Do You REALLY Trust Yourself?

Man quizzically peering from behind a blue wall wondering about trust and divorce recovery.

Divorce is one of those life events that can cause you to question EVERYTHING.

At least that’s what happened for me. Somehow my change of marital status caused me to wonder if anything about my life was what I thought it was– was any of it real? How could I know what was real and what wasn’t? After all, I had thought I’d be married to my ex-husband for the rest of my life and that wasn’t true so what really was true about the rest of my life? I felt hopelessly lost.

Slowly, though, I began to understand that the only path out of a life of being hopelessly lost was to begin to trust myself again. I needed to believe that I could trust myself and that I was the only one who would know what was and wasn’t true for me. Knowing which path to take is different from actually walking down the path. The walk, for me, took a while because I was walking blind-folded.

When I look back at that time in my life, I know that it took me longer to walk the path to self-trust than it might have. I didn’t know where the path was headed or what was required of me to successfully walk it. But I know it now. I know the path now because of my own journey and because of the journeys I’ve been honored to watch my clients make too.

I’m going to share my knowledge with you so you will be able to walk your own path back to self-trust without a blindfold.

Before I start with the how-to’s of building self-trust, it’s important to define the term. Self-trust is the ability to make decisions, to know that your emotions and feelings are real, and to take care of yourself. It’s a fairly lengthy definition, isn’t it? Basically, self-trust involves trusting yourself on EVERY level – cognitively, emotionally, logically, intuitively and physically.

I’ll bet you’re wondering, “With a concept this big, where do I start?” You start with a decision to build your self-trust and then you roll up your sleeves and begin to work. It won’t be (at least not for most of us) a magical process that once you make the decision you’ll automatically have a wonderful sense of self-trust, but with consistent work you’ll definitely make significant progress in a fairly short period of time.

Here are 6 steps you can use to build your self-trust:

1. Eliminate victim mentality. Victim mentality is living in the belief that things happen to you and you have zero impact, influence or control over what happens to you. I’m not suggesting that you can’t be a victim. What I’m suggesting is that you don’t want to let that be your entire story. Yes, bad things do happen and you can choose how you move on from those things.

As an example, suppose you are divorcing because your spouse cheated on you. You can either live the rest of your life feeling like a victim of your spouse’s choice or you can come to accept that your spouse’s choice was hurtful and you can still move on with the rest of your life regardless of what your spouse has done.

2. Eliminate negative thoughts about yourself. Regardless of whether or not you’re going through divorce, most of us have negative self-talk – you know, those voices in your head that are constantly criticizing you in some way. A friend of mine calls them the shitty committee. Learning to quiet those voices and recognize them for what they are is an incredibly powerful skill.

Most of the time, those hyper-critical voices are that way because they’re trying to protect you from something. For years, my negative self-talk revolved around not liking myself. It took a while for me understand what was behind those messages, but I finally realized that it was because I wasn’t trusting myself to know what was best for me. I would often defer what I wanted to what my ex-husband wanted. Once I came to this realization, it was much easier for me to quiet those negative thoughts and pay more attention to what I wanted.

3. Recognize your strengths and successes. This has a lot to do with self-esteem and knowing that you are capable because you have innate strengths and because you’ve been successful in the past.

I’ve written a previous blog post about how to do this and instead of re-writing it here, I’ll just direct you to that post: https://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/dealing-with-grief/118-a-quick-and-simple-way-to-dump-divorce-depression

4. Become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling. Now that you’ve eliminated a bunch of the stinking thinking in the first 3 steps, you’re ready to start being pro-active with building your self-trust and it all begins with paying attention to what you’re thinking and feeling (both physically and emotionally).

There are a couple of different ways to do this. The first is to ask yourself at least 3 times during each day just what you’re thinking and feeling at that particular moment. Once you have that answer you can then decide what if anything you want to do to improve how you’re thinking and feeling. The second way is to journal about your thoughts and feelings. Most people are more aware of their thoughts than their feelings. If this is you, you might want to journal by using the phrase “I feel…” as many times as you need to so you can get everything out.

