These aren’t magic elixirs that will suddenly make everything okay, but these six strategies can help you cope while divorce seems intent on bringing you down:
1 – Limit the Time Spent With People Who Exhaust You
It doesn’t matter if it’s your mother or your neighbor, when you’re feeling flattened by divorce, it’s okay to limit your exposure to people that you find emotionally draining. It’s okay to not answer your phone. It’s okay to come up with an excuse why you can’t make the weekly dinner this Friday. It’s okay to duck behind the couch when the doorbell rings.
Right now, you need to take care of you and if that means keeping others at arm’s length for a time, so be it.
2 – Say “No” to Unnecessary Obligations
Maybe you’ve always been the one to organize the neighborhood Halloween party or spearhead the new campaigns at work. Perhaps your friends are accustomed to asking you to help shuttle the children around or you are the family “go to” when discord arises.
Their expectations and your past history do not mean that you have to continue those things. This is a time to pare down, to simplify. Say “no” to those burdens that can be pushed off, ignored or delegated. You’re not helping anyone if you spread yourself so thin that you begin to disappear.
3 – Cut Yourself Some Slack
You are not going to operating at your normal levels of functioning right now and that. is. okay. Consider this like recovering from a major illness. You’re not going to go straight from the sick room to the starting line of a marathon. Likewise, don’t expect to leave divorce court and immediately be operating at peak capacity.
This is a perfect time to adjust your expectations. Let some things slide. Prioritize where you spend your energy. And, most importantly, forgive yourself for your mistakes and your shortcomings. You will return to your normal bad-ass self again. In the meantime, it’s okay if you’re just managing to get your ass out of bed.
4 – Set Yourself Up For Sleep Success
The hours between sunset and sunrise somehow manage to feel twice as long and three times as lonely when you’re struggling. You can make the nights a little more bearable by priming the pump for a calmer mind. Explore trying vigorous exercise at night to exhaust the body. Try instituting a ban on any divorce or ex-related tasks for the 2-3 hours before you retire. Make sure your bedroom feels like a comfortable space with no visible emotional reminders. Lose yourself in a story by watching, reading or listening before you retire.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and find that your nightmares have traveled with you, make an effort to interrupt your thoughts. Try an engrossing puzzle, take out your journal or even just take a bath or shower to help your mind shift gears.
5 – Incorporate Daily Movement
When we’re exhausted, we often think that what we need is to stop. Yet too much time in a still body makes the mind quite the active wanderer. Make a vow with yourself to move every day. Go for a walk before dinner or try some morning yoga. If you like being around people, use this as an excuse to join a team or group exercise class.
On those days when you just don’t feel like it, tell yourself you’re going to give it 5 minutes and that you have permission to stop at that point if you want. More often than not, once you begin moving, you’ll want to keep moving.
6 – Ask For Specific Help
People want to help. But first, they need to know that you want help and then, they need to know what sort of assistance they can offer. So tell them. I know it feels weird and maybe even shameful to admit that you can’t do it alone. Yet that’s more an internal dialog than an external truth. After all, when you offer assistance to a friend in a rough patch, are you secretly judging them or are you just happy that there is something you can do?
Ask for what you need, whether it be picking up your dry cleaning to an evening phone call to help keep the loneliness at bay. It’s amazing how freeing just a small bit of help can be when your plate is both overflowing and collapsing.
The way you feel right now is not the way you’ll always feel. What works for you today may no longer be appropriate tomorrow. Reevaluate your self-care strategies every 6-8 weeks and be ready to modify them as needed until that day comes when instead of feeling overwhelmed, you’re feeling energized and ready for the next step.