About half of all marriages end in divorce. Most of us know that. But what many of us don’t realize that there are emotional repercussions, many times overlooked or unseen, but certainly felt, during and after a divorce.
If you or someone close to you is in the process of a divorce, a self-care plan can be key in coming through intact, and potentially even better than before.
Studies show that men and women tend to process the divorce differently, but the need for self-care is universal. Even if you are the one who wanted or pursued the divorce, taking care of your emotional self is crucial.
Steps for self-care during or after a divorce
Self-care is a must. The first thing to do is to stop focusing on your ex and the past. Instead, focus on calming yourself and taking care of yourself right now. The top five things you can do to help yourself during this time are:
- Wean yourself from frequent drinking or drug use. Often drugs and alcohol do not move you through the experience but keep you stuck in the same place. Instead of having a few drinks in the evening, go for a long walk, take a warm scented or Epsom salt bath, get a massage or bodywork, journal, do slow stretching, organize a closet, garage, office or basement, or read or listen to a relaxing audiobook.
- Learn to meditate and do this every day for 15 minutes. Sit in a chair or on a cushion or couch. Light a candle and dim the lights. You can use a mantra, such as repeating “peace” with each breath, or listen to a guided mediation app. The thing is to just sit, just be. Turn off the inner chatter, the planning, the remembering. Let the thoughts come in and out of your mind like feathers floating by on the breeze. Do not attach to these thoughts, instead let them enter and pass without grasping them or judging them. There are plenty of apps and website to help you learn the best practices of meditation. Find one that works for you and do it every day at the same time. Most people find that the first thing in the morning is the best time to do this because then it gets done.
- Consciously eat healthy. Men especially can fall into to the takeout trap and gain weight after a divorce. If you consciously plan ahead to eat more fruits and vegetables and lean protein you will be doing your body a favor. There are even delivery services that focus on healthy food prep packages.
- Get involved in an activity. This can be difficult during a social-distance pandemic, but as things open up find ways to connect with other people. Join a book club, bowling league, learn to line dance, join a singles gourmet club, take a community education class, or volunteer. After a divorce we sometimes forget who we are and where we fit into the world. Belonging to a group helps us feel that we belong somewhere and are connected.
- Avoid rushing into a new relationship. A new relationship can be exciting and distracting. But it can prevent you from actually grieving the loss of the marriage. You also may be missing an opportunity to get to know yourself and experience growth by jumping into a new relationship. Some parenting agreements do not allow for posting on social media or introducing someone new to the children in the first few months after a divorce. The best practice here is to take things slow.
Whichever step or steps you take toward self-care are helpful. Start with one step. Start today.