5. Keep your word to yourself. Believe it or not we all make promises to ourselves every day: “I won’t eat any more sweets”, “I will start a daily exercise routine today”, “As soon as I finish this report, I’ll take a break to clear my head before starting my next task.” The thing is that despite our promises we wind up eating a fresh-baked cookie a friend brought over to share, we skip a day of exercise and soon we’ve stopped exercising all together, and we skip taking a break because we talk ourselves into believing we didn’t really need it after all. Breaking promises we make to ourselves, sets us up to have a poor level of self-trust.

I used to be especially bad at keeping my promises to myself involving rest, relaxation and fun. I’d usually feel guilty if I wasn’t working and pushing myself all the time and yet I’d hate myself for not taking care of me. It was really a vicious cycle. What I discovered by allowing myself to keep my word to myself about rest, relaxation and fun was that I had LOTS more energy for getting my work and workouts done.

6. Learn from your mistakes. This is the biggie when it comes to divorce. It takes two for a marriage to not work. (I know that might be an offensive statement to some, but it’s what I believe and if you’d like to discuss it with me, please do! You can reach me at karen@drkarenfinn.com.) Learning what your part in the divorce was will go a long way toward helping you build your sense of self-trust because you’ll know that you can take care of yourself.

It took me a while to recognize that I played an active part in my divorce, that I wasn’t a victim, and that there were things I could learn from my failed marriage.

Yes, this is really the master’s level of self-trust. Being able to realize that you are going to make mistakes at times and still trust yourself because you are willing to learn from your mistakes will allow you to take appropriate risks and live a wonderful life.

Once you’ve conquered these 6 steps, you’ll be well on your way to trusting yourself again. So, the next time something happens in your life that changes everything, your ability to trust yourself will help prevent you from feeling hopelessly lost again. Even if you do wind up questioning EVERYTHING, you’ll be able to trust your answers because you’ve learned to trust yourself.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Make the decision that you can trust yourself even if you aren’t sure you do right now. Making the decision is always the first step in making a change. Learning to trust yourself is critical to having a wonderful life. Emerson said “Self-trust is the first secret to success” and I agree completely!

Take the checklist above one step at a time. Start at the top of the list and work your way through each step. Some may be easier for you to do than others and you may want to re-do some steps along the way, but if you work through them in this order it will be easier for you to master each of them.

Know your limits. This is one of those extra bonus things about trusting yourself. As you trust yourself more you’ll know exactly when you need to ask for help and what kind of help you need.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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 or schedule a confidential consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles in Healing After Divorce.

Part 1: How To Decrease Stress When You’re Going Through Divorce

As anyone who’s been through divorce knows, it’s an incredibly stressful time. If the only stresses you had to worry about were due to divorce that would be one thing, but the real problem is that the rest of your life doesn’t stop just because you’re getting divorced. All of your usual day-to-day stressors (work, traffic, kids’ schedules, other family demands, and the news) somehow become even larger when you’re dealing with the big D.

In this first of three articles on minimizing stress when you’re dealing with divorce, we’ll be focusing on renewing your energy.

When’s the last time you thought about where your energy comes from? It wouldn’t surprise me if you’d never thought of it before. After all, it’s something that most of us take for granted. We assume we’ll have the energy to get through our day each and every day. We just accept that some days it’s easier to get through the day than others.

The thing is, when you’re going through divorce on top of everything else it can be more difficult than usual to get through your day. When I started consistently having trouble having enough energy to get through my day while I was going through my divorce 10 years ago, I got interested in how I could boost my energy and that led me to wondering where my energy came from.

What I learned was that our energy comes from our psychology and our physiology. Yup, it comes from a combination of how you think and how your body responds (which ultimately means how you treat your body). It’s just as simple and as hard as that.

Luckily, the concept is pretty easy to understand. The more positive and calm your thoughts and the more healthy your body is the better you’ll be able to deal with stress. Unfortunately, the concept can be pretty difficult to implement if you’ve not paid much attention to your thoughts or your general health prior to divorce becoming a reality in your life. To help you out, I’ve got five quick tips that can give you a head start to renewing your energy even in the midst of divorce.

1. Start your day with a positive thought. Lots of people get out of bed dreading the day, but if you can start your day with a positive thought it will go a long way toward lessening the stress you have all day long.

