Overwhelm is an expected consequence of divorce. I say that because WITHOUT EXCEPTION it’s something I work on with every single one of my clients. It’s also something I had to learn how to overcome when I went through my own divorce. What I’m going to share with you today is EXACTLY what I share with my clients as we pick through the pieces of what makes up their overwhelm. The result? They ALWAYS feel calmer and more in control of their situation. You will too, if you follow these 4 steps.
Step 1: Get really clear and specific about what you’re feeling overwhelmed by. It’s not unusual for this step to be difficult. Many of the people I work with have a general idea of what’s going on with them, but to be specific can take some digging. Be willing to dig! What you find during your excavation process might be thoughts, tasks, beliefs, or even more feelings.
What’s surprising to most people is that simply by getting clear about what’s going on they can start to alleviate some of their overwhelm. In fact, one of my clients recently told me at the end of our session that simply by specifically identifying all that was contributing to his sense of overwhelm, he was already beginning to feel a sense of relief.
Step 2: Put each of these things into one of 3 buckets. Anything that’s contributing to your sense of overwhelm can be placed into one of 3 categories:
- I am the only one who can do anything about it
- I can delegate it
- I can drop it
What’s interesting to me is how often people will incorrectly categorize the things that are contributing to their sense of overwhelm into the first category. They decide that they are the only one who can do anything about it. What my clients and I usually find when we work through Step 2 together is they have been assuming incorrectly that they are the only one who can do anything about every single one of the things contributing to their overwhelm. To be fair, this assumption is partially true; you do need to decide what to do about each item. However, most people make this assumption because it’s either what they’ve always done or because they don’t feel comfortable asking for help. The truth is that even if you truly are the only one who can do anything about any particular item, you can almost always find someone who can help.
Look at all the items in each of the buckets. Ideally, the list in each category will be shorter than the list you identified in Step 1. If you’ve got one bucket holding all of the items from Step 1, take a deep breath and go through your items one more time. See if you can move any of the items to another bucket.
Step 3: Prioritize. Prioritizing is vital to overcoming overwhelm. The highest priority items are those you identified as needing to be dropped. Place a #1 next to the items in the “I can drop it” bucket.
Next look are your “I can delegate it” bucket and identify which item will take you the least amount of effort and provide you the most relief. Place a #2 next to this item. Identify the next item which will take you the least amount of effort and provide you the most relief. Place a #3 next to this item. Continue this process with all the items in your “I can delegate it” bucket.
Finally, move on to your “I am the only one who can do anything about it” bucket. Figure out which of these items will take you the least amount of effort and provide you the greatest sense of accomplishment. Place an A next to this item. Figure out which of the remaining items will take you the least amount of effort and provide you the greatest sense of accomplishment. Place a B next to this item. Continue this process for each of the items remaining.
Step 4: JDI This is where the Nike spirit comes into action. It’s time to Just Do It.
Start with all the #1′s and drop every single one of those things contributing to your overwhelm. Take a deep breath and notice how much easier you feel now that you know you no longer need to worry about any of them.
Next, take care of #2. Do what needs to be done to delegate this item to the appropriate person. When you’ve completed this delegation, take a deep breath and notice that you’re feeling more in control.
Next, take care of A. Remember this should be the easiest thing that only you can take care of. Go ahead and just get it done! When you do, I hope you’ll take at least a few moments to bask in a sense of accomplishment and increased ease because there are even fewer things in your “I am the only one who can do anything about it” bucket.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Step 1: Get really clear and specific about what you’re feeling overwhelmed by. Be sure and list everything. If something comes up after you’ve started one of the other steps, loop back here to Step 1 and continue back through all 4 steps.
Step 2: Put each of these things into one of 3 buckets. The 3 buckets are “I am the only one who can do anything about it”, “I can delegate it” and “I can drop it”.
Step 3: Prioritize. Remember that everything in the “I can drop it” bucket gets a #1. The items in the “I can delegate it” and the “I am the only one who can do anything about it” buckets get prioritized by asking yourself, “Which of these items will be easiest to get done and provide me with the greatest sense of relief?”. Everything in the “I can delegate bucket get a number starting with #2. Everything in the “I am the only one who can do anything about it” bucket gets a letter starting with A.
Step 4: JDI. Start with all the #1′s and drop them. Let them all go. Then go back and forth between the numbers and letters to get things done. For example, if you have 3 items in your “I can delegate it” bucket and 5 items in your “I am the only one who can do anything about it” bucket, you’d tackle the items in this order: #2, A, #3, B, #4, C, D, E.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and persona life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139-143
Divorce is one of those times when we notice that people exit from our lives and the roles and responsibilities we shared with them no longer make sense. Many of these roles and responsibilities are ones we probably took for granted when these people were regularly in our lives. But now that they aren’t we just might find ourselves at a loss for how to get these unfilled roles filled.
