Divorce can be one of the most stressful events that a person encounters in their life. During a time when emotions are heightened and transitions are occurring rapidly, it is important to have strong connections and stability in your daily life.
Below are a list of helpful strategies to keep in mind throughout the divorce process which can assist you with not only surviving day to day but taking back control of your life to thrive:
Connect with a few friends or family members that you trust. Before you speak with others, decide what you are hoping to achieve from your connections with them. Sometimes you will need to cry, express emotions or want to talk about your divorce and at other times you will want enjoy a night out without discussing the dissolution of your nuptials. It is helpful to have a few scripts ready, to set boundaries with others, before opening up about your divorce. Some sample scripts are listed below:
- I am currently going through a divorce and I am doing OK. I do not want to talk about it but I know I can reach out to you in the future, if needed.
- Thank you for your concern and I appreciate your questions. I do not want to discuss it at this time and would rather enjoy our time together.
Take good care of yourself by maintaining a sleep schedule, eating healthy meals, and getting some sort of exercise daily.
- Sleeping may be a difficult task if your thoughts are racing before bed or you are unsure about what the future holds with your pending legal case. Try journaling to get thoughts out and contained. Limit journaling to a time frame of 20-30 minutes. Maintain a sleep routine in which you avoid screen time 1 hour before bed, try a relaxing tea, take a bath, or engage in light reading leading up to bed time.
- Eat healthy, whole foods that are not processed and contain no added sugar. Stress can lead to craving sweet or salty food so it can be beneficial to keep a daily meal plan that is consistent so you are not unsure of where your next meal is coming from and end up in a fast food drive-thru. Prepare a weekly meal plan and grocery list and try to stick to your routine.
- Move each day. This can range from walking, yoga, running or if you have pent up emotions, a more kinetically charged high intensity interval training or boxing work-out. Be aware of your body and its limitations and do what feels appropriate for you.
Obtain sound legal advice. Even if your divorce feels amicable get consultations with a few lawyers, whom you trust, to ensure you are legally protecting yourself. Consultations are often free or at a reduced rate. If you obtain referrals for a lawyer, do your best to find someone who has received legal services from them in the recent past and can vouch for their quality of work. Do as much research as possible before choosing a lawyer to represent you. If you feel your lawyer is not advocating on your behalf, be assertive and bring this up to them, if they are not willing to meet your needs, find another one. You are paying them for a service and they should be willing to explain things to you and communicate the process in a timely manner. Below are a few beneficial questions to ask during your consultation:
- What is the best way to correspond with you? How timely are your responses to email and phone calls? Lawyers should be able to give you a rough estimate and follow through with their word on their communication time frame. Never apologize for asking questions or wanting more information. You need to acquire a lawyer who is supportive, has experience, and makes you a priority.
- Are you the main person that will be working on my case or do you have other attorneys and/or paralegals, who will be working on my case? Is their hourly rate different from yours?
- How much is your hourly rate? Is there a retainer needed up front for services? Do you send out bills monthly? It is important to make sure there are no hidden costs and obtain an estimate of how much your case should be based off of past similar cases.
- What experience do you have working similar cases? What were the results of those cases?
- What is a timeline of my case from start to finish? Is there a way to resolve my case by limiting the amount of time spent on hearings in court? Legal proceedings can be unnecessarily drawn out which means more time your legal case is pending and more money out of your pocket. Have your lawyer outline the quickest way possible to finalizing your divorce and getting what you want.
- Have fun! Add in other hobbies you have been putting aside due to demands of your relationship such as reading, cooking, working out, traveling, joining a club or activity that can be a healthy distraction to the stress and loss you are experiencing. Experts compare divorce to a grieving process but it can also be a renaissance in which you reinvent yourself to be the best you can be and re-focus on your own personal values. Be a tourist in the city in which you live, go to different parks, museums, restaurants, and explore new areas of town.
- Create a daily mood diary which can help increase your awareness of your moods and understanding of the coping skills that are assisting you during this difficult transition.
It can be helpful to seek therapy during this time to have a safe, unbiased place to explore your thoughts and feelings and get insights from someone who is not invested in the situation. If you are noticing challenges in daily work functioning, difficulties with sleeping and eating, or mood imbalances, reach out to a licensed professional to assist you in creating a treatment plan to regain balance in your life.
Stephanie Cerula, LPCC