Self Care When Separating or Divorcing

The process of separating or divorcing can be one of the most stressful transitions in your life. It is a time that requires coping with changes of all kinds: the ending of the marital relationship while also facing decisions, concerns and fears regarding finances, and how to co-parent if you have children. Whether the separation or divorce is happening unexpectedly or has been contemplated for a long time normal feelings of loss, sadness, fear, anger, resentment or guilt can collide. If you have children these emotions can be compounded because your emotional state involves not just your reactions but also those of your children. Added to the mix can be the possibility of moving from your home. Understandably, all that you have to deal with when separating or divorcing can lead to symptoms of anxiety .  Even individuals with good coping skills can feel very overwhelmed. It is so important that you take time to focus on self -care during separation and divorce.

Self-care during or after divorce can take many forms. Exercise can be very helpful in reducing symptoms of stress. There is no one size fits all. The type of exercise you choose should fit what feels comfortable. It is important to choose an exercise you enjoy so that you are more likely to do it to stimulate the production of positive hormones that reduce anxiety. For some it may be joining a gym while for others it can be as simple as a quiet walk with a beloved pet or a supportive friend. The important factor is to be proactive in maintaining health and strength and taking time to take your mind off of the stressors each day while doing something healthy for yourself. These self-care activities can also reduce feelings of isolation by spending time with others in a shared enjoyed activity.

Another very helpful self-care activity for some can be utilizing mindfulness meditation. There are apps that can guide you with meditation practice or and many books, articles or classes available to help you learn how to integrate meditation into your life to both reduce stress levels as well as to be more effectively present. Meditation can help quiet one’s mind to better focus on all of the tasks at hand in a more healthy and productive manner.

Part of self-care during divorce or separation involves getting enough sleep. Sufficient rest will allow you to stay as strong and clear-headed as possible.  If you have already started a parenting schedule where you are sharing time with the children make sure to use the time when you don’t have the kids to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but ideally try to do this every day.  Try not to think about stressful issues, either personal or more global when getting ready to sleep. It would be good to avoid emails, divorce research on the internet, or even the news during the period of time before you are ready to get to sleep.

Begin or maintain a healthy and nutritious diet. Often when under stress our best efforts to eat healthy can go sideways. When stressed there is often either no desire to eat or a gravitation to grab quick unhealthy and sometimes “self medicating” choices that make one “feel good” for the moment such as sugars, carbs or even alcohol, which then backfire by making you feel unhealthy or sluggish after indulging,  serving only to exacerbate the stressors.

A change of scenery is another good self-care option during divorce. Take yourself or take you and the children for a day trip, or a weekend visit to friends, family or a vacation spot for a change of environment if possible.  Sometimes that mini-vacation can make you realize that change can be positive and that there are other possibilities for you. Even just getting away from an environment that has been sad or toxic for you for a brief period can be very healing.

Make sure you are seeking healthy support. Often this is a period of time to begin talking to your own therapist if you have not been doing so already.  It does not mean that there is anything “wrong “ with you. Counselors and therapists are very helpful when going through the very normal emotions that separation and divorce trigger. Others find help by joining a support group to talk with others going through very similar experiences that can give you guidance and also reduce feelings of isolation. Family and friends can be very helpful as well but often speaking to a trained neutral professional can help you gain invaluable personal insight and discover strengths and resilience that you didn’t even realize you had. You might also consider the services of a divorce coach to help you in this process.  Seeking help at this time is a sign of strength and resilience.

Lastly, please try to be compassionate to yourself. You may not feel you are your best self during this period but know that anyone who is experiencing the volatility of separation or divorce feels this way. Remember that this is one phase of your life, as difficult as it may be, and try to keep reminding yourself that difficult periods pass with a new chapter ahead that can be filled with more enjoyment and peace than what you are experiencing now.

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