’s. 

Don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself for the divorce. Allow yourself to grieve in healthy ways, however, don’t dwell on negatives without solutions. Avoid conflict with your ex as much as you can. Elaine told me that due to her ex’s known drinking problem she set her phone up to block calls from him during the evening and night hours so he could not call her or the children when he was drinking. 

Also, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. This is not only damaging to you personally, but sets the kids up to follow your lead.  Do your part to end the cycle of dysfunction. 

Have a “me” day. Pamper yourself within your means. Perhaps go get your hair or nails done.  Have someone you trust watch your kids for the day. Go have lunch with an old friend or do something else you enjoy. What is something you love to do that you have not done in a while? Go do it! And celebrate the fact that you can! 

You are starting a new chapter of your life. The future chapters are up to you. A romance, love story, thriller, or horror story; it’s your choice.  Set goals, develop an action plan, and follow through with it. This will set you up for success.

If you feel that you need more help, you may be a candidate for a life coach, or consider short term counseling with a therapist experienced with divorce. 

Remember that your children will be impacted by everything that you do and the attitudes that you have. You are still going to have a wonderful and fulfilling life; believe in yourself and build a great life.