Divorce is one of the most stressful events a person can have in their life. In fact, it’s the second most stressful thing on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), more commonly known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, topped only by the death of a loved one. So it’s no wonder that now, going through separation and divorce, you feel absolutely devastated and lonely.
There is one more thing that makes going through a divorce even more stressful and difficult. Other negative events in your life always get people to show compassion, help you and support you as much as they can. For example, when there is death in a family, all the neighbors might come, bring food and say good words about the person who passed. When it comes to a divorce, though, no one will come and bring you a proverbial or literal pie.
However, you definitely need this support. And actually, you need it more than ever. But what if there is no one to give it to you? Who can become your best pillar to lean on? We have the answer! And the answer is YOU! You can support yourself during a divorce and make your life happy and fulfilling again. How can you do it? Here are 25 ways to take care of yourself while going through a divorce.
1. Basic Things Go First
Changes that occur during the process of divorce make our life absolutely chaotic. Both our inner and outer life change, and nothing is like it used to be. It’s very easy to lose your orientation in this flow and forget about what is really important.
Always remember that first things go first; focus on basic issues like getting enough sleep and eating healthily. However simple and obvious it sounds, these are the sort of things many people don’t pay attention to when going through emotionally difficult times, and they deserve attention. Good sleep and nutritious food will help your body deal with stress and adapt to the changes happening in your life. If you feel like you don’t get enough nutrients with your food or you have problems sleeping (you either sleep too much or you can’t sleep) don’t hesitate to contact your physician; they might prescribe you sleeping pills or some food supplements to help.
2. Appearance Matters
When there are huge changes in your life such as after divorce, you can easily forget about small things like brushing your teeth, cutting your hair or changing clothes. It just seems insignificant compared to the break-up. But you shouldn’t neglect yourself! So, keep doing everyday things like you’ve always done. Get up in the morning, brush your teeth, shave, wash and iron your clothes, make your bed. This is especially important when you have kids. They need to see you as strong and capable of dealing with the situation. Your appearance is the first thing that tells them about this.
Some everyday tasks like laundry or cooking can be delegated to other people if you don’t have the time or energy for it. You could hire a housekeeper or a nanny for a while; in the meantime, you’ll learn how to take care of new responsibilities that you’ve received after the divorce or ask your family or friends for help.
3. Don’t Use Substances to Deal With Pain
It’s very common for people who are dealing with a difficult period in their life to turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the pain and reduce stress. In a short-term perspective, it might seem like a legitimate solution, but in the long run, it will only create more problems and lead to substance abuse.
Some people also use certain behaviors like sex or overworking to hide their real feelings, which can lead to the same problems as drinking or taking drugs. Be attentive about what you do, and don’t let denial drag you into substance abuse and addiction-related issues.
You can’t deal with your problems and live a happier life in the future if you constantly hide from reality. So keep your thinking clear and improve your life step by step.
4. Know the Dangerous Signs
As a stressful event, divorce results in the presence of negative feelings like grief, loss, and pain, and makes for a hard time in your life. It’s absolutely normal to go through all these feelings, but there are some signs of danger you should be aware of and ask for help immediately if you notice them in yourself. They include:
- Addictions - drinking, drug abuse, gambling, “workaholism”, casual sex,
- Depression - when you are in a dark mood constantly for more than two weeks in a row, you have no energy or desire to complete even basic everyday tasks, there is nothing that brings you joy or happiness,
- Anxiety, when there is no reason for it, and panic attacks,
- Problems with sleeping - you sleep too much or don’t sleep at all,
- Eating disorders - you eat too much or don’t eat anything, you are obsessed with your diet and weight,
- Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself,
- Abusive behavior,
- Health problems that can’t be explained.
In all these cases or if you have any other concerns, contact a therapist or your doctor to prevent possible problems and get treatment, if necessary.
5. Physical Activity Helps
This is another way to help your body deal with emotional pain and stress. Physical exercising stimulates the production of hormones and neurotransmitters including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which lower anxiety and make you feel happier. To achieve a positive effect, it’s sufficient to work out for 20-30 minutes every day or 50 minutes three times a week. You can choose any activity you like – gym, aerobics, dancing, sports, jogging, or even walking in the park.
Be careful, though, and don’t push too much – over-exercising also causes stress and can lead to even more negative consequences. Remember, your task is to improve your life, not to become a professional athlete. Unless you want that.
6. Make a Schedule and Follow It
When everything around you is changing dramatically and it seems that there is nothing you control anymore, it’s vitally important for your emotional health and stability to have some kind of structure in your life. Thus, you should set yourself a schedule and follow it every day. Choose the time when you wake up, your activities during the day and the time when you go to bed. It will give you the feeling of being a person in charge of your own life, capable of dealing with issues as they arise. You will be the one in control of what is going on in your life again, even if this confidence was totally disrupted by the divorce. In addition, your body will soon synchronize with the schedule and it will help you feel better physically.
7. Take Some Time for Yourself
The schedule you create should have one very important point on it - some time that you devote to you and you only. It doesn’t matter what you do: you can lie in a bathtub with bubbles for an hour, or meditate, or just listen to music with your phone turned off. The point is that you will have time to think and reflect on all the changes happening in your life and concentrate on your feelings and conclusions you can make.