Ten years ago, I was one of those people. I felt like I was on a treadmill of needing to meet one responsibility after another with a few catastrophes thrown in for variety. Learning to wake up with a positive thought (or two) really made a difference for me. It helped me get past the plague of depressive thoughts about being divorced and on to better things.

2. Schedule at least one break for yourself every day where you have ZERO responsibilities and ZERO interruptions. The break can even be as short as 5 minutes. The important thing is that you take it.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know what it was to have a real break. I spent almost every waking moment either working or worrying – neither of which was very helpful to renewing my energy. Learning to take a real break was hard for me, but by constantly trying out different things I realized that by allowing myself to have a time and space where I had zero responsibilities or interruptions that I felt tons better. I had more energy to go back to working (and worrying).

3. End your day with gratitude. Allowing yourself to appreciate the good that happened during the day goes a long way toward allowing you to have restorative sleep at night.

When I was going through my divorce, I used to have terrible nightmares. I’d dream about the worst case scenarios of all the things I had gone to sleep worrying about. As a result of the nightmares, I got very little sleep which just made life that much harder the next day. When I learned to change my thoughts at night from the worry to something more positive, the frequency of my nightmares decreased dramatically and I slept better. Of course when I got better sleep, I felt more energetic the next day.

4. Eat well and regularly. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat” before. There’s definitely some truth to that phrase, but when you’re going through divorce it’s even more powerfully truthful. Most people change the way they eat when they’re feeling stressed. They’ll over eat or eat “junk food” to soothe themselves or they’ll “forget” to eat in an attempt to gain some control. Either path leads to decreased energy. They’re either fueling their bodies with junk or not fueling their bodies at all.

I went the control route when I was dealing with the big D. I severely curtailed my eating and tried to live on next to nothing. I became anorexic and let me tell you that starving yourself is not the way to increase your energy! I felt exhausted and anxious most of the time. Luckily, I had a trainer who literally got in my face about being anorexic and got me to start eating healthfully again. It made a HUGE difference in my energy level and my mood. I actually started to feel happy again.

5. Get some exercise daily. When you’re going through divorce, it’s really easy to believe you don’t have time for exercise because there are just so many other things needing your attention. Exercise doesn’t have to mean a trip to the gym or the yoga studio, it can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, playing Frisbee with your kids and dog or even doing 5 jumping jacks. Exercise is anything that gets your body moving in a way you don’t usually do. The wonderful thing is that the novelty of the movement will energize you.

I was a glutton for punishment 10 years ago. I took everything to the extreme and would work out daily. What I learned from that was exercise doesn’t have to be work. It can be fun. The point of getting some exercise daily is just to move your body and change your thoughts. The wonderful thing I discovered about changing my thoughts was that I felt better and more energetic!

These 5 tips for renewing your energy are simple. Hopefully, they’re simple enough that you’re ready to try one or more of them out for yourself. I know you’ll start to notice improved energy levels and less stress once you implement at least one of these tips daily regardless of where you are in your divorce process.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Eating well and regularly is a challenge my clients always face, so Your Functional Divorce Assignment will focus on this tip.

Take the following quiz to get an idea of how you might eat well and regularly.

Select one answer for each question.

1. On average, every day I have ________ servings of caffeine (energy drinks, coffee, sodas, tea).

A. More than 5

B. 2 – 5

C. Less than 2

2. I eat some protein with every meal or snack.

A. Rarely

B. Sometimes

C. Usually

3. I eat _____ meals each day.

A. 0

B. 1

C. 2-3

4. I drink _______ glasses of water each day.

A. 0-2

B. 3-7

C. 8 or more

Ideally, C is the better answer for each of the questions. If you’ve answered A for any of these questions you might want to consider changing things so that you can answer B instead and I’ll bet that you just might feel a bit more energetic when you do.

And here are links to part 2 and part 3.

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 adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to navigate the challenges of your life now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.

Divorce and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

As I’ve mentioned before, I do a lot of reading and I’ll often be reading several books at the same time. I’ll pick up whichever one fits my mood when I have a few moments to read.

