10 Radical Self-Care Tips to Help You Through Divorce. (Hint: It’s not about a spa day).
Divorceify professional, divorce coach and financial advisor, Jennifer Lawrence, gives us 10 tips for radical self-care that will help you survive and thrive through your divorce. This post originally appeared on Jen Lawrence’s blog.
When people think about self-care, they often have visions of mani-pedis, bubble baths, or long yoga sessions on a beach. Pampering yourself during divorce is important, but please don’t mistake self-comfort for self-care. What will really help you through your divorce is radical self-care that goes way beyond a spa day. This kind of self-care involves embracing goals, establishing boundaries, shifting your thoughts around money, and managing toxic people. Unlike pampering, real self-care can feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it will set you free. Here are my top ten tips:
1. ENVISION YOUR FUTURE
One of the best exercises in self-care is to figure out what you want. And, I’m not talking about a new handbag. What do you want for your future? How do you want to feel? Empowered? Independent? Calm? Centered? Free? Take a look through some magazines or Pinterest for images that appeal to you. Try to figure out why you are drawn to the image. Maybe there is a photo of someone sitting by the ocean and she represents having the time to sit still and be at peace. Maybe you can’t get to the ocean right now, but perhaps you can manage to clear an hour from your schedule and go for a walk to enjoy the sunshine. And you can work towards that ocean-side vacation or home. If you are drawn to a photo of someone driving a sports car, you might really desire freedom and independence. Maybe you can’t buy a new car or embark on a road trip right now (thank you, COVID), but you can take steps toward your vision by untangling from a controlling ex or starting to heal from emotional wounds that left you feeling trapped. Having a clear vision of what you want and how you want to feel gives you something to move toward, and helps you start to put your past in the past.
2. ESTABLISH YOUR BOUNDARIES
Establishing firm boundaries is good self-care, particularly if you have left a high conflict marriage. You can begin to shape how people treat you by setting clear rules. You can say that you will not tolerate yelling or abusive language from an ex and walk away or hang up if that boundary is breached. Better yet, if you know your ex tends to be high conflict and you can’t go no-contact, you can use a co-parenting app to communicate since people tend to behave better when there is a paper trail.
3. PRACTICE SAYING NO
If you’ve fallen into a people-pleasing role, practice saying no to requests that deplete your time or energy. As you realize the world does not fall off its axis when you say no, you’ll get more and more comfortable shedding your role as a people pleaser. As you feel fewer resentments and start to respect yourself more, people will start to treat you with more respect. As a bonus, saying no to what you don’t want gives you the bandwidth to say yes to what you do want.
4. WRITE AN APOLOGY FROM YOUR EX
A lot of divorce coaching clients get stuck when they realize their bad experience with their ex was not validated through the legal process. As I always say, emotional justice does not come from a courtroom. But that doesn’t mean you need to feel stuck in that emotional place forever. A lot of people feel better after they give themselves the apology they wished their ex would give. You know what you suffered and you can release yourself from that pain. One technique I like is to write an apology letter to yourself from your ex and don’t leave anything out. If you need some inspiration, here’s a prompt: Dear Goddess, how could I have been so stupid… After you are done, toss it in the fireplace or tear it up and release it to the universe to deal with. Karma is a gangster: let her do her work.
5. GIVE YOURSELF A DAILY PEP TALK
Wouldn’t it be great to have a live-in motivational speaker to give you pep talks in your kitchen? The good news is, you can be your own guru. Give yourself little pep talks, praising yourself for a job well done or giving yourself a break if you’ve messed up. When I have a rough day, I talk to myself, saying something like this: Honey, it’s a pandemic and, still, look at you doing all the things! You go! My dog might look at me like I’m crazy, but it works.
6. CONTROL THE SPIN
ln divorce, overthinking is the enemy. Every meeting brings up so many thoughts and emotions: money fears, abandonment issues, anger, resentment. It’s easy to spin down that rabbit hole of panic and fear. Hit the pause button and ground yourself. Some people will literally say the word stop or envision a stop sign. Then move yourself into the present by naming five real things you are experiencing. “I’m in my kitchen. I’m sitting in a chair at the table. I’m looking at my laptop screen. I can smell the coffee in my coffee mug. I can hear a dog barking outside.” Remind yourself of the here and now and get your mind out of the crappy past or scary future. Then do one positive thing to remind you that you have some control. Send that email. Wash the coffee pot. Tape up that Amazon package to return. When you feel in control of the little things, the bigger things seem less scary.
7. ALLOW FOR HEALING
This may seem insulting, but you need to allow yourself to heal in order to get over your divorce trauma. I can hear the protests now, because it sounds like I’m victim blaming. I assure you, I am not. For years, I held onto trauma because I thought that if I let it go, it somehow meant that what had happened to me didn’t matter. But holding onto it only punished me. If you had something bad happen to you in your marriage, allowing yourself to feel joy and hope and positivity does not mean that the bad thing wasn’t bad. It simply means you’ve risen above it. Allow joy and healing into your life and you’ll see that pain begin to transform into something that feels a lot more like wisdom.
8. LIMIT INTERACTIONS WITH TOXIC PEOPLE
If you have a toxic ex, the last thing you need are more toxic people in your life. You might not be able to go no contact with your co-parent, but you can go no contact with that obnoxious friend of a friend, or that rude insurance broker you used once. I used to work with a woman whose hairdresser was verbally abusive and she dreaded every haircut but was too afraid to change stylists. Get toxic people out of your life. There are lots of friends of friends, insurance brokers, and hairdressers on the planet. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, especially when going through something as tough as divorce.
9. GET SMART ABOUT MONEY
There is a major sense of peace that comes with understanding your money, especially if it has been a source of stress in the past. Money is not something to fear. It’s just represents an exchange of goods, work, or ideas since the barter system proved to be a little too much to manage. And, yes, there are a lot of fancy acronyms finance people like to toss around, but you don’t need to be fluent in all of them. Use a program like Mint to start to understand how money flows in and out of your bank account. Talk to your bank or a financial professional about setting up a savings and investment account. Start to educate yourself by reading up on finance. The Financial Diet or Ellevest are great places to start. When you understand you money, you’ll control it, rather than it controlling you. Divorce is a great time to start that process.
10. INHALE. EXHALE. PREVAIL.
When your stress levels rise, such as when you get a call from your ex or your lawyer, your breathing tends to get quicker and more shallow. This sends a signal to your primitive brain that you are in trouble and kicks it into flight, flight, or freeze. You do not do your best thinking when your brain is in panic mode. The best thing to do is to start to breathe in deeply and then exhale slowly. As your breathing starts to deepen, your brain gets flooded with messages that you are safe, which allows you to think more clearly. Practice breathing exercises that feel comfortable for you when you are not stressed, so they can be your go-to technique when you are.