8. Set Time for Grieving
However strange it sounds, when making your schedule you should also pick some time where you allow yourself to experience all your negative feelings fully and deeply. So, choose the moment and give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to feel sorry and angry, to cry and to scream, to drown in your pain until you’ve had enough of it.
This will help, especially if you feel like crying at work or somewhere else. You can just tell yourself that there will be time for tears and now it’s time for something else.
9. Know Your Weak Spots
There will be moments where you will face the pain of your divorce more than normal. These are usually holidays and special occasions that you used to celebrate with your partner together, visiting places where you used to spend time or even seeing things that trigger memories of your happiest moments. Identify your weak spots and think about how you might deal with them. If it’s a thing, maybe you could put it somewhere so that you won’t see it for a while. If it’s a place, you could either avoid it for some time or invite someone to visit it together to create a new connection with the place.
Special occasions and holidays are always tough for those undergoing divorce, as they are all about traditions and being with those we love. And in addition, you are supposed to be happy at these times, which can cause major disappointment. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t feel like celebrating anything now, let it be so. If you want to create new traditions, take some time to form them.
10. Make a Plan for the Future
When you were married, you had a plan for the future that included your partner. Now this plan is no longer possible to implement. And it may seem that there is no future for you at all. You need to recreate it by building a new plan for your life.
Think about what you want to do and where you want to be in a month, in a year, in 5 or 10 years. Describe the life you want to live in as many details as you can, giving specific descriptions (not just “I want to be happy” but “In a year, I want to have my own apartment in X neighborhood, get X job…”). The more detailed your plan is, the better. It will give you a sense of perspective and help visualize your goals and the resources you need to make all your dreams become a plan that comes true.
11. Make Other Changes in Your Life
There is no person in this world who is absolutely satisfied with their life and wouldn’t like to change at least something. We all aim at development and becoming better than we were yesterday. And sometimes we see certain things in our life as barriers to change. There is one huge change, though, that has already happened to your life – and you survived it. Why not use it as a reason to change something else?
It might be moving to a new place, changing the country or city where you live, getting a new job or a happy, fresh haircut to change your image. You’ve always wanted it and when is the best time to do it if not now? This might give you extra motivation to move on with your life and deal with the challenges you have as a result of the divorce.
12. Write It All Down
Even if your divorce is a peaceful one, you and your former spouse made the rational decision not to live together anymore but stay friends, you will have some negative feelings. Divorce is always a good-bye to something: your plans, dreams, expectations, a person who was a part of your life for a long time. And there is always a place for sadness, anger, resentment or other unpleasant feelings. You can’t pretend that you feel nothing or suppress your feelings. There is a better way to deal with them.
Start a diary and write down everything that comes to your mind, how you feel and what you think about your separation. It will serve a few purposes: you will be able to process what is happening inside of you, distance yourself from arising feelings, structure your thoughts, keep your children from having to observe this emotional wave and last but not least – come back to your notes later to see how your state has improved over time and what you learned from going through your divorce.
13. Breathe and Meditate
Deep breathing and meditation are the best ways to clear up the mess that is going on in your mind and soul, and to shut yourself out from outside events that are causing you stress. It helps calm down your feelings, concentrate on what’s important, sharpen your mind and make you feel safe and stable.
For our body, deep and calm breathing is a signal that everything's OK, that we are safe and that there is no need to defend ourselves. We think better with this feeling, make better decisions and certainly deal with stress much better. This is exactly what you need in this difficult spot of your life.
14. Keep Things Simple
It might seem like a good idea to load yourself with responsibilities and activities as much as possible so that you have no time to think about all the problems and difficulties you are going through. However, this is exactly the opposite of what you really should do. In fact, separation is a good chance to simplify your life and get rid of all the unnecessary things. You can downsize your living space, throw out old clothes and gadgets you don’t use anymore, cross out some tasks from your everyday schedule or pay back your debts. The simpler you live, the less stress you have in your life. This is exactly what you need after your divorce.
15. Praise Yourself
Divorce is a time where people are full of complex negative feelings like guilt, shame, anger, fear, anxiety and so on. You start doubting your own value and think about what kind of person you are if such a thing happened to you. And it’s very easy to be absorbed in negative thoughts about yourself.
Therefore, you need to start praising yourself for the little things you do every day and who you are in general. Appreciate your own strength to get up on the morning despite feeling low, pay yourself a compliment for looking nice at work, remind yourself how strong and beautiful you are, etc.
16. Your Friends and Family Are There for You
Divorce often makes us feel lonely and disconnected from the outside world. Having lost a significant relationship, it’s easy to forget that there are other people in your life you can rely on. But they do care about you. And just being around them can make you feel better.
Humans are social creatures and we are not meant to be on our own, especially when we feel bad and are going through pain. Meeting your friends and family can be salvation at these moments. These are the people that will stay by your side no matter what happens. Experiencing closeness with them, you can get back on solid ground and feel that you are not alone in this world.