One of the books I’ve got open these days is The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life by Glenn Beck and Keith Ablow, M.D. I found one particular passage interesting because it reminded me about perspective and how my life has changed since I got divorced. The passage is actually a quote from Robert Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I read about a year after my divorce was final. Here’s the passage:

The trap consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped – by nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it. The villagers are coming to get him and take him away. They’re coming closer…closer!…now!…

There is a fact this monkey should know: if he opens his hand he’s free. But how is he going to discover this fact? Be removing the value rigidity that rates rice above freedom. How is he going to do that? Well, he should somehow try to slow down deliberately and go over ground that he has been over before and see if things he thought were important really were important and, well, stop yanking and just stare at the coconut for a while. Before long he should get a nibble from a little fact wondering if he is interested in it. He should try to understand this fact not so much in terms of his big problem as for its own sake. That problem may not be as big as he thinks it is. That fact may not be as small as he thinks it is either.

When I got divorced, I felt like that trapped monkey – terrified and held captive by my fears about what I thought was important at the time. What I thought was important back then was that my life after divorce needed to work pretty much exactly the same as it had before my divorce – except that I now had an ex-husband. This was the fact whose nibbling I ignored. I ignored the reality that one person cannot be as productive as two people working together. I ignored that it would take me longer to do all of the household chores on my own instead of sharing them with someone else. I ignored the fact that caring for 3 attention-loving pets on my own would be more of a challenge than it was when I was married. I ignored these realities and expected that I could do it all with at least as high a quality as had been done pre-separation and divorce.

I kept ignoring all of these facts about my home life and kept expecting that I could and should do it all as had been done before. I also kept expecting the same high-level of performance from myself at work, at the gym and at play. I expected so much of myself that I virtually eliminated any time for myself – any down time to just relax. I had built a very elaborate trap for myself – one that kept me frazzled and eventually led to burnout.

Today, more than 10 years later, I’m amazed by what an elaborate trap I had created for myself.

The thing is, I’m not the only person who got divorced and created a trap. I regularly meet and work with divorced people who create their own elaborate captivities.

Back then, just like the people I meet and work with today, I simply wasn’t capable of identifying my captivity when I got divorced. I thought it was just how my life was and that somehow I was defective because I couldn’t keep up with everything I thought I had to keep up with. Today I know that wasn’t the case. Today, I know that back then I wanted my rice (all my expectations of myself) and didn’t realize I was selling my freedom to have it.

Like most people dealing with divorce, I’ll bet that you are holding yourself captive unnecessarily too. Check out Your Functional Divorce Assignment to help you identify and loosen the bonds of your trap.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What trap are you in? There are all kinds of traps people create for themselves when they get divorced. Maybe your trap is similar to mine in that you expect your life to be pretty much the same. Maybe your trap is a belief that you’re too old to ever find another significant other. Maybe your trap is a belief that you have no employable skills and no way of getting any. Or maybe your trap is something else all together. It could be big or small, the size doesn’t matter. What does matter is identifying how you are feeling captive.

What are the reasons you believe your trap exists? Come up with every single reason your trap is real no matter how small or how big. You might want to write them down so you can get them out of your head and make sure you’ve got them all covered. Besides, having them all listed in one place will help you with the next step.

For each of the reasons, ask yourself “Is this reason 100% true?” and “What makes this reason true?” I wish I had known how to ask myself these questions when I was recovering from my divorce. What often happens when I compassionately ask my clients both questions is that they’ll start to get a nibble of a fact they had been ignoring. That nibble will often lead to a new idea or a new perspective that allows their trap to be loosened – at least a little bit – which will often entirely change their trap if not eliminate it completely.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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 or schedule a private consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Changing Your Mood Might Be As Easy As Changing Your Shirt

One of the most curious things that happened when I was going through my divorce was that I started to wear black almost all the time. What was so curious about it was that I had always loved color, but for some reason I didn’t understand then, I was drawn to wearing all black for quite a while. It was really different for me and many of my friends commented on my new wardrobe choices.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about it. And after about 6 months, I started to wear more colorful clothing again.

A few years ago, while doing research about emotions and ways that environment affects our moods, I found there is a wealth of research on how colors affect our moods and vice versa. I was really surprised by what I learned because it explained why I had been drawn to different colors while I was going through the worst of my divorce.

