6 Self-Care Tips When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed By Divorce

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.

 

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How to Audit Your Personal Energy Budget (And Why It’s Critical That You Do)

When it comes to your money, I expect that you have some sort of budget or at least a sense of what is coming in (and where those dollars are coming from) as well as what is going out (and some idea of what that money is being spent on). Additionally, you have learned that spending more than you’re earning will eventually lead to trouble and that to avoid this you either have to spend less or somehow earn more.

We have an understanding and acceptance that there has to be a balance between money in and money out. Yet when it comes to something arguably even more important – our own energy – we are often much more careless and frequently operating in the red.

And just like financial debt is stressful and unsustainable, energy debt causes us to operate below our ideal and can even lead to an energy crisis and total breakdown. When we’re drained, we’re irritable, easily overwhelmed and have trouble making good decisions. And when we’re not at our best, we struggle to take care of others, so balancing energy in with energy out is especially critical for those in a caregiving role.

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s imperative.

A personal energy audit is about becoming aware of where you’re allocating your limited energy and how you’re reviving yourself. Once you’ve taken these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to a balanced energy budget.

The 7 Steps of a Personal Energy Audit

1 – Make a list of all of the things you do that require energy. The big-ticket items will probably come easily. To help think of the others, scan through a typical day and consider if each activity leaves you more or less energized than before. Pay special attention to your “plugged-in” activities such as television and social media. We think of these as restorative, but are they for you?

Build this list over a period of several days. Are you spending energy thinking about a loss in your life? Giving energy to a toxic person? Delivering energy to something or someone where there is nothing to show for it? Be honest with yourself. After all, you have to recognize it before you can change it.

Instead of a list,  you can create a simple pie chart that illustrates what percentage of your energy is currently being allocated in each direction. This visual can be helpful to highlight any possible imbalance.

2 – Make a list of all of the things you do that provide you with energy. To help you think of ideas, reflect back on a day when you felt especially energized or contemplate what you would do with a full day by yourself. Add things to the list even if you’re not currently utilizing them. Don’t get confused between physical energy and emotional energy. You may find that something like a walk leaves you energized even though it requires the burning of calories. If you prefer a visual, this information can be displayed in a frequency chart.

3 – Start by looking for overlapping items. These are key because they operate at close to a zero sum game, both requiring and providing energy. Make note of these. If you’re so inclined, the information up to this point can even take the form of a Venn diagram.

4 – Next, consider your expenditure list and rough percentages dedicated to each item. Are these areas where you want to spend energy? Is there energy being wasted? Are their items you can eliminate or reduce? Can you shift some energy from an area that is only an expenditure to one of those that overlaps with the deposit column? You only have a finite amount. Don’t waste it.

5 – Look at the list of things that give you energy. Are there more areas that you can add? Are there any you can increase in frequency or duration? Strangely, we are often resistant to the very things that restore our energy. Try adding structure in the form of a schedule. Or, promise yourself that you’ll do five minutes of the activity (this works great with exercise) and then give yourself permission to stop at that point. You’ll probably find that you wish to continue. Additionnally, simply being conscious that these activities help to restore your energy balance may lower the initial resistance to action.

6 – Be mindful of the “Starbucks Effect.” Just like small expenditures of money can slip through our fingers without much conscious thought, small amounts of energy can be allocated other directions without our intent. And these small leaks can add up. Before you spend energy on someone or something, ask yourself if it is a worthwhile investment.

7 – Aim for an energy surplus or balance. If you add something to your expenditure list, either cut something else out or add find a way to “earn” more energy. Build your reserves in the easier times so that you can pull from your reserves during the difficult periods. And when the hard times do come, make a conscious effort to rebuild your energy at every available opportunity. Think of it like uncovering the coins beneath the couch cushions. Every little bit helps.

Over time, this conscious spending of your energy becomes habit and the periods of total exhaustion will be fewer and further between. And once your energy is going towards the things that directly benefit yourself, others or the world, you’ll find a sense of peace and well-being that comes from being your authentic self.

 

 

 

4 Budget-Friendly Finds That Help Tame Stress

I’m anxiously watching the weather, hoping my county will call off school for Wednesday. Not because I really care about a day off (especially because we just switch to an online platform for classes), but because we had almost the exact same not-too-threatening forecast two years ago. When I ended up being one of the lucky ones who made it home after “only” a three hour drive capped off with a three mile walk when the roads came to an icy standstill.

Luckily, I’ve stumbled across a few things that have helped me cope with stress this school year. They’re all accessible to small budgets, small spaces and small nibbles of time.

