Remember what the flight attendants say about the oxygen mask when you are traveling with children? That’s right–they tell you to put your mask on first so that you will be able to help the others who need you. Going through a divorce is just like that oxygen mask advice. Now is the time to take care of yourself. The emotional stress of divorce can manifest itself in any number of ways. One person might be more susceptible to illness than usual; another might find it hard to concentrate at work; you might have far less patience with the people you care about, particularly your children. It is critical for you to find ways to help you relieve stress and stay centered.
Strategies for staying healthy throughout your divorce include:
(NOTE: Before engaging in a divorce recovery group, journaling, or talking to friends and family, it is a good idea to clear that with your attorney as there are potential risks to those activities)
- A professional therapist can help you sort through your feelings and provide a place for you to unload some of the overwhelming emotions that tend to dominate people during divorce. Many people are tempted to use their attorney as their therapist, and while many lawyers are good listeners, a professional therapist is specially trained to help you deal with your emotions during this time. Attorney’s hourly rates are usually much higher than a therapist, so using a therapist to deal with your emotional issues and using your attorney for the legal issues will be the most efficient use of your professionals fees. Try to consider the therapist your oxygen mask during the divorce, remembering, if powerful emotions are not directly addressed and defused, that they will manifest in other ways, often unexpectedly and sometimes destructively.
- Eat healthy food and get plenty of rest. For some people, this will be especially challenging because they cannot sleep and eat very unhealthy foods when they are under stress. While this will work for a short time, to take care of yourself and your children during and after your divorce, you will need all the strength you can gather, and that will best be gathered by eating health and getting good rest. Don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you need help on this.
- Physical activities such as exercise, yoga and meditations are excellent ways to turn off your thinking, which is typically working in overdrive (and not necessarily for your benefit) during a divorce. Bodywork like massage can also be very effective for releasing emotion and restoring balance.
- Divorce recovery groups are available in many communities, providing an outlet for processing emotions and a peer group that can be a source of support.
- Keeping a journal can be an effective way of expressing and processing emotions.
- Supportive family and friends are great resources – accept their kindness. Those who do not support your happiness but want to stir up drama are not people you can count on now. You will surely get lots of well-meaning advice. While this is informative, you are ultimately best served by listening to your own feelings and the advice of unbiased professional resources. Asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” can help you access the right resource in the moment.
Be gentle and generous with yourself during this challenging time – this is the rainy day that you have always saved for. Seek the courage to experience this painful transition as deeply as you can bear. In doing so, you will ultimately find relief, compassion and understanding.
Divorces resolved through the Collaborative Divorce model are less traumatic than litigated divorces, but that does not mean they are easy. Most of the legal side of your divorce requires you to make business decisions – right at the time when you are not thinking clearly. Doing your best to handle your emotions outside of the joint meeting room will result in a smoother process and a more beneficial result for all concerned.