Here are some of the things I’d like to share with you about color and how it can affect or reflect feelings:

Black Many of us associate the color black with mourning and that was my first guess as to why I was drawn to it during the worst of my divorce.  Well, according to color therapy theory, black is also the color that gives us space for reflection and inner searching.  I have to tell you that I was doing a whole lot of thinking and trying to figure things out while going through my divorce and so this makes a lot of sense to me.
Blue Blue is the color of a beautiful Caribbean sea and the color of a sunny sky.  Like a sunny day spent lazing on the beach, blue is the color of relaxation.  Color theorists say that blue also promotes relaxation and healing.
Red Red is a VERY energizing color.  You probably remember from watching cartoons when you were a kid that when characters were angry their eyes became red.  You’ve probably also heard the phrase “seeing red” to indicate that someone is angry.  Red intensifies emotions, especially anger.
Yellow Yellow is an interesting color from a color theory point of view.  It is said to stimulate mental activity, promote feelings of self-confidence and increase alertness.  Who wouldn’t want a healthy dose of those feelings?
White White light contains all the colors.  If you need clarity in your thoughts, white may just be the color you need to see more of.

So does this color theory work? Many believe it does. I know that I enjoy being surrounded by colors and that some days I prefer one color over another. I know that when I feel confident and calm, I do tend to wear blue. When I’m feeling vibrant, I tend to choose red. And when I need things to be more organized and clean, I tend to choose white.

What color are you wearing today? Is it a reflection of your mood or thoughts? Is it just the first clean thing you grabbed to put on? Or is it your signature color? You just might be surprised about what the color of your shirt says about how you’re feeling and thinking.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Determine if color therapy could be useful in your life. This week, have some fun noting the colors you wear each day and how you feel. At the end of the week, compare your color/mood combinations to the list above and see if your moods matched the colors.

If you find a correlation between the colors you wore and your moods, experiment with adding more of the colors you were wearing when you felt good. Adding pops of the colors that help you to feel good into your home and office could help you to get back to and maintain a good feeling.

If you don’t find a correlation between the colors you wore and your moods, don’t worry, it just means that you’re probably not especially sensitive to colors right now.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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 or schedule a private consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help to change your mood after divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

How A Small Shift Made A World Of Difference

As I was driving home from a networking event a couple of weeks ago, the low-gas light came on in my car. I was so tired from all the activities of the day that I decided to wait until the next morning to fill my car up.

The next morning, I headed over to the gas station at Walmart. As I got closer to the store, I debated with myself about whether I wanted to cut through the parking lot or wait through an extra light to get to the pumps. If I went through the parking lot, I ran the risk of needing to wait for people crossing the road and other cars jockeying for the best parking spot. If I waited for the light, I was stuck making 2 left-hand turns at lights. I really don’t like having to wait for the lights to make the turns, so I chose to cut through the parking lot.

As I neared the entrance to Walmart, there was this older guy pushing his cart down the middle of the road. My first thought was, “Figures! I knew something like this would happen.” Then I changed my mind and realized that in a few more years, that might be me struggling to maintain my dignity and do my own shopping even though it was hard for me to walk and wanting to minimize the walking I had to do even if it meant walking in the middle of the street to get to my car. That thought immediately changed how I was feeling. Instead of being frustrated and impatient, I relaxed and patiently waited for the man to get across the street.

After he moved out of the middle of the road, I continued on my way and filled my car up with gas. I had a few things I wanted to pick up at Walmart, so I drove back through the parking lot in search for my own spot.

As I was slowly making my way up and down the aisles, I thought I spotted the same older guy walking back up to the store. No, it couldn’t be, I reasoned. It must just be another old man that reminded me of the first. I found a great parking spot and walked into the store to buy a couple of things.

As I was walking out of the store I noticed an old guy sitting on one of those motorized carts with his head in his hands. I almost got all the way out the doors before I realized that it was the same guy I kept seeing! I walked up to him and asked, “Didn’t I see you walk out of the store earlier?” He told me yes and that he was having a hard time finding his car. I asked him what kind of car he was driving and he told me a dark blue Kia. So I started out of the store on a mission to find his car for him.

I got just outside and I realized that I would never spot his car and that I should ask him if he was comfortable with me driving him around the parking lot looking for his car. He about jumped out of the motorized cart he was so happy to have me help him like that. We gathered up his bags and started out to my car.