Aromatherapy – Smell Good, Feel Good

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A middle school classroom can develop a certain eau de funk, especially when the kids have PE before my class. And after 14 years of living with it, I decided buy this essential oil diffuser for only $25.99. I did quite a bit of research on the oils. I knew that I wanted lots of variety, which took the more exclusive oils out of my price range. I settled on this set, which has a mix of blends and pure oils.

And I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. In fact, I bought a second diffuser for our bedroom just a couple weeks after the original buy.  I also added a purchase of a Breathe blend from the same company when I felt the first sniffles of the new school year start to move in.

And, I know correlation does not indicate causation, but I have only been sick once this year (and that illness happened when I was out of town and away from the essential oils). I usually play host to at least 3 colds/sinus infections by this point. And even if that’s a happy coincidence, the oils really do help lower my stress (and I even see a difference in my students!).

Coloring Books – Color Me Calm

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Yes, this is a trend. But it’s a trend for a reason. I’ve always used coloring in my classroom to soothe the students when they’re especially stressed (like after a day of standardized testing or when a tragedy strikes close to home). And it works for adults too. When you color, there are no rights or wrongs. Nothing is critical. No decision merits too much thought. It takes you out of your thinky space and into a place of intuition and impulse.

You can find the books almost everywhere now – craft stores, book stores and online. They come in all kinds of designs and most come in at around $10. And trust me, with those intricate designs, that $10 will go a long way!

Do Yoga With Me – Tame the Tension

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I used to subscribe to YogaGlo, which provided amazing quality searchable yoga classes for $18 a month. And then my card expired and with it, my subscription. Instead of updating my card information, I decided to search other options.

And I’m glad I did. DoYogaWithMe is a similar interface as YogaGlo for the low, low price of free! It doesn’t have quite the quality or selection as the other, but it also feels fairly new and seems to be growing. You can choose a class based on style, difficulty and duration. And if you don’t like a class, you don’t have to stick it out or embarrass yourself by walking out early:)  I’d call that low-stress!

Houseplants – Outdoors In

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Kind of like the aromatherapy, I have no idea what took me so long to do this. I had to give up on indoor plants when I got my cat, almost 20 years ago. She’s been gone 10 months now, and I just realized that I could bring back the houseplants.

Finding pots that work for the indoors and are also budget-friendly (cheap) and time-friendly (easy to find) is no easy task. I settled on this line of self-watering (and no leaking!) pots from Fiskars. I found mine at Lowe’s and Home Depot for a lower price than Amazon.

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I’ve kept some this cool blue color and I’ve spray painted others white to serve as herb planters on this plant shelf Brock built for me out of a piece of exterior trim board. It’s too cold to buy the herbs right now, so I’m filling the shelf with blooms from our Camellia bush (yes, in stemless plastic wine glasses because I’m just suave like that!).

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In addition to the plants for the shelf, I scattered them around the house. No pictures yet, because I bought the silliest, smallest plants knowing that they will soon grow into their pots. I love coming in to a home filled with green and growth and life.

So what things do you love that help you relax? Please share!

Pushing the Reset Button On Stress – Five Steps to Help You Unwind

I’m no stranger to stress. As a Type-A+ person geared towards anxiety in a fast-paced and often stressful job, I’ve had to get adept at taking my body and brain from “Argh!” to “Ahhh” in the most efficient way possible.

Over the years, I’ve played around with various strategies for downshifting after a long day or a long week. Some (like venting to a spouse or coworker) might feel good in the moment but don’t contribute to a release of stress in the long term. Others (like meditation) are awesome tools, but are ineffective when used at the wrong time.

I became more aware of my stress and intensity level at the end of the workday when Brock and I instituted a new procedure last year. Before driving home, I would text him my “number,” a digit from 1 to 10 where 1 is napping in a hammock and 10 is performing CPR. He then sends me his number. My goal is to try to be no higher than a 4 as soon as possible after the final bell.

This system has motivated me to get more efficient at ramping down my stress. Below is the stress-busting system I have implemented over the last few months. I have found that these steps in this order effectively take me from a higher level of intensity to a lower level. They’re flexible, filling the time you have and adapting to your particular situation. On a really rough day, you may need all five steps. On an easier day, maybe you reach “Ahhh” much sooner.

Take a look. Give it a whirl. And let me know what you think 🙂

One – Move

feet-538245_1280The first step in releasing stress is getting out of your brain and into your body while starting to let go of any stored and stuck energy. This can be as complex as structured exercise or as simple as a walk down the hallway.

Bonus Points – Exercise Outside

Much of stress comes from a feeling of being confined, boxed into whatever circumstances surround us. So get out. Literally. Feel how small and inconsequential your concerns are against nature’s backdrop.

Two – Escape

kindle-381242_1280Get away from your stress and into another world. Play (and sing along!) to music on your commute. Watch a favorite show (we’re currently bingeing on Game of Thrones). Read a book. Complete a crossword or play some Angry Birds. If you have a tendency to escape too long, set a timer and give yourself a limit. The escape is a break, not continual avoidance.

