Divorce is a challenge, especially when the decision to divorce is one-sided. Even if the decision is mutual, the range of emotions that come with it can still be intense. Anger. Anxiety. Denial. Depression. Guilt. Resentment. Sadness. Shock. For some, there might even be joy and happiness. Here are a few simple strategies to help you not only survive, but even thrive after divorce. I want you to be open to the idea that even if divorce is the worst possible thing you can imagine right now that things will become much better.
Take a Deep Breath
When a relationship ends, it can feel like you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. Pause and take a deep breath. Stress is a risk factor for illness. Remind yourself that though things seem tough right now, it will not always be so. You will be okay.
Anxiety is a physical response to the body’s flight or fight system. Tony Robbins had it right when he said, “To change your emotion, you need to change your motion”. Jump up and down. Take deep breaths. Exercise. Go for a walk. Even fake laugh. Put your shoulders back and lift your head up high! Imagine you are happy.
All these activities create little happy hormones in your body and will help you feel better—even if just a little. Your body does not know the difference between real or fake. Your mood will improve. You’ve got this!
Let It Go
Identify 3 things your ex-spouse does that drives you CRAZY. Can you learn to ignore one of those things? When the list of things that drives you crazy gets too big, it’s like a tipping point—making it hard to cope. But, if your list is reduced to just one or two things, then it gets easier. Another way to put it—pick your battles. Likewise, can you stop doing one thing that drives your ex-spouse crazy?
I had a client tell me he “blamed” his ex-wife for everything that went wrong in his life. He simply stopped focusing on the problems that caused the marriage breakdown and instead started focusing on solutions. It was only then that he said his divorce was able to “proceed like clockwork”. He also recognized that he contributed to the marriage breakdown. It does not matter who was ‘more’ to blame. The bottom line was they were young, had a lot to learn about relationships and were not compatible. What seemed like the worst time in his life eventually lead him to the best time of his life. He and his ex-wife are now both remarried (to new partners), they are both much happier and they share a very friendly co-parenting arrangement.
This is a hard one. Don’t forgive for your spouse’s benefit. Forgive for your own benefit. It allows you to move forward. Harboring anger and resentment can cause you to keep living over and over everything that went wrong in your relationship. This does not serve you and will be a detriment to future relationships you may enter.
Maybe you need to forgive yourself? I’m not an expert on forgiveness. If you need help in this area, google “how do I forgive” and do some research. Maybe search out a counselor or psychologist.
Join a gym and get fit. Or check for online exercise programs like the Beach body. Join a walking or running group. Join a boot camp or a cross-fit class. Check out Group-on. Sometimes you can get a cheap 30-day pass to one of these facilities. Healthy Body. Healthy Mind.
Feeling the winter blues? Getting enough light can help improve your mood. If you’re not getting enough sunlight to try spending more time in a brightly lit room. Take your Vitamin B and D vitamins and consider Light Therapy (you can buy Light Therapy Lamps on Amazon). This will give you the energy that you need to stay productive.
Productivity & Activity
They say sitting is the new smoking! This one goes together with getting fit. It’s not enough just to go to the gym 2 or 3 times a week if you sit at a desk all day long. You need to fit in with other periods of activity as well.
Being productive and getting things down will add to a feeling of being control of something in your life! Productivity is about gaining control and order in your life while at the same time increasing your activity.
Instead of sitting down on the couch and becoming a zombie watching television, try combining productive activity while watching TV. It’s amazing how you will feel after a 2-hour marathon of Lost while getting caught up on menial tasks like ironing or folding clothes. This strategy achieves a few goals. It will help you keep you alert, productive and entertained!
My mom is in her 80s. She always knits while she watches TV and she is very sharp. There is something to it—you can’t just stare at the TV for hours. Something like knitting, ironing, walking on a treadmill or completing a puzzle while watching TV will keep your brain crisp. No guilt TV.
Cleaning and de-cluttering your house top-to-bottom with the music blaring is a great way to get your exercise in.
Invite humor into your life. Watch a funny movie or YouTube video clips. Grab a pint of Rocky Road and do a marathon comedy special binge on Netflix! Whatever you do, give yourself permission to laugh. Do not become your own worst enemy.
Food Matters TV (FMTV.com) is an amazing website full of hundreds of health, nutrition, and spiritual videos. It’s a perfect distraction from the stress of divorce.
Divorce can be a painful solitary experience. Joining an in-person or online support group can help. Connect with people who have gone through a similar experience. The focus should be to network and connect with people who lift you up and encourage you to move forward with your life.