I could tell he was really pushing himself to walk quickly, but I kept a slow pace and just chatted with him about where I had parked and hoping to give him the idea that I had plenty of time and I was parked close enough that he wouldn’t have to walk too far.

And then, just as we reached the parking aisle, he looked over to the right and said, “Is that my car?” Sure enough, he found his car right away – before we had even reached mine.

As I was helping him get his bags into his car, he admitted that he wasn’t supposed to be out walking without his walker and that he was so thankful to be back to his car.

Now it was a little thing for me to notice that an old man was walking down the middle of the street in a parking lot. It was another little thing for me to notice an old man walking back into Walmart. And it was yet another little thing for me to notice a tired old man sitting in a motorized shopping cart. But it was a big thing to that man.

Little things are like that. Individually, they’re itty-bitty things, but added together, they can make a world of difference. I’m not just talking about how little things can add up for helping someone else, but even for us. In fact, this idea of itty-bitty things added together is a major philosophy behind the work I do. For anyone going through divorce, making little changes in perception and then taking action can create a world of difference.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What little things have you chosen not to notice that might make a big difference in your life? Just like my noticing the old man walking back and forth through the Walmart parking lot, what might you need to notice about you or your kids as you’re transitioning from married to single?

Now that you’ve noticed something you might have overlooked before what do you need to do to make a difference? The thing you choose to do might be something small, but sometimes something small is all it takes to make a world of difference.

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. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

I’m NOT In 1st Grade Any More. I’m NOT Exactly Married Any More. Why Should I Send A Valentine?

When was the last time you read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”? I can’t tell you the last time I read it, but when I started thinking about what to write about with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the first line of this work came to mind. I’ve quoted the entire sonnet for you below.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love the to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

It’s an amazing read, isn’t it? And for many people dealing with divorce, it’s a painful read too.

So often we marry with the belief that our love is the ideal kind that Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes about. And divorce “proves” to us that our marriage must not have been based on love at all – at least that’s the conclusion I jumped to when I got divorced. It’s also a conclusion I’ve heard many of my clients jump to as well.

What I’ve learned over the years since my divorce is that my marriage was based on love to begin with, but that my marriage didn’t continue to grow in love and that’s why it ended in divorce.

Most people do marry for love. Odds are you and your former spouse did too.

So then why is reading this sonnet so painful to so many people going through divorce? I believe it’s because we forget what love is and assume that because we’re divorced or divorcing that we must not know what it is.

I believe that love is something that extends beyond the romantic type that is most often associated with Valentine’s Day. We’re surrounded by love every day. If instead of getting caught up in the chaos and confusion of divorce along with the daily grind of making a living and meeting our responsibilities we could focus for just a few minutes on the beauty all around we would experience love. Or maybe you can focus on yourself for just a few minutes, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to breathe slowly and deeply, you’ll experience love. Or maybe seeing the joy in your child’s face when they see you will remind you of the love you’re blessed with despite divorce.

I think that the key to experiencing love (I’m not talking about the romantic kind here) is being able to freely give it. But you know, I can get so caught up in daily living that I often forget to express the love I have for my friends and family. I know I’m not the only one who forgets. I know that sometimes it can be difficult to express love when you’re struggling with the repercussions of divorce, but I also know it’s vital to making it through divorce and moving on with your life. That’s why believe you can use this Valentine’s Day as a gentle reminder that we each have the opportunity to tell the people (and animals) we love how much we truly do love them. And the best part is that you’ll usually hear how much you’re loved in return.

Who will you say “I love you” to this Valentine’s Day?

Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:

Seriously, who is on your list of needing to get a Valentine from you? Yeah, it’s different than when we were in first grade and gave one to everyone in our class. It’s also different from when you were married and knew who you had to get a Valentine for. These days, you get to make your own list of those folks you love.

A Valentine isn’t necessarily a card. A Valentine can be a quick email saying “hi, I’m thinking about you”, a call, a text, a bouquet of roses, a conversation, a hug, a special event or, yes, even a card. It’s not so important how you tell someone you love them as it is that you simply tell them.

