Divorce is consistently ranked one of the most stressful experiences a person can have.
Not only is ending a relationship complicated emotionally, but it can also be a logistical nightmare. Divorce often leads to one or both partners moving somewhere new, disentangling finances, and working out custody arrangements if there are kids in the mix. There is a lot of upheaval that goes along with divorce, which can add to the intense feelings of stress and grief. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be a sign that you need to do some taking care of yourself.
As much as it doesn’t feel like you have the time or energy to practice self-care when you’re going through a divorce, you still need to prioritize yourself. Remember, self-care is not selfish, even when you have a lot going on. Making a plan for how you’ll tend to yourself in the midst of divorce can go a long way.
As we’ve discussed on the blog before, grief can be experienced over number of things. People grieve because they leave jobs or cities, because friendships end, because their pets die, because they missed a big opportunity. Anything that can cause a disruption in your life can be a source of grief. Breakups are a huge disruption. You go from having someone be a main source of support in your life to having them be a stranger almost overnight. That will undoubtedly disrupt your life. You don’t have to be married to someone to grieve the end of a relationship, either. You can grieve lost relationships of all shades, from platonic to romantic and everything in between.
The end of a relationship can often be a lonely time. Someone you used to go to for support is no longer available to you, so you may feel like you have no way to cope. That’s why it can be helpful to have some ideas in mind for ways you can practice self-care during divorce. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful to you from our therapists:
Don’t make so many decisions
When you’re overwhelmed, the thought of making a million little decisions every day might seem totally impossible. It can be helpful to develop schedules or routines to make your life a little simpler in this time. Can you plan out what to eat in advance or follow a loose theme each night (Meatless Mondays? Stir Fry Saturdays?) to cut out some of those decisions? Can you stick to a general theme for outfits so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day? Think of some ways your decision making energy gets used up throughout the day and make a plan to cut out some of those decisions.
Follow a schedule or routine
Try to set up new routines that feel good to you, not just because you feel like you should be doing them. What would be your ideal way to wake up each day? Try to make one small change that can help that become a reality. It can be especially painful to try to find your footing in a routine when your old routine was entwined with your partner’s. It’s okay to grieve the loss of your routine in addition to the loss of your relationship – that’s a lot of change at once.
Talk about your feelings
It can be so tempting to bottle everything up when you’re going through a divorce. You might feel shame that your relationship has ended, or you might think it was a failure. However, when we bottle up our feelings (especially shame) they only grow. It’s important to talk it out in whatever way you can. If you don’t have anyone to talk to in person, sit in front of a mirror and talk to yourself. When you hear yourself speak your feelings aloud, it can help release some of their power. Other options for people to talk to would be a trusted friend or relative, a therapist, your primary care physician, or local support groups.
The point of practicing self-care during divorce is to help make you feel better. However, if you’re always being mean to yourself it’s going to be hard to feel better. Even when you feel like beating yourself up, give yourself the compassion you’d give to a friend. Or imagine a younger version of yourself. Would you say this stuff to them? Probably not. You deserve your own self-compassion, especially when going through something tough.
When there are so many loose ends to work out, as there are with divorce, it can be tempting to get caught up in worry. Worry about the future and how you’ll cope. Or about finances or custody. Worry about mistakes you feel you made in the relationship. However, worry is not helpful. Ruminating on what you dread or what is hard for you is a recipe for misery. When you feel those thoughts of worry come up, a mindfulness practice can help you let them pass by instead of letting them control you.
Try an app on your phone specifically designed for mindfulness or meditation and use a guided meditation to get a feel for what it’s like. The important part of mindfulness is to suspend judgment – so if you’re having a hard time letting your worry go, that’s okay. Just be kind to yourself as you notice those thoughts and let them pass.
Divorce is never easy, even if it’s the right choice for you and your relationship. You deserve to feel supported as you go through the process, including supporting yourself. It can seem like a waste of time to practice self-care during divorce, but you are worthy of care, no matter what else is going on in your life. If you’re looking for more support through the divorce process, our clinicians can help.