Yes, you can absolutely handle this!
Divorce is such a trip, tossing you head first into a world that’s largely unfamiliar. You’re suddenly forced to navigate situations (and make hard decisions) you’ve never faced before.
You’re living alone (and wondering if you’ll live alone for the rest of your life). You’re handling your finances … or what’s left of them. You’re building a personal relationship with your kids in a new way. You’re working with an attorney and legal system that don’t know (and sometimes don’t seem to care about) you and your situation. And, hopefully, you’re standing up to your ex (maybe for the first time ever).
It’s a lot! No wonder you feel like divorce is eating you alive. The constant overwhelm often leads to profound anxiety, frustration and sadness … which creates even more overwhelm. It’s a horribly vicious cycle. And, you worry your friends will stop taking your calls because you feel so needy.
Sure, you could choose to talk with your doctor about a prescription for an anti-depressant. But, a new study found alarming side effects. So, what else can you do to manage the stress without losing your mind?
Good news, there are some simple, effective ways to inject a little calm into your perpetually overwhelming life. By easing at least a little of the anxiety, you’ll feel more capable of handling things and a bit more in control of your life.
Here are five of the easiest and most immediate ways to create a sense calm despite the swirl of divorce stress you’re facing:
- Breathe – I know it sounds ridiculous on the surface (and even patronizing to your real sense of overwhelm), but here is the fact: When you are under stress, you breathe more shallowly and shallow breathing increases anxiety. (See the vicious cycle here?)
Deep, calm breaths, however, offer these major benefits: managing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, regulating heart rate, sparking brain growth, improving immune function, and boosting energy. And let’s face it, these are all things you need to handle divorce (and all of its drama) well.
- Hug yourself – Yup, this is another seemingly silly idea, but again there is scientific evidence to back up this tip. Psychology Today reports that hugging increases your sense of security, positive feelings and better health. And PsychCentral states that you can receive these benefits simply by hugging yourself or even by imagining a hug. (If you do choose to imagine a hug, just don’t imagine hugging your ex. That just opens another whole can of worms.)
- Practice the “bubble” exercise –I learned this technique when I was processing my own overwhelming feelings during my divorce. It helped me to feel whole again, less drained … less like divorce was eating me alive bit by bit. (or rather, bite by bite).
To perform the bubble exercise: Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few calming deep breaths and then imagine yourself surrounded by a protective bubble. Once you imagine your bubble, notice its color, thickness and texture. Play with making the bubble thicker so you can prevent unwanted interruptions, like the hurtful texts your ex is sending. Experiment with all the ways you can adjust your protective bubble to support you in finding a calm, safe place.
- Write your feelings down – The University of Rochester Medical Center found that journaling helps manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.
Huffington Post reports 10 additional benefits from journaling: stretching your IQ, evoking mindfulness, achieving goals, boosting emotional intelligence, boosting memory and comprehension, strengthening self-discipline, improving communication skills, promoting healing, sparking creativity and enhancing self-confidence.
Oh, and journaling costs almost nothing (just the price of a pen and some paper) and you can do it almost anywhere. Sounds like a perfect activity to embrace during divorce!
- Seek out real support – Divorce is one of the loneliest life events you can experience. It’s inherently isolating because few people really understand it unless they’ve been through it themselves. Maybe it’s time to join a divorce recovery support group (I did, and it helped so much!), work with a therapist or even a divorce coach.
Having space to talk freely about what’s really going on in your life with a group (or an individual) who truly understands what you’re going through is liberating, calming and incredibly reassuring too. Sometimes knowing you’re not the only one dealing with this madness is enough to make if feel less daunting.
Now, all of this said - though these are great tips to take the edge off, they won’t magically make you immune to the stress of your divorce or that horrible feeling of being eaten alive by all the demands. You’ll still have to face those challenges. But that’s what strong people do … they handle things. Just pause to take care of yourself in the process.
With continued practice, the tips above offer you much needed breathing room to think more clearly and make better decisions about everything you’re facing – from having a conversation with your doctor, your ex or your attorney to what to feed the kids (and yourself) for dinner.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are wondering “Should I stay or should I go?” 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.
This piece was first published at YourTango.com.