Have fun. I sure hope you have fun letting your friends and family know you love them. To me, that’s the beauty of Valentine’s Day – a whole day set aside to let others know you enjoy your relationship with them.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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 or schedule a private consultation with me.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Small, Simple Things Can Make A BIG Difference

On Wednesday last week, I had a busy day planned. I had a breakfast meeting in one part of town immediately followed by a one-on-one meeting and a luncheon in a completely different part of town. Then I needed to head back to my office for a call with my coach and to get some other tasks done before heading out for my dinner plans.

My day got even busier than expected because I didn’t do the simple things I know I need to do to be at my best.

I’ve learned that I need to eat a substantial breakfast in the morning. If I don’t, I have a hard time thinking and moving. My body just doesn’t have the energy it needs to keep all systems working – at least that’s how I think of it – unless I feed myself well in the morning.

Well, my breakfast meeting was VERY light on the breakfast part. You might expect that I would take something with me just in case I needed something more for breakfast. And you’d be right! I did take something with me – a Clif bar.

Unfortunately, that Clif bar was the small, simple thing that wound up making a BIG difference in my day.

When my breakfast meeting ended I hopped in my car and gobbled up my Clif bar and headed to my next meeting. I wasn’t feeling my best because I didn’t have anywhere near as heavy a breakfast as I usually do, but I knew I could make it through until lunch without too much stomach rumbling.

The location of my one-on-one meeting and luncheon was in downtown Fort Worth and so I drove to a parking garage and starting making the slow left-hand turns to work my way up the levels of the garage until I could find a parking spot. I passed a few up because they were next to HUGE pick-up trucks and I just didn’t think I’d be able to fit my car into them.

Then, I found a GREAT spot! It was on an end with one of those yellow cement posts on one side and a small car on the other.

So I turned on my signal and started to pull in. CRUNCH! My stomach sank. I had hit the yellow cement post.

OK, I thought, if I pull out the same way I pulled in then it wouldn’t be too bad. I put my car in reverse and slowly pressed on the gas pedal. SCREECH!

Well, that didn’t work too well, so I thought maybe if I turn my wheels slightly and pull forward again, I’ll get off of the post. GRRRRRRRRRRRR THUMP! Yeah, that didn’t work too well either.

Luckily, with that GRRRRRRRRRRRR THUMP! I was FINALLY able to reposition my car so I could pull out of the space without any more damage.

I then started making my slow left turns again until I found a GREAT BIG spot to park in.

After getting safely situated in this new spot I turned off the ignition and sat for a moment trying to understand exactly what had happened. It took a moment and then it hit me. I hadn’t taken care of myself by doing the simple things I needed to do. I skipped my regular breakfast and wasn’t at my best. Because I wasn’t at my best, I was having difficulty thinking and moving (driving in this case) and I smashed up my car. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t one of my proudest moments, but it was another reminder that sometimes small, simple things can make a BIG difference.

One of the things I hear about regularly from my clients is that it can be hard to do the things they know they need to do to take care of themselves when they’re going through divorce. The divorce is just such a monumental change in their lives that it can seemingly be easier to skimp on or simply skip the things they need to do to be at their best. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I challenge them to rethink that just a bit and make the time they need to take care of themselves.

However, they don’t tell me all the subtle and simple ways they stop taking care of themselves because sometimes they’re not aware of it themselves. So, I often probe a bit deeper to help them figure out other ways they might make small, simple changes to take better care of themselves. In this week’s Your Functional Divorce Assignment I’m going to help you do the same.

Your Little Things Make A Big Difference Assignment:

Take a moment and think about which of the following you need to be at your best: adequate sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, fun, meaningful work, relaxation, great relationships with your kids, friends and family. For most people they need all of them. We all need to take care of our bodies by getting enough sleep, enough exercise and good food to eat. We all need to let our hair down to have some fun and relax. We all need to know that what we do matters. We all need to have meaningful relationships with others. This stuff is just part of being human.

Ideally, if I were to ask you to rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being perfect and 1 being needs a bunch of work) you’d rate each of these as a 10. But, life isn’t like that – especially when you’re working through divorce. Go ahead and rate your sleep, your exercise, your nutrition, your fun, your work, your ability to relax and your relationships on a scale of 1-10.

For the one you rated the highest, celebrate it! It can be especially difficult to take care of yourself when you’re dealing with divorce and the fact that you’re doing great in at least one of these categories is wonderful!

