When you’re trying to get through divorce it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Divorce adds so many extra things to your “To Do” list that it’s like a second job! What’s even worse is that everything is so uncertain, so unclear, that you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do.
Plus, you don’t feel like doing any of it.
So you do nothing. Or, you try to do everything. Either way, you don’t get much done.
Whether you are feeling pulled in a thousand directions, or you are so paralyzed that all you can do is watch stupid cat videos on Facebook, you are suffering from divorce overwhelm. For you, learning how to cope with divorce is not an option: it is a necessity!
Why Feeling Overwhelmed in Your Divorce is So Dangerous
When you feel overwhelmed you experience an intense emotional state that is difficult to manage. The feeling of being overwhelmed affects your ability to think, and to act rationally. It also impacts your ability to function effectively.
Divorce is a prime cause of emotional overwhelm. It is a major life transition. According to science, it ranks second on the list of major life stressors.
The problem is that divorce demands that you make multiple major life decisions, often in a relatively short period of time. So, just when you’re least able to think clearly and act rationally, you will be expected to both of those things.
No wonder getting through a divorce is so rough!
How to Get Through Divorce Without Getting Totally Overwhelmed
According to p L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D., psychologist and associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Louisville, thoughts of uncontrollability or unpredictability are the backbones of overwhelm. The more you feel your life is out of control, the more overwhelmed you will be.
Unfortunately, going through a divorce is about as uncontrollable and unpredictable as you can get. You can’t control the divorce system. You can’t control your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer. Most days, you’re not even sure you can control yourself!
Yet, even though divorce is scary and largely uncontrollable, there are certain steps you can take to make your divorce more manageable. Here are 15 steps you can take to get yourself out of overwhelm and moving forward in your divorce.
15 Steps to Make Your Divorce More Manageable
Get a Handle on Your Emotions.
Before you can do anything else in your divorce, you have to deal with how you feel. (Yes. This is really hard. Try anyway.) Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up. Allow yourself to grieve. At the same time, start taking the steps you need to begin to deal with your emotions. If you’re so emotional you can’t think straight, you won’t be able to do much of anything else.
Knowledge is power. Knowledge also gives you confidence. The more you know about the divorce process, the more you will be able to manage it. Divorce is unlike anything you’ve ever gone through before. If you don’t understand how the divorce system works, it will crush you. The sooner you can start learning about how divorce works, the better off you will be.
Take Back Control of Your Head.
The more you tell yourself, “I’m so overwhelmed!,” the more overwhelmed you will feel. Focusing on the fact that you are an emotional wreck, will keep you an emotional wreck. Instead, give yourself credit for doing the best you can each day. Do your best to stay positive. Pay attention to your thoughts. When negative thoughts start taking over your brain, remind yourself that they are only thoughts. Then let them go.
Start Collecting Information Now.
Divorce is a document-driven process. It doesn’t matter whether you want to try to work things out amicably, or whether you know you will end up fighting in court. You are going to need to gather a ton of financial documents. To save yourself from getting overwhelmed later, start collecting them now.
Form a Team.
No one should go through a divorce alone. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to get through a divorce. Working with the right divorce professionals will give you confidence. It will also ensure that you keep moving forward in the right direction. Having a good support group of friends and family will help you deal with your emotions.
Establish Your Goals.
If you could have everything you wanted in your divorce, what would it be? (For purposes of this exercise “staying married” is not an option. Assume you are getting divorced.) Write down everything, no matter how large or small it is. You can edit later.
Prioritize Your Goals.
Go through your list of goals. Pick out the top two or three things you want or need to get in your divorce. This one is tough because you probably want more than you will likely get in your divorce. (Sorry!) But, that’s why this exercise is so important. Take some time with it. Choose the two or (at most) three things that are the most important to you in your divorce.
Make A “To Do” List of Tasks.
Dump the 2,753 things that are swirling around in your head, onto a piece of paper. You need to clear some brain space. Set aside one hour of “alone” time for yourself every week to do your brain dump. (It’s great to do this when your spouse has the kids.) Write down everything you have to do or need to learn. Don’t edit yourself. Write down everything.
Prioritize Your To Do List.
Go back to your list of goals. Look at all of your “to dos” and decide which ones will move you closer to achieving your goals. Put those tasks on the top of the list. Then allow yourself to not worry about when the rest of your “to dos” will get done. Have enough faith in yourself to know that you will do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Let the rest go. You can’t do everything at once anyway.
Focus On What Matters.
Identify all of the tasks on your “To Do” list that will actually move you closer towards getting what is most important to you in your divorce. If there is something that you didn’t write down that will help you achieve your ultimate divorce goals, write that down now. Meanwhile, allow yourself to let go of doing all the stuff that isn’t important. If you try to do everything, you will either do nothing, or you will do everything badly.
Do One Thing at a Time.
Multi-tasking is great in theory. In practice, it keeps you feeling totally overwhelmed. It keeps you focused on a thousand different things. If, instead of trying to do everything at once, you concentrate on doing one thing at a time, you will actually accomplish more.
Schedule your top priorities first.
Schedule the things that will help you achieve your goals first. If you don’t have time to do one whole task every day, break your tasks down into smaller chunks. (Remember: Baby steps! Do your best not to let other people’s priorities take over your schedule. Focus on what is urgent and important to you. Also, try to be realistic. Don’t schedule 20 minutes for a task that is likely to take 2 hours.
Leverage What You Can.
Lean on your family and friends. If you don’t have time to do something you need to do, try to off-load it on someone else. Maybe another parent could take your kid to soccer practice this week. Maybe your best friend could help you sort through the boxes in the basement to find the documents you need. Maybe you can arrange to have some of your business meetings done virtually so you don’t have to travel so much right now. Do what you need to maximize your time.
Be Kind to Yourself.
No matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes. You will have days when you can’t function. You will have days when you lose sight of your goals. From time to time, you will melt down. Yelling at yourself for not being perfect will only make you feel worse. It also won’t move you forward any faster. So, give yourself a break. You deserve it.
The Secret Key to Stay Out of Overwhelm and Get Through Your Divorce
If you want to keep your divorce from completely overwhelming you, all of these steps are important. But if you try to do them all at once, you will still be overwhelmed! So what’s the real secret to staying out of divorce overwhelm?
Take one step at a time.
Don’t try to do everything at once. Nothing will stress you out faster than expecting yourself to do 10,000 things in less than two hours! Do what you can and save everything else for tomorrow.
Finally, give yourself credit for every little thing that you do. Remember, baby steps are still steps. They count. All you have to do is just keep stepping.