A separation or divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in life. At times it feels like you cannot breathe. At other times you feel so angry that you’re vibrating. It is important that you don’t let divorce define you. There are things you can do to get through this chaotic time in your life.
#1. Find the right divorce team.
Divorce is a complex process that affects just about every aspect of your life: financial, emotional, physical and legal. Unless you married for a short time, if you have property, assets or children, you’ll need the advice of more than one divorce expert.
The amount of stress you will go through can be reduced when you have the right experts helping you navigate the divorce process. Your team of experts could include a family lawyer, collaborative lawyer, qualified mediator, financial advisor, psychologist or family therapist, depending on your situation. You might also need a business or pension evaluator, accountant (CPA), or parenting expert. Do not think that all lawyers, mediators, psychologist or divorce experts are the same – they are not. Find one that connects with you. If your gut is telling you to run, then run. The experts you pick may be involved with your divorce for a long time, depending on the complexity of the case. Take the time to meet with more than one. Yes, each one may charge you a consultation fee but it will allow you to make an informed decision.
#2. Don’t go through this alone.
If possible, work with a psychologist or family counsellor. They are trained to help you deal with the emotions – grief, anger, depression, fear – that could get in the way of negotiating a divorce settlement. Many of my clients have shared that during the divorce process, they felt like they were on an emotional rollercoaster. If a therapist is not an option, consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations.
#3. Take care of yourself, both emotionally and physically.
Take time for yourself, such as exercising, eating healthy, meditating and relaxing. Easier said than done. When I went through my divorce 15 years ago, I felt a lot of stress, so I decided to train for a marathon. Now, I’m not suggesting you train for a marathon but there is a lot of evidence showing that exercise helps reduce stress.
#4. Take time to learn new things.
Reconnect with things you had enjoyed when you were apart from your spouse. Rejoin a basketball or soccer league; it’s a great way to reconnect with old friends or make new ones. Have you ever thought of learning photography or painting or yoga? Sign up for a class, invest time in your hobbies, volunteer, and take time to enjoy life.
#5. Avoid power struggles and arguments.
It is important to set up boundaries with your ex-spouse regarding discussions. This can be challenging, I know. When I am working with clients on their parenting plan, I have them discuss how they each would like to handle disagreements.
Each person has their own way of dealing with conflict and it usually upsets the other parent. So, if you can agree on how to de-escalate an argument then when it occurs, you can stop and walk away – or hang up the phone and not contact the other parent for 24 hours. Some will agree to write an email with their side of the discussion. Others want to text. My experience is that texting can get misinterpreted. Some have chosen to meet in a public place, like a coffee shop, so that everyone is being mindful of other people.
The key to keeping your stress levels down is to have some guidelines to follow. They may go out the window but they can also allow for things to get back on track and resolve the issue.