Looking after yourself during divorce is vital if you want to move through it with your sanity and dignity intact. So much so, that I dedicated a section to it in my book How to be a Lady Who Leaves. Even if your husband has left you, it’s still your responsibility to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, irrespective of what may be going on financially.
watch what you eat and drink
Stress can have a negative impact physically as well as emotionally. It is therefore important that you eat well during your divorce. Ensure that you and your children eat nutritionally balanced meals and that you avoid rich carbohydrate-based meals late at night as these may impair your sleep. Monitor your own alcohol intake. That relaxing glass of wine to take the edge off isn’t a problem until you start relying on it. Remember that alcohol is a depressant and too much of a good thing will make you feel physically unwell and may cause you to behave in ways you would rather not.
Treat yourself in accordance with your budget. Treating yourself is all about doing something that you want to do. Perhaps you like a massage or a day at the spa. Maybe a long hot bath or lunch with friends is your thing. It doesn’t really matter what it is; what’s important is that you take time for yourself and show yourself love. Treating yourself should be separate from any treat that you share with the children. It is only about you! Some of you reading this will feel uncomfortable, because it’s not something that you’re not used to doing, but every new skill takes practice and I invite you to start practicing now!
When you decide to divorce, you may sleep better than you’ve done for ages because you have finally been open and honest with yourself and your husband. The pressure of feeling guilty may feel like a distant memory. The opposite can be true, particularly if you have been left. It’s likely, however, even if divorce is your idea, that you’ll have sleepless nights. Your bedroom is an easy place to start ruminating about all the things that went ‘wrong’ in your marriage, and all the challenges you have yet to face. Perhaps you have already experienced that feeling of tiredness that draws you to bed and then bam! You’re wide awake and your brain is going 100mph. You might be tempted to use these times as an opportunity to get up and do more housework, paperwork or start on that work project. Resist this temptation. Sleep is important. It is restorative both physically and mentally. It is during your sleep that your unconscious mind processes all your thoughts and the information that your brain has received during the day. It’s likely, then, that you will be in particular need of sleep as you progress through your divorce, so make it a priority.
Prepare to give yourself the opportunity to get the best night’s sleep you can. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, and turn off all mobile devices at least one hour before going to bed. If you enjoy reading, allow yourself to wind down with a good book.
Consider journaling. Journaling is perhaps just a modern word for writing a diary, and in recent years, it has gained popularity as a method of downloading and organising your thoughts. Seeing your thoughts on paper allows them to become ‘real’ – they become more than just thoughts. Seeing your thoughts in front of you allows you to consider them from a different perspective.
It can be easier to evaluate whether your concerns are genuine or just made up based on your fears. Getting your thoughts out of your head can help you rest. If you find it hard to relax, you might wish to explore using meditation or hypnosis. There are plenty of apps, YouTube videos, books and courses available to give you a taste.
Meditation and hypnosis have been found to reduce stress and promote wellbeing. Sleep will also replenish depleted hormones. Serotonin and dopamine levels rise during sleep enabling you to feel more positive. Leptin levels are also replenished, enabling you to make healthier food choices. During sleep, your cortisol levels decrease, reducing stress. There may be times throughout your divorce where sleep evades you. Seek help from your GP if the suggestions in this section don’t work for you.
create and enforce your boundaries
Creating boundaries in your divorce might seem like an obvious step. But let me ask you this, have you taken it yet? In reality, it can actually be quite tricky. You see creating boundaries in your divorce means doing things differently. It means taking a stand. It means you’re ‘putting out there’ a new way of being. This can be a struggle at first because you have to rewire your brain so that you can create a pattern of consistent new behaviour. You also have to deal with the fallout of the confusion of others around this, particularly your husband. It may also include his family and your friends. So what kind of boundaries do you need to put in place? Well, there are no hard and fast rules on this, and much will depend on your individual circumstances, how your relationship was prior to separation, and where you’re living will also be a factor. Here are a few things to consider; there will be plenty more.
on deciding to separate
On deciding to separate, it’s important that you consider some immediate boundaries. The benefits of boundaries are:
»» they keep you safe emotionally (and possibly physically too)
»» they give you clarity
»» they give other people clarity about what’s acceptable or not
»» they support your children to understand that even though you both love them, things are different between you and their father
»» they keep you focused
»» they allow the healing process to take place
»» they will save you time and money
The sooner you put boundaries in place, the sooner you will be able to begin to move forward both emotionally and practically and take the steps you need to take to end the marriage.
freedom to do what you want
Is freedom to do what you want a boundary issue? In my opinion, yes, it is. When you’ve been in a long-term relationship, you’ve probably got used to running ideas past your husband. You might have even got to the place where you stopped doing things because you got feedback from him that it wasn’t ok, or he wasn’t around to look after the children. You just stopped doing the stuff you loved. Now you don’t have to ask his opinion. His opinion is irrelevant, unless it has a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the children. It can take time to get used to that and it may feel really weird. The boundary is that you don’t have to share that information unless you want to. If he asks you, remember whether you share the information is your choice.
So there you have it, ladies, just some of my thoughts on looking after yourself during divorce. Remember, putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s your expression of self-worth and the biggest gift you can give you and your family.
Emma Heptonstall is a Family Mediator and Divorce Coach for ladies who leave. A recovering lawyer, she lives in York, United Kingdom and works 1:1 via Skype and FaceTime supporting women to make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce. Currently writing her first book How To Be A Lady Who Leaves.