How To Minimise Divorce Stress
Divorce is perhaps the most momentous life events you’ll ever go through. And, let’s face it, has the potential for lots of stress. Upset and uncertainty are characteristics of any divorce. But that doesn’t mean your life has to be consumed by stress. Given the process could take upwards of six months, it’s important to minimise divorce stress as much as possible. And in How To Minimise Divorce Stress we explore how.
You can’t get rid of divorce stress entirely
It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to dial down your stress is to accept it. The ‘Life Change Scale Index’ lists divorce as the second most stressful life event you will experience (after death of a spouse or child). There’s no getting away from the fact that divorce is stressful – emotionally and practically.
Accepting stress doesn’t mean welcoming it in with open arms and making it comfortable. It simply means acknowledging it will be there, at least for parts of your divorce ride. And letting that be. You don’t have to like it, but letting it exist, rather than fighting it, will take a struggle away. You have enough on your plate already without feeling bad about being stressed.
Different types of stress
There are inevitable stresses divorce will bring. These are things like emotional wrangles with your soon-to-be-ex, worries about the future, concern about how to navigate the legalities. And then there are the stresses you layer on top of them:
“I’m so stupid, I don’t understand this form.”
“I shouted at the children again, I’m an awful mum.”
“I’m on the floor with all this, why can’t I just get on with it?”
Do you see the difference? Some of the stress divorce brings is inevitable. Though it doesn’t have to feel really stressful all the time – more on that later.
But the stresses I’m talking about now are the ones you pile on yourself – the inner critic shouting you down for feeling stressed. I’m not going to ask you to silence your inner critic, because that’s impossible. But recognise it’s them talking. And what they’re saying isn’t the truth. It’s the story your inner critic likes to tell to push your buttons. Acknowledge it as a story. You don’t have to believe it.
Give yourself a mental break
Most of us are experts at beating ourselves up. Our inner critics love a party, and divorce is their party of the century! But try to step away from the tornado of guilt and shame that might be looping around your head.
Recognise it for what it is. It’s a story. Does it have basis in fact? Does the fact you lost your temper with the children mean that you’re a dreadful parent? Does the fact that you don’t understand a legal process you’ve never been exposed to before mean you’re stupid? No. It doesn’t.
Aim to cultivate a kinder attitude to yourself. You’re not going to silence your inner critic forever, they’re part of you too. But you can also listen to more helpful voices. Imagine your best friend or teenager confided that they were continually putting themselves down and felt worthless. What would you say to them? Say those things to yourself too.
Break it down
Stress and overwhelm are besties. So one of the most effective ways to minimise your stress is to minimise your overwhelm. Put yourself in the driving seat. Step into the role of CEO of your own divorce. You don’t have to do everything all at once. You don’t even have to do everything yourself – a CEO doesn’t. They know when to delegate.
One of the best steps you can make when getting divorced is to read my book. How To Be A Lady Who Leaves is packed with information, resources and exercises so you can do the right things in the right order. It will leave you confident in your next steps rather than feeling in the dark about your decisions. So you can make a plan you trust, and that will help keep your stress levels as low as possible.
Seek the help you need
When you feel stressed about your divorce what do you mean? It’s so easy to say, “I’m stressed” – we all do it, me included! But what does that actually look like for you? Think about:
1.What’s causing your divorce stress?
As we’ve seen, stress and overwhelm are closely related, so it can feel like one bit toxic fog. But spend some time getting to the heart of the specific things that are making you feel stressed. Are they to do with money? Children? How your soon-to-be-ex is behaving? Not having enough time? All of the above?
Get it all down, as specifically as possible. What is it about money that’s stressing you? Or the children? Break all of your worries down into separate, specific issues where possible. Write them down.
2. How does the stress makes you feel?
A certain level of stress is good for us – it gives us an adrenaline jolt. It was wired into us so we didn’t get eaten by sabre-toothed tigers after all. It’s not a bad thing in itself. But we all respond to stress differently, with some of us thriving and some of us wilting. And it’s not good for any of us long term. So think about how the stress is making you feel. Are you feeling anxious, depressed, panicky? Sometimes the stress may have positive effects – it can give you the energy to take action, for example. Again, try and be as specific as possible and write it all down.
What you have just created is the start of a stress-busting list. You have your problems listed – whether they are about your situation or your feelings. Now it’s time to take each in turn. What specific actions could you take with each one to move it forward? And, importantly, who else could help you with it? What help can you tap into from your own circles or from professional support?
Do not be afraid to ask for help. And if it’s legal help you need, I highly recommend joining The Absolute Academy. The monthly cost is less than the hourly rate for many solicitors. The women in there save themselves a fortune!
You are more than your divorce
Many of my clients make the mistake of treating divorce as a full-time job. And I get it, I do. Divorce is a big deal. It can feel all-consuming. But you will lower your stress levels considerably if you can create space and time for something else.
For having fun. For reconnecting with who you are – or who you were before your marriage turned unhealthy. For pursuing the things that make you feel good, as well as just soldiering on with the divorce paperwork in the evenings.
As we (hopefully) ease out of lockdown it will be easier to meet with friends and loved ones. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. The ‘friend’ who constantly makes you second guess yourself? No. The friend who makes you laugh? Yes. The friend who you can cry in front of without judgement, and feel better? Yes. Seek out the people and activities that bring meaning to your life.
And it’s not just about instant gratification. It’s about the things that really matter. Did you always want to try your hand at climbing, for example, but your soon-to-be-ex put you off? Get a beginner’s climbing course booked in for June.
Let me help you!
As I said, How To Be A Lady Who Leaves is the ultimate companion read to take the stress out of divorce. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a solicitor! If you find you want closer support as you navigate divorce I’m always happy to chat.
You can book a call here.
Love a Podcast? Well, The Six Minute Divorce Podcast is here to support you too. Take a listen!
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com