For the one that rated the lowest, what one small, simple thing might you do to make a BIG difference? I know it can be difficult to come up with something sometimes, but it might be something as simple as it was for me – eat a big enough breakfast to be at my best. If after a few minutes you’re still having a difficult time and you really are committed to making the small, simple changes you know you need to make to more easily navigate through your divorce, reach out to me. Schedule a Complimentary Consultation. Together I’m confident we can identify what small, simple things you might do differently to make a BIG difference in your transition from married to single.

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 or schedule a private consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Stop Scaring Yourself!

books about dealing with divorce

Here’s how to stop letting your imagination make things seem so much worse than they really are.

Since it’s the season for scary stuff, I thought I’d tell you a couple of horror stories I told myself when I was getting divorced. The first story is the everyday story. The second is the special event story.

I’ll start with the everyday story. I started telling myself various versions of this story shortly after my ex-husband and I separated in March of 2002.

My fears were LARGE. They invaded almost every facet of my life. I was afraid of living alone. I was afraid of not being able to support myself. I was afraid that I’d get sick from eating food that had gone bad. I was afraid of getting fat. I was afraid of getting old. I was afraid of losing my job.

I’m guessing you get the picture. It’s what I used to do with each of these fears that made up the everyday story.

Here’s one version of the story. I’m afraid of losing my job. Then I’d tell myself that if I lost my job, then I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay my bills. If I wasn’t able to pay my bills, then I’d lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t’ survive long and I’d die a horrible death.

Here’s another version of the story. I’m afraid of getting fat. If I get fat, then no one will ever want to date me. If no one ever wants to date me, then I’ll never get remarried. If I never get remarried, then I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. If I’m alone for the rest of my life, I’ll be living alone forever (which amped up the scary factor). If I’m living alone forever, then what would happen if I lost my job? If I lost my job then I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills. If I can’t pay my bills, then I’ll lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t survive long and I’d die a horrible death.

Are you getting the idea of my everyday story? I was convinced that if any one of my fears came true then I wouldn’t survive long and I was going to die a horrible death.

OK, now for the special event story.

Shortly before my divorce was finalized, some friends from graduate school invited me to join them in Spain. Although I was in desperate need of a vacation, it took some convincing before I finally agreed to join them in Spain for a week. Initially, I needed convincing because I was afraid of spending the money just in case I lost my job. (Yes, that does mean that I started telling myself the everyday story.)

As the day for departure approached, I was happily anticipating and dreading it at the same time. I started telling myself that I was a horrible person because I was getting divorced and that I deserved to die. The closer the day for departure loomed, the more convinced I was that I was probably going to die in a plane crash because I didn’t deserve to have fun. I made myself miserable and a nervous wreck. All of the fun I could have had anticipating the vacation I turned into torment and torture.

As you already know, my horror story didn’t come true. I didn’t die in a horrible plane crash. I even managed to have some fun in Spain and on the way home I was too tired to worry about whether or not the plane crashed.

So what’s the point of me telling you my stories? Well, what I’ve found over the years is that many people dealing with divorce torture themselves with their own horror stories. I’ve heard horror stories about never being happy again. I’ve heard horror stories about never being financially well off again. I’ve heard horror stories about children never loving their parents again. I’ve even heard horror stories similar to my own.

In case you’re telling yourself horror stories, I want you to know two things. First, you’re not alone; many people tell themselves horror stories when they’re dealing with divorce. Second, it’s OK to tell someone who won’t judge you, about your stories and have them help you create a better story – a story that inspires you and makes you happy to be you.

Your Healing After Divorce Assignment:

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Identify the horror stories you’re telling yourself. What are the stories you’re telling yourself about your future? Anything that doesn’t inspire happiness and positive anticipation of the future just might be a horror story.

Stop torturing yourself and reach out for help in rewriting your horror story. If you’re ready to change the story you’re telling yourself into one with a happy ending, schedule a Complimentary Consultation with me. We’ll discuss how coaching can help you more quickly and completely work through your divorce and rewrite your story. Simply contact me now either by email karen@drkarenfinn.com or by phone 817-993-0561 and I’ll be happy to schedule some time with you.

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.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.