Why A Holiday Is So Important When You Divorce
I’m posting this blog on the May Bank Holiday Weekend. Lockdown is easing, the weather is (generally) on the up. The summer holidays are looming. Yes, many of us are turning our thoughts to holidays. As we should! You might feel too stressed or too financially stretched to consider a holiday this year. But in Why A Holiday Is So Important When You Divorce we get into why taking a break is so important when you divorce, and what you can do if money is tight.
First of all, let’s look into the reasons why a holiday is extra important when you are going through divorce.
Divorce is stressful
I probably don’t need to remind you of this! But divorce is stressful. It is the second most stressful life event on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. If you’re in a high conflict relationship you can add an extra layer on top of that.
And prolonged stress is not good for us. It can lead to any number of physical and mental health issues, such as anxiety, high blood pressure and insomnia.
We can’t remove all the stress from divorce. We can take steps to reduce it though – and you can read about how to minimise divorce stress here. If podcasts are your thing you can listen to episodes about divorce stress on The Six Minute Divorce Podcast.
One of the practical steps you can take is to factor in a holiday. To step away from the daily grind. To give your body and mind new views and new routines for a little while.
So if you feel like life is too busy with all the ‘divorce stuff’ on top of everything else – that’s your sign. You need a holiday. We can see what that might look like later. But for now, recognise you need one.
You are more than your divorce
So often I find my clients completely consumed by their divorce. Perhaps they’re still living with their soon-to-be-ex so they can’t ever relax. Maybe the rights and wrongs of the past spin around their heads endlessly. Or sometimes they are drowning in admin and decision-making about the future. If they are in a high conflict situation their spouse will be an expert at playing games to wear them down.
For any of these reasons, they have lost themselves to divorce. And my job is to get them back. It might sound strange, but my main priority as a divorce coach isn’t divorce. It’s you. The divorce is simply a necessary step to you living the life you want and need to live.
So it makes no sense to lose yourself entirely to the thoughts, feelings and paperwork that come along with the divorce process. Do you have to face up to the past? Yes. Do you have to make decisions about the future? Yes. Do you have to complete the legal paperwork? Yes. Do you have to recognise your high conflict partner for who they are? Yes.
But do you have to do these things to the detriment of everything else? To the detriment of you?
Absolutely not. In fact, divorce can be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. To get back to yourself again. To do the things you love again – not what the family wants, or what your soon-to-be-ex enjoyed doing.
Don’t be the “I don’t mind” person when someone asks where you’d like to go on holiday. Be the “Actually, I always wanted to climb Ben Nevis but my ex hated the outdoors. So this year I’m doing it.” person.
Come back stronger
If you’re one of those driven workaholic ‘just want to get it done’ sort of people, remember this. A break will recharge you. Plenty of business research points to the importance of taking breaks for productivity.
And the same will be true for your divorce. Switching off for a while will let your brain rest. And that’s when possibility sneaks in. That’s where new perspectives become visible. Big, hairy problems that were crowding your face turn out to be minor little bugs you can flick away with little effort. And if they’re still big, hairy problems you now have more in your tank to deal with them. That’s especially true for people facing high conflict divorces.
Want to get your divorce done better, and faster? Take a holiday.
So we’ve looked at why a holiday is so important when you divorce.
But now – how do you do it? This might seem obvious. But, for some, there are barriers. Like not having the money. Or being so used to putting other people’s needs first that they’ve forgotten what a real holiday looks like.
When money is tight
Maybe your dreams of The Maldives will have to stay just that – dreams – for a while at least. But that doesn’t mean you can’t holiday.
As lockdown eases more options for broadening your horizons become possible. One of the benefits of being locked down for more or less a year is that we have a new found gratitude for the things we used to take for granted – like staying over with friends and family. Could you book in some time under someone else’s roof? Switch off your phone, take a bottle of wine and catch up with loved ones? A holiday doesn’t need to be grand. A chance of scene can make all the difference.
Could you club together with others to share an Airbnb or a family hotel room? Large chains like Premier Inn often have better deals midweek. And youth hostels have smartened up their appeal, offering private and en suite rooms in some beautiful and quirky city centre or countryside locations.
When you don’t know where to start
My clients are smart women. But, when you’ve been in an unhappy marriage for a long time, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Choosing your first holiday as a separated person can be a big deal. A bit like New Year, it can feel like there’s a lot riding on getting it right.
The first thing to do is relax into your holiday planning. This doesn’t have to be a big deal or a grand gesture. Your first holiday as a single person can be one night in a B&B in your home town or a neighbouring village if you want. On your own with a pile of books, or your Spotify playlist. What’s important is that you start to pay attention to your own wants and needs. And then act on them!
Take a moment and write in your notebook, ‘What I most need right now is…’, and just write for a minute. Then look at what you’ve written. What sort of holiday can best fulfil those needs?
Embrace the micro holiday
If planning a week, or even a weekend, away from it all is out of reach at the moment, all is not lost. ‘Holiday’ can be a state of mind. It takes boundaries, but it’s important, and you can do it. Build in some time every week when you are answerable to no-one. If you have children, try to get a friend to have them for an afternoon, or use some judicious TV time to give yourself a break.
Guard this time fiercely. Plan what you will do. We plan our holidays and you need to plan your micro holiday too – otherwise it will sleep and chores will creep in. Will you get some delicious food? Will you meet a friend for coffee? Will you dress up? Will you be a tourist in your home town and go to the art gallery or local museum? Will you order a latte and people watch from your favourite cafe? If you have children and can’t get out can you create a quiet space at home to read with a steaming mug of tea for an hour?
Don’t forget that holidays are essential. Especially as you cope with the stress of divorce. Divorce can make the logistics of booking a break away more complicated (more on that soon). But everyone can plan a regular micro holiday. Please do it. Especially if you are coping with a high conflict situation.
Take a break
If you’re in the midst of separation and divorce you’ll be in survival mode for much of the time. If you’re in a high conflict marriage you’ll be in survival mode all of the time. A holiday can give you some respite.
I can also be a place of safety and sanity for you. If you’re divorcing a narcissist or other high conflict personality, they will do their utmost to destroy your peace. You need someone who can ground you in reality, and help you respond wisely, rather than react to their provocations.
I can support you to make a plan that’s right for you. Whether it’s through a 1:1 strategy call or through ongoing support, I can be a safe place to discuss what’s happening. To help restore your strength and equilibrium.
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