Divorce is completely overwhelming. It tasks you with legal proceedings, life restructuring and relationship renegotiation all while you’re just trying not to drown in your own tears. Some days, getting through it all feels impossible. Luckily, there are some small adjustments that you can make that have influence beyond the investment of time and energy that they require.
1 – Change your passwords and your wallpaper.
Let your passwords be your personal mantra. When you have to type, “InHale C0nFideNce ExHale D0uBt” several times a day, you begin to believe it. While you’re reorganizing your digital home, take a moment to update wallpapers and backgrounds as well.
2 – Post a happy photo of yourself before you met your ex.
You WERE happy before you met your ex. Find a picture that proves it. Post it in a prominent location and let it be your reminder that you can be happy without them again. If you’re feeling brave, maybe even make it your profile image.
3 – Alter your surroundings.
Move furniture. Remove photos and mementos. Flip your mattress or even change out your bed. Small changes in your environment can pay dividends in keeping you from fixating on what is missing. And while you’re at it, make sure to include a dash of something beautiful as a reminder that the sun is still there behind the clouds.
4 – Add short bursts of intense exercise.
You know what you’re not doing while you’re struggling to breathe through an exercise? Thinking about your divorce. In addition, intense exercise trains your brain to adapt to discomfort and also has the added benefit of releasing feel-good hormones.
5 – Dress to impress.
This is a version of fake it until you make it. You may feel like crap, but you don’t have to wallow in it by continuously broadcasting it. Make an effort to look put together, at least on most days. It really does change how you feel.
6 – Find your vision image.
What does happy look like to you? How will you know when you’ve moved on? Find an image that captures this idea for you. Save it. Use it as your inspiration.
7 – Compose your elevator speech.
In the beginning, it can be impossible to separate the facts from the emotion. Simply explaining to the pediatrician that your spouse now has different contact information can cause the gut to drop. Compose a short, one to two-sentence speech that explains your circumstances. Rehearse it until it becomes boring and you can say it without feeling it.
8 – Create a manageable and unrelated goal.
I actually created a list of ten goals during my divorce, everything from making a new friend to running a race. Divorce is long, nonlinear and often messy. It’s helpful to have a manageable goal to pull your energies and attentions while you’re feeling as though you’re in limbo.
9 – Write it before you speak it.
The pain, fear and anger of divorce can lead to some ugly thoughts. And if you express those in the wrong company or in the wrong forum, the results can make your situation even worse. So buy yourself a journal and make a vow to write out those thoughts before – or instead – of voicing them.
10 – Practice mindfulness for 5 minutes a day.
Download a mediation app or find a short guided mindfulness practice on YouTube. Then, set a reminder to spend 5 minutes a day focusing on your breath. The practice will help you find your calm in the midst of the storm.
11 – Write a thank you note.
Take a few minutes to express your appreciation for someone in your life. You’ll brighten theirs and expand yours.
12 – Acknowledge your choices.
Divorce leaves you feeling powerless. To help recognize the control you do have, make an effort to acknowledge your choices in every challenging situation. Your ex is late picking up the kids again? You can respond in frustration, you can type out a calm email, you can begin collecting evidence for the courts or you can let it go. The action is out of your hands. Your reaction is not.
13 – Orchestrate a new beginning.
This can be as small as planting a seed. Or starting a new series. Or signing up for a class. It can be personal or part of something larger. Maybe you dedicate some time to volunteering at the local NICU, providing comfort to the fragile young babies. Perhaps you spend a Saturday helping Habitat for Humanity build a new home for a deserving family.
14 – Limit social media time.
I really wish that Facebook had personalized feed filters so that those facing infertility could elect out of seeing baby posts and those experiencing divorce would be excused from the engagement announcements. But until that time, be conservative with your use of social media.
15 – Take a chance and try something new.
Maybe it’s a new haircut. Or a new restaurant. Or an activity that you never envisioned yourself doing. Do something a little bit different. This is an opportunity to break out of the mold that you have previously filled.
16 – Find a mentor.
Find somebody you admire who has been through adversity. It can a person in your life, a famous individual (living or deceased) or even a fictional character. Let them guide and inspire you.
17 – Clean out a closet.
Purge the old. Rediscover lost treasures. Clear the clutter so that you can see what you’re working with. Start fresh.
18 – Start a gratitude challenge.
Today, write down one thing you’re grateful for. Tomorrow, add another. See how many consecutive days you can go adding to the list.
19 – Schedule weekly smiles.
Make a commitment to schedule one thing every week that makes you smile – a walk in the park, a pedicure, a coffee from your favorite shop. It doesn’t have to be big, just something that ignites, even briefly, a sense of joy or contentment.
20 – Call your grandmother.
Or a grandmother stand-in. Talk to somebody that has lived many chapters and seen many endings. Listen to their stories of life’s trials and joys. Find comfort in their perspective and hope in their tales of adaptation and perseverance. Because this divorce is a chapter of your life, not the entire story.