Unlike a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, we don’t usually have an understudy that will step up in if the person currently fulfilling a role suddenly isn’t there any more. This is where we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the functional divorce.
1. The first step is to identify which roles and responsibilities have been dropped.
To help you get started here are some roles and responsibilities people struggle with when they divorce. Well, they range widely – from the simple to the complex. Here is a partial list of what you might be struggling with:
-Chef/cook -Budgeter/Bill payer -Mom/Dad -Home maintainer -Lover/loved -Primary wage earner -Maid/butler -Laundry/Dry cleaning expert -Grocery Shopper -Investor
We struggle with roles and responsibilities when we get divorced because in a sense we’ve allowed ourselves and our spouses to become type-cast. We get used to how we’ve been living and how we’ve been living with our spouse. When we get separated/divorced, all the roles we’ve become so adept at are suddenly changed. We can feel overwhelmed about how much we’ve now got to do. We might feel a sense of freedom about how much less we have to do or we might have a sense of fear about how much less we have to do. Most likely, we feel a combination of it all.
2. The second step is to prioritize the order in which the unfilled roles need to be filled.
Not everything needs to be done at once. Which is the most critical role that needs to get covered? And after that is taken care of which is next most critical. Go through your entire list and prioritize each and every roll you’ve identified.
3. The third step is to develop your game plan for getting the most urgent roles filled.
Yes, you’ll probably have to work on multiple roles at once. I wish it was easier, but divorce is difficult at times. What I can tell you is that by taking a systematic approach to your functional divorce you will establish your new normal much more quickly. The benefit of that is a decrease in the stress and strain you (and your kids) are experiencing as a result of your divorce.
Taking a good look at the roles and responsibilities you had in your marriage and how they are changing as a result of your separation/divorce is critical to decreasing the stress and strain you experience. By having a good feel for how things are changing and what you can do to make it easier on yourself and your kids will go a long way toward getting you and your kids settled in your new roles. You can think of this experience as a script change and you are the chief writer who is determined to end the story happily.
You Functional Divorce Assignment:
Make your own list of roles and responsibilities that are impacted by your divorce. Use the list above to give you inspiration and come up with all the roles and responsibilities that you are now faced with covering.
Prioritize your list. Yes, there are a lot of things that in flux when you get divorced, but not all of them are top priority. Which are the most immediately important and which can wait for a bit.
Develop a game plan. How will you incorporate your new roles and responsibilities into your life? The important thing here is to make sure your game plan is realistic and achievable.
It’s OK to ask someone for help. Sometimes the parts you realize you now need to or want to play in your life are way different from anything you’ve ever done before. If that’s the case for you, I want to encourage you to ask for help. The right help at the right time can make all the difference in how quickly you can reach the happy ending to your divorce experience.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.
For most people, spring brings to mind sprouting plants, rain showers and new beginnings. And yet, despite the season, most people going through divorce find it hard at times to think of beginning anything new when what was -their marriage- is ending.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things that just won’t be any more -growing old together, taking that dreamed of second (or maybe first) honeymoon. It is sad that those things won’t be. And yet, your life will go on. You will be joyful and happy again -even if it doesn’t quite seem like it right now.
What do you say to the idea of starting to think and dream of things to say “hello” to? I hope I heard you say “YES!”
One of the things I know about any relationship and especially marriage is that you make compromises along the way. Maybe your former spouse snores like a freight train and in order to get any kind of sleep at night you’ve worn ear plugs to bed for the last 20 years! Or maybe your former spouse had food allergies and was allergic to garlic. So you haven’t eaten garlic bread or ordered pizza for the last 5 years. (Yes. I do know someone who was in a relationship with someone allergic to garlic. No, it wasn’t me.)
I’m guessing there are certain compromises you’ve made during your marriage -things that you simply won’t have to do anymore. Am I right? Well, these are exactly the things that you can now say “hello” to now.
You Functional Divorce Assignment:
Make a list of compromises you made during your marriage. Put it all down. Did you give up a favorite hobby? Did you change what you ate? Did you change how you spoke?
Decide what you want to invite back into your life. Take a good look at your list. What on the list do you want to start doing again? What on your list do you want to start having again?
Write a “hello” letter. Using that list of things you want to invite back into your life, write a letter to yourself about all the things you’re going to invite back into your life. This is your “hello” or new beginnings letter.
Pick one. Which thing that you’re saying “hello” to are you ready to do or have right now? Make sure it’s something that you’ll enjoy now and feel good about in the long term. Then, just go after it!
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.