Today we are featuring a guest blog from our esteemed colleague Helen Carouzos, founder of Helen Carouzos Psychology, a private psychology practice providing professional counselling services in Altrincham and the surrounding areas.
Self care during divorce
Stress is here to stay and a natural part of life. It’s important we learn how to manage it better instead of trying to avoid it when we can’t always do this. The old ‘burying your head in the sand’ technique does not work, neither does allowing our highly charged emotions to get in the way of resolving conflicts. In fact, it makes matters worse because the issues at hand are not being addressed which in the case of chronic stress like problematic relationships or work conflicts can lead to serious physical and psychological ill health, such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
Relationships can be tough even in the best of times let alone when couples are separating and/or embarking on the path to divorce. Making the decision to divorce is difficult for most people and is considered to be one of the most stressful life events. Knowing how to respond differently in situations we know cause us stress can play a significant role to our health and wellbeing.
Some things to consider about YOU!
- Review your lifestyle factors, now that you are on the path of divorce, are you maintaining your normal healthy routine? i.e. diet, regular exercise, monitoring caffeine/alcohol, sleep? Continue doing the things you enjoy doing such as hobbies/interests, social events, spending time with family and friends. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and can provide support when you need it the most. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help to give you the motivation, energy, control and positivity to effectively cope with the divorce process. You are at your most resourceful when you are looking after yourself.
- Get to know your coping strategy. Be more self-aware. How do you normally cope in stressful situations and does this work for you now? Do you need to change the way you respond to stress? Perhaps talking to a trusted family member, friend or mental health professional can help with understanding your stress response, identify what works for you and possibly those unhealthy thinking or behaviour habits getting in the way of moving forward.
- Be clear about what you can change and control and what you can’t. This can help with getting your priorities in order and work/life balance right whilst going through your divorce. Limit the time in minutes you spend worrying about those things you can’t change. If the issue is not up to you to change then it’s pointless wasting time trying to change something you can’t. Channel that energy into those areas of the divorce where you can make a difference.
- You are what you think’. What is that little voice in your head saying to you about you and what’s happening around your divorce? Is it saying for instance that things are hopeless, there’s no way out and subsequently you give up trying? Worse still you start to believe you don’t have what it takes to move forward? Clearly this is not helpful, and you still feel stuck? It’s normal to feel this way and it’s temporary. You will what seems to be messy at the moment, see it through to the end and when you do you will be more resilient to life’s adversities. Choose to be positively challengedby changing the way you think and feel about your stressful situation. When this happens your behaviour or your response is also more positive. Your issue might feel like it’s the end of the world but is it? There is often a big difference between how things seem to us and how they really are. We can change the way we experience and manage stress when we start to believe we can make a difference.
- Think bigger picture! There’s a reason why you are divorcing. It’s often hard to see past the pain and fear of divorce to know there’s every chance you can go on to lead a better life full of fun, exciting and rewarding opportunities. Remember stressful situations like divorce are temporary, focus on moving forward towards that better version of yourself.
- Practice mindfulness. This is a calmer state of being where you are focussing on the here and now, being aware of your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement or criticism. Like many other skills it takes practice.
When you are being mindful you are simply noticing that you are having thoughts and that this is all they are, we pay attention to them but without believing them. Accepting your thoughts as they are without judgement puts you back in control of your stressful situation. Tuning in with what you are presently sensing is far better for your stress rather than worrying about the past or future.
Some other things to consider about your Divorce:
- Write down the points you want to cover with your mediator or lawyer before you have contact with him/her. This refers to any ongoing phone calls or face to face appointments you may have organised. Knowing what you want to discuss and/or resolve keeps you in control and avoids you getting distracted by other issues.
- Know your mediator’s or lawyer’s boundaries. Your mediator or lawyer is not a Psychologist or a Counsellor and so if you are struggling with your mental health you may consider reaching out to an appropriately qualified and experienced Psychologist or Specialist Counsellor.
- Choose to RESPOND as opposed to REACTING to issues around the divorce you may not agree with. Try to stick to the facts and minimise emotionally fuelled discussions with your ex -partner especially when it comes to making critical decisions around finances and children. Keeping a calm and clear mind will definitely help you stay focussed with the job at hand and hence make decisions that are best for you.