No one is ever fully prepared for divorce or separation. Whether you feel good about your decision to separate and are hopeful about the future, or your situation feels completely out of your hands and you’re terrified of what’s next, change can be difficult. It’s completely normal to feel uncomfortable with the unknowns of life after divorce, but the important thing to remember is that you will survive. While most people recover from divorce or separation successfully, those first few months are often painful and challenging. Everyone’s experience will be different, but here are some simple strategies that could help get you through to the other side.
Taking care of your physical body during such a difficult time is often easier said than done, but we all know that physical health and mental health are deeply interconnected and cannot be isolated from each other. This means that it’s impossible to be emotionally healthy if your body isn’t, and visa versa.
- Whenever you can, try to remember to stay active and move your body. You don’t have to do intense cardio or heavy lifting if that’s not your thing – just getting outside for a walk can be a great way to decrease stress and can even help you sleep better!
- Try to be mindful of what you’re consuming. If you feel like a good cry into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s is what you need tonight, that’s totally valid. If that starts to become a more-than-occasional occurrence, however, it’s probably not the best way for you to cope. Take note of what kinds of foods make you feel good after you eat them, and try to keep track of how often you’re indulging in things like alcohol and junk food.
- You may be surprised at how much of a positive impact maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can have on your overall wellbeing. It’s not at all out of the ordinary to have trouble sleeping when you’re stressing about the future, but try to keep your bed reserved for sleeping (that means avoiding doing things like working or eating in bed.) If you’re struggling to fall asleep, rather than continuing to toss and turn, get out of bed for a short while and do something that occupies your mind – try reading a chapter of a book on the couch or organizing a desk drawer. If your schedule allows for it, going to sleep and getting up at the same time every night and morning can be a great help, too. Anything that gives your brain a sense of security and normalcy is going to be your friend during this unpredictable time.
Divorce or separation can be emotionally challenging and feel really isolating, despite how common it really is. Be forgiving with yourself – you’re not automatically supposed to know exactly how to cope with this situation.
- Remind yourself often that divorce is not a failure. It may sound corny, but try to reframe the separation or divorce as not just an ending, but a new beginning, too.
- Treat yourself with kindness and be gentle with yourself. How would you treat a good friend if they were in your shoes? Try to channel that.
- Jot down a couple of things each day that you are grateful for. When we’re going through something that can feel so terrible, it’s easy to forget about all of the things that make life good. This will be an important time to keep these good things at the forefront of your mind.
- See if there are any support groups in your community for people who are coping with divorce or separation. This type of support might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re open to it, hearing from other people who are struggling with similar things can certainly help alleviate feelings of isolation.
Finding the motivation to do things that we enjoy or that make us feel good can be really challenging when we’re feeling down. That said, doing uplifting, fun, or cathartic things just for the sake of enjoyment are valuable and will help motivate you to keep moving forward.
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Avoid spending time with people who make you feel like you need to impress them or explain yourself to them.
- Choose positive and uplifting forms of media. You don’t have to feel guilty about turning off the news or logging off of social media if it feels too heavy right now. Opt for things that make you laugh or feel inspired. Even if it’s just a short-term distraction, welcome every opportunity for joy.
- Do something nice for someone else. See what you can do to help a neighbour, friend, or volunteer to help people in need. Helping others is one of the oldest, tried and true mood-boosters around.
The truth is, there’s no easy way through dark times, and if you feel like you need some support in coping, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional counsellor. Saying goodbye to a life you once knew is a grieving process, through which even the strongest stumble, but you will get through it.