Bonus Points – Write

Writing not only acts as an escape, it also allows you to purge and process. This is especially important if your source of stress is ongoing or requires that you change something.

Three – Release

runner-690265_1280Let it go. Massage your shoulders and roll them back down into place. Stretch your arms and work out the knots. Do some yoga, whether it be a full class or just holding a pose for a few moments. Try some version of a backbend; they’re delicious when you’re stressed.

Bonus Points – Sex

Whatever sex means for you. It not only serves as a physical release, it also releases hormones that relaxes the body and it is great at resetting the mind.

Four – Breathe

sky-114446_1280Focus on your breath and work to both slow it down and deepen it. If you’re still holding on, inhale through your nose and exhale loudly through your mouth. Aim to complete at least 10 focused breaths.

Bonus Points – Meditate

I often find that when I’m stressed, it can be difficult to do my usual meditation and that guided ones seem to be more effective. I especially like short ones that include body scanning as it helps to release any residual tension.

Five – Play

beach-863139_1280Play simply mean allowing yourself some unstructured time. Follow your instincts. Ideally, this play should be disconnected from technology, as too much stimulation and information keeps the stress going. If you have kids, play with them.

Bonus Points – Create

Allow your creative side to flow. It taps in to your core self and reconnects you with you as you let go of the day. If you have kids, create with them. It’s a gift for all of you.

I know this might sound overwhelming (which is the last thing you need when you’re stressed!), but it can really be quite streamlined on typical days. Here’s how it might look on a normal day for me:

Move – I usually do a bigger workout later in the evening, but I’ll do a few squats before I leave my classroom (during rough years, I’ve even kept a kettlebell in my room) and then I’m mindful of taking advantage of my walk to my car, paying special attention to the feel of the sun (unless it’s the winter!) and fresh air once I leave the building.

Escape – I listen to something either engaging (NPR or a digital book) or funny on the way home.

Release – Once home, I lay on my back with my legs up a wall for a few minutes and let the aches of the day start to fade.

Breathe – While my legs are up the wall, I focus on slowing my breathing. I often will turn on a chant on my meditation app that gives me a cadence to aim for.

Play – I pick up the tennis ball and throw it around for Tiger for a few minutes.

Total time invested? 40 minutes, 30 of which is my commute.

Value to quality of life? Priceless.

How Do You Respond to Stress?

My plants are stressed.

After the crazy cool of July 4, Atlanta has settled in to a solid month of above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall. And my plants don’t like it.

Some have responded by going dormant, their bodies shrinking upon themselves and all thoughts of growth or blooms shuttered for the season.

But others have a different response to the stress. Rather than giving up, they’re choosing to give it all they’ve got. Using the pressure of the less-than-ideal conditions as a motivator to try something new.

How do you respond to stress? Are you folding in and shutting down or are you trying something new?

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My tenacious plants seem to rely on one of three strategies: creating seeds, sending out shoots or digging in deeply. Not surprisingly, these are the same basic stances I see in people who thrive after stress.

Creating Seeds and Preparing For Tomorrow

The imaptiens seem to know that their life is coming to a premature end. They accept that there is nothing that can be done to preserve the life they’ve had and instead of wasting their energy on a futile task, they are diverting it into the seeds that will begin the next generation.

In our lives, there are times when we have to accept that one chapter has ended. And we also can benefit from putting energy into creating the next phase instead of relentlessly trying to preserve what it already gone.

Sending Out Shoots and Seeking a Better Environment

The shrubs that surround my yard are desperately sending out new shoots, small plantlets carried out from the mother plant on thick rhizomes that stubbornly bury through the soil. The shrub simply knows that the soil where its roots are situated is too dry and that the exposure to the baking sun is too intense. Its own body is anchored and so it explores via outshoots, looking for a more hospitable environment.

Unlike the stationary shrub, people are able to manipulate their environment or leave to seek out a more favorable one when the pressure grows too intense. And people that thrive after stressful events make finding and creating that nurturing environment a priority.

Digging In Deeply and Feeding the Soul

In the spring, when the weather was wet and mild, the new daylilies kept their fibrous roots near the surface. Under those ideal conditions, they were able to obtain everything they needed from just those few inches of soil. But as the conditions intensified, the plants sent their roots deep into the soil in search of water and nutrients.

Thriving people also understand that when the going gets tough, the tough dig in. They accept that what was enough to feed the soul in the good times may no longer be sufficient. And so they root down into their core beliefs. They search to find and tap into their purpose. And they don’t stop until they have reconnected with their life force.

Because when the going gets tough, the tough get growing.