“Going through a divorce is so much fun! It’s so uplifting and inspirational.” … said NO ONE. Ever. Divorce is a roller coaster ride of negative emotions. Even going through the most amicable divorce hurts. That’s why learning how to cope with divorce is so important.
Unfortunately, unless you have been through a divorce before (which is another thing no one ever wants to do!), you have no idea how the process works, or what you can expect to have happen. That makes coping with divorce a real challenge.
As someone who has been working with divorcing people for decades, I’ve discovered a few helpful techniques that make dealing with divorce at least a little more manageable. (It’s never going to be fun!)
Here are 10 pro tips for how to cope with divorce that will help you minimize the emotional craziness and help you focus on moving forward in a positive way.
How to Cope With Divorce
1. Exercise. This tip is first for a reason – it works! According to neuroscience, within five minutes after exercise, you get a mood boost. Regular exercise has been linked to reductions in depression and anxiety (both of which can be a big part of divorce). What’s more, you don’t have to turn into a tri-athlete to get the benefits from exercise. Even 30 minutes of exercise a day will improve your health and lift your mood.
2. Educate Yourself. Few fears are bigger than the fear of the unknown. Yet, when you are getting a divorce, almost everything is unknown. Your entire life is changing, and you have no idea how you are going to end up. Learning everything you can about how the divorce process works, how to get through it efficiently, and how to manage your finances both during and after your divorce, will help you manage the anxiety that comes from not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
3. Learn Box Breathing. Box breathing is a breath exercise that helps you calm yourself down and get back in control of your brain. To do it, you simply breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold for four counts. This technique is particularly effective when your soon-to-be-ex is pushing every button you have, but you need to keep yourself together because you don’t want to start screaming in public, or in front of the kids. What’s even better is that no one even has to know you are doing it!
4. Allow Yourself to Have a Pity Party for 20 Minutes a Day … Then STOP! Feeling sorry for yourself when you are going through a divorce is normal. You have to allow yourself to feel whatever is you are feeling, including the feeling that life’s not fair and it sucks to be you. The key is not to let those feelings turn you into a victim. To avoid being dragged down by pity, set aside 20 minutes every day when you are alone when you can scream, cry, wallow, or rage. After 20 minutes, stop. (I’m not kidding! Set a timer.) Then go out for a walk or a run. Do something to change your physical state. Tomorrow, you can do the same thing again for 20 minutes. Eventually, you will find that you don’t want or need to be a victim any more.
5. Get a Therapist or a Coach. No one should go through a divorce alone. While having a strong group of family and friends to support you can help a lot, nothing is more valuable than working with a good therapist or divorce coach. As a professional, a therapist or coach will have the experience and expertise you need to help you cope with your divorce productively. What’s more, unlike your friends – who will eventually get sick of hearing you talk about your divorce night and day – a therapist or coach will always be there to listen. (Ok. So you have to pay them to be there for you. At least they’re there!)
6. Don’t Overindulge in Anything More than Once a Week. Let’s be honest. When you are going through hell, diving into a bottle of wine or a tub of ice cream can help dull the pain. While using alcohol, food, drugs, sex, shopping, or anything else as a crutch during tough times isn’t necessarily good for you, indulging yourself once in awhile probably won’t kill you either. The key, of course, is moderation. (Hence the “once a week” rule.)
7. Let Yourself Grieve. Divorce is the second most stressful life event that anyone can experience. The only thing worse is experiencing the death of a spouse. In a very real way, divorce is a death. It is the death of your dream of having the perfect family. It is the death of your life as you knew it. You have to let yourself grieve. You are going to be sad. You may feel depressed. It’s all normal. Give yourself permission to grieve in whatever way works for you. It is only by getting through your grief (rather than by denying it and pushing it away) that you will get through it and be able to move on.
8. Give up Having to be Right. Human beings love to be right. When your feelings are hurt and you’re unhappy with your life, it’s only natural that you want to be right even more. You want to “win.” The trouble is – so does your spouse. So, while both of you are fighting over who is right, your legal fees mount, your drama increases, and your divorce starts spinning out of control. It may take all the self-control you have, but if you can take a step back the next time you are locking horns with your spouse and ask yourself, “What would I rather be, right, or happy?” you may find that coping with your divorce will suddenly get way easier.
9. Lower Your Expectations. We all have expectations about how life “should” be. You probably thought you should never get divorced. Now that you are, you think you “should” get a certain amount of money, or time with the kids. You have expectations about how long your divorce should take, how much it should cost, and how it should go. You have expectations about what your spouse should or shouldn’t do. All of those expectations are an invitation for disappointment. The more you can let go of your pre-conceived ideas about what “should” happen, the happier you will be able to be with what actually does happen.
10. Reconnect With What Makes You Happy. What did you like to do when you were young? Did you have a hobby or an activity that you loved to do? Did you love to read, run, hike, knit, or do wood-working? Do that now. Re-connect with the “you” that existed before you got married. Even if you only have a few spare minutes a day, take the time to do something that makes you happy. Believe it or not, just doing that one simple thing can immediately help you feel better.
Coping with divorce is a learned skill. It may not be a skill you ever wanted to acquire. That doesn’t matter anymore. What matters now is just that you do it. You will be glad you did.
If you want to learn how to cope with divorce better, a good checklist telling you what you need, and reminding you about what you don’t want to forget, is key. CLICK THE BUTTON below and get your FREE DIVORCE CHECKLIST.