Sometimes you can avoid meeting your loved ones because of embarrassment and shame or because you don’t want to burden the people you love with your problems. This is a very noble feeling, but right now you are the person who needs to be taken care of. Ask yourself, ‘If my family member or close friend felt like me right now, would it bother me, and would I judge them? Or would I truly want to support and help them?’ So, why do you think your loved ones would think differently? Other adult people around you can give you the love and support that you need now more than ever before.
17. Find a Group To Belong To
Another way to satisfy our natural need for belonging to a social community and being with other people is finding a group that you can be a part of. It could be a therapeutic group for people going through a divorce, a self-help group for single parents, a cooking class or evening dancing lessons. It should be a place where you are happy to go and there are people you enjoy being around. This type of group will give you the feeling of being a part of something bigger and something to think about other than your situation and negative feelings.
18. Choose Your Circle Carefully
You are extremely vulnerable and sensitive and you shouldn’t be around toxic people who make you feel worse. You need a social circle that is safe, calm, supportive and sympathetic. The people you communicate with should be those who you trust.
Having ended one unhappy relationship may be a reason to get rid of other toxic people in your life. Now you have the experience of breaking up with a person who didn’t make your life easier and happier. Use this experience and rely on your feelings when you talk to people. If you feel that communication consumes more energy than you get from it, or that you have a need to defend yourself from this person, perhaps now is not the best moment for you to communicate with them. And if you feel that certain people around make you feel more energetic and positive, increase their presence in your life.
19. Talk About Your Feelings
When you have a group of safe people to talk to (or at least one trusted person), talk! You need to take that burden off your shoulder and discuss even the most irrational and wild feelings and thoughts you have. You need them all out to deal with the insanity of divorce quicker and easier.
Remember that it’s very important to talk about your feelings without blaming the other person or gossiping about them. It’s not about them; it’s about you and your need to recover from this emotional pain in your life.
The choice of people you talk to is also important. It shouldn’t be the friends you have in common with your ex and it’s certainly not your children. Your adult family members, close friends or a therapist can be the ones with whom you discuss what you have inside.
20. Get Professional Help
One of the best things a person, in general, can do to take care of their emotional state is to see a therapist to work on any psychological issues they have. Even when we are talking about routine life and everyday situations, being more aware of your feelings and the reasons for your own actions is a good thing.
And this becomes especially important when we are talking about an emotionally tense and difficult time like divorce. A professional psychologist or therapist can help you through your complex feelings, give you some insight about your situation, teach you new ways of dealing with everyday stress and find a new direction in your life given that it has changed so much.
21. Whatever Makes You Happy - Do That
Divorce is one of the least enjoyable events that anyone can have in their life. And at times like this, it’s very easy to forget that there will always be happiness and pleasure in life to drown out the doom and gloom. So it’s very important for you to remind yourself every day that there are things that make you smile and feel warmer inside and enlighten your soul. These are the things that you should do for yourself. Make a list of whatever makes you happy (even if it’s silly cat videos on YouTube or eating ice cream at midnight) and do it! At least one thing a day that will give you positive vibes.
22. Become the Center of Your Life
In marriage, people often start thinking about themselves as halves or parts of something bigger. They make the family and their partner the center of their life. And it’s very difficult to go through a divorce in these circumstances, so you need to make yourself personally the center of your life again.
It’s not about being selfish; it’s about taking care of yourself first. Whatever task you get, think about whether or not you have resources to complete it. When you need something, think about how you could get it and who could help you. Become an active participant and creator of your own life.
23. Begin Self-Analysis and Take Responsibility
Nobody's perfect, and you might even be tempted to blame your ex-partner fully for the break-up. You shouldn't do this, though. It takes two to tango, so you definitely played some sort of role in your marriage and the issues that brought it to an end. Knowing this role is vitally important for your future relationship and to avoid making the same mistakes again.
When you are ready and all the sharp emotions are gone, start analyzing your behavior and reactions and think about what you could do differently next time. It’s important to remain a bit distanced during this process and not to take or give full responsibility to one of the partners. You are not a judge or a prosecutor in this process; you are a person trying to make your life more fulfilling and become a better person after what happened to you.
24. Think About What You Gain
When you have finished living through the loss that divorce inevitably brings, you can start thinking about all the positive things you get from it. Single life has its pros too, even if you don’t see them at first. Maybe there are things you’ve always wanted but haven’t done because you were in a relationship? Or maybe it’s high time for you to take care of your health, career or appearance but you gave all your energy to the family? Now you can concentrate only on yourself and make all your desires come true. Let yourself do it!
25. Give Yourself Time
This one is probably the most important on the whole list. Whatever people around you say, you can take as much (or little) time as you need to recover after your divorce. There is no such thing as a universal time frame for divorcees; it’s all very individual and depends on many factors (your personality, the circumstances of your divorce, other responsibilities, the support you get, etc.). No one can really determine how much time you’ll need to get over it and move on.
The only person who can tell whether or not you are ready yet is YOU. So, your feelings and intuition should be the only measure of how much time you need to deal with your divorce.
Be patient and compassionate, observe every little change that is happening to you, and take good care of yourself.