It helps to talk about your past relationship with others and what you are going through. It can be therapeutic. But, try not dwelling on the past too long. Try not to spend too much time complaining about your spouse or situation. It’s a lose-lose situation. There is a point where it no longer serves you and you just need to “Let it go” for the sake of your health and mental well-being.
No News or Social Media
Consider taking a break from anything negative, such as the news, politics and social media.
Use this opportunity to evaluate where you are in your life and where you want to go. Take courses. Travel. Pursue a hobby. You might try a dozen things. Some of it will help. Some of it won’t. It will be a great opportunity to socialize, meet new people and get out of your comfort zone.
Phone a Friend or Family Member
Have you been neglecting anyone? Give them a call. Reconnect with old friends and family so you’re not going through your divorce alone. Friends and family can be great pillars of strength during difficult times.
It may be too late to save your relationship but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the experience. You could read some books or take courses on relationships that may help you next time. I understand that you may NOT be at all interested in a ‘next time’ at this time. But, learning about relationships will also help you process what went wrong. You’ll also learn about yourself. More importantly, you’ll learn some strategies that may give you confidence and tools that will help in a new relationship.
Overcome fear. Don’t let fear control you. Do not let fear be the only reason you decide not to do something great. Step outside your comfort zone and do some fun and wild (but safe) things! This doesn’t mean you need to go crazy and start jumping out of airplanes or going bungee jumping!
Read this list a second time and ask yourself: “Is fear the only thing stopping me from doing this?”
I’m a business owner and my coach told me the biggest mistake business owners make is trying to fix their weaknesses. They would do so much better to outsource the areas they are weak in and focus on what they are great at. The same goes for employees. The value of my employees comes not from their weaknesses, but from their strengths. Some are better at sales and others at organizing. For example, I would never put someone that is great in sales in a job that requires a lot of organization.
Isn’t it interesting that when we meet our significant other, we are attracted to their strengths? But, as the quality of the relationship starts to diminish, we put all our focus on their weaknesses? I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this but thought it would be something interesting to think about. The principle of ‘focusing on strengths’ applies not only to businesses but relationships.
What strengths could you focus on in your personal life? At work? With your children? There may be 10 things you are great at and one thing you are not so great at. Don’t beat yourself up because of your weaknesses.
“Let your strengths define you, not your weaknesses.”
It is possible that some weaknesses can eventually become your strength. Sometimes it will serve you to focus on weaknesses. Just be mindful of both your strengths and weaknesses and focus on the areas that will help you the most. What do YOU want? Focusing on what others expect you to focus on may not be the answer. On the other hand, if what you’ve been focusing on has not been working for you, maybe you need to learn from others. I have a favoring saying:
“The secret to success is to be a good student.”
If financial struggles had a negative impact on your relationship, perhaps learn to manage your money better. Google top 10 financial management books and read them all. Perhaps you can listen to an audiobook while walking on the treadmill? Maybe pay a visit to your local library and rent the books for free.
Is spending a weakness? Too much debt? Then stop spending and pay down your bills. Don’t put anything on credit. If you don’t have cash for it, don’t buy it. Can you eat every single meal at home for a month? And stop buying beverages away from home, like coffee? Imagine this. If you spend $50 instead of saving $50, then you must save $100 extra just to get caught up! If you have credit card debt, then don’t forget about the compound interest. In fact, if you factor in taxes and interest, you would have to earn $3 for every $1 you save!
Takes courses that will help you improve your earnings. Maybe it’s time to upskill? Looking for a career change? Go to AlbertaWageInfo.com and explore career opportunities. Check out different job titles. You’ll see (a) required education, (b) income potential and (c) employment opportunities. If you explore two different career opportunities, but one has a higher job vacancy and pays an average of $20,000 more per year—well then that is the career you might want to consider.
Change Your Focus
Focus on the things you have control over or the positives. For clients that really hate their ex-spouse, if they have children, I like to remind them that they would not have their exact children unless their ex-spouse was the other parent. So, I encourage spouses to try and focus on the good things that came out of the relationship and not the worst parts of it.
Customize Your Checklist
Google strategies for coping with divorce and find additional strategies that resonate with you. Update and modify a list to suit you. You really need to create two lists. Weigh the pros and cons of each strategy until you find one that fits.
By focusing on your bucket list, you turn your focus away from the past. You’ll benefit many ways including:
- you’ll become a better you;
- you won’t stay living in the past and you’ll move forward in a positive direction;
- you’ll realize that moving on was good for you;
- you simply created distractions that allow you to heal a little faster;
- minimize health risks that come with stress, anxiety, and depression;
- reduce conflict with your ex-spouse;
- keep expenses to a minimum; and
- for some, you might even be able to save your marriage.