All over the internet, we hear the new buzzword, ‘self-care’. When people told me I needed to practice self care during and after my divorce, I had no idea what they meant. Also, I thought, ‘this is the time for me to be taking care of my kids, the house, the paperwork, the bills, etc.–I don’t have time to go to the spa!’
Then I learned the real meaning of self care, what it is, how it helps, and why we all need to do it.
Nurturing yourself in each of these areas can help you, well, be a better YOU! You will reap the benefits of these practices in all areas of your life. It will help you be a better co-parent, mom, and friend. It will help you handle the stresses of divorce; you will be a better decision-maker [at a time when you know you will be making big decisions that can affect you and your kids long-term], you will be able to negotiate in mediation or appear in court with grace, confidence, and assertiveness, and you will FEEL like you are able to handle anything that comes your way, because you will have done the work to make your feelings a reality.
There are 4 areas of self care:
This is the area having to do with your body and overall physical health. Self care in this area includes:
Mind what you put in your body. Eating healthy, nutritious food, and cutting back on alcohol and ‘junk’ foods, gives your body the fuel it needs. When you binge on junk food or alcohol [and who doesn’t love ice cream?], you become sluggish both physically and mentally. Give your body the fuel and nutrition you need to function at your highest level every day, and you will feel the difference.
Move your body every day. Exercise makes your body release endorphins, which not only act as sedatives, which help to lower stress, but also act as analgesics, which decrease your perception of physical pain. You don’t have to run a marathon for this to happen, either. Just a few minutes a day to start will help you create a new habit for yourself. Move your body in a way that feels good to YOU. My preferred way to move is Bikram Yoga–the hotter the better. That might not be your cup of tea, and that’s ok! Find something that is and stick to it.
Get your rest. Getting good-quality sleep every night is so important!. Eight hours is recommended. Getting the proper amount of sleep can boost your immune system, your mood, your productivity and ability to focus, and prevent weight gain. Try a sleep app or timer to monitor your sleep and take notes about how you feel after 7, 8, or 9 hours–you will find your sweet spot and adjust accordingly. Then, you’ll be able to wake up each day ready to take on the world and all its challenges.
Declutter your personal space. Clean out a closet you have been putting off, organize your office or work from home space, toss [or organize, if it pertains to your divorce] that big pile of paperwork that has been taking up space on your kitchen counter for 3 months. All of these will create a feeling of lightness in your space, which will also help clear your head.
Limit screen time. For good quality sleep, limit or eliminate screen time for 1 hour before bedtime. Research has shown that the blue light from your screen can actually suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep/wake cycle, making it difficult for you to fall asleep. Putting away your screens an hour before bed will help your body naturally wind down so that you are ready for sleep when it is time. Read a book, do some gentle yoga, or enjoy a cup of decaf tea during that time instead. Just changing this one habit can create a whole new one that serves you better.
When you practice psychological self care, you nurture your mind, your thought process, and your mood.
Take time for self-reflection. No, this doesn’t mean rehash the past and wallow in your misery. It does mean thinking about your nature, about who you are and what keeps you going every day. Knowing your motivation in life is powerful, and can help you feel more secure during a time with so many unknowns, like divorce. You can start a journal to put down your thoughts. Write a list of goals or a list of things you want to achieve in life. Later, when you go back and read them over, you will have a measure of just how far you have come!
Practice gratitude. Finding something, even the smallest thing, to be thankful for each day is important because it helps you see the bigger picture. In divorce, we get so bogged-down in the day to day [So. Much. Paperwork.] that we sometimes fail to be thankful for all the ways our life IS working, and all the things that we love and appreciate every day. Each day, voice your gratitude about something out loud, when you wake up in the morning or as you fall asleep at night. This can help you carry that feeling and gratitude throughout your day, and can snowball into you feeling gratitude for other things also! Practicing gratitude can help your overall outlook on life, and help you feel more confident, content, and happy.
Seek help from a counselor, coach, or advisor. Sometimes speaking about your divorce and your feelings around it to a neutral third party can help tremendously. An experienced counselor or coach can guide you through your own feelings and help you on a journey to healing that you might not feel you can do on your own. Also, it is critical that you don’t vent your frustrations about your co-parent to your kids, so you need a safe outlet where you can do that. Give yourself that gift.
Emotional self care is taking care of your feelings, needs, and heart. This is a time in your life where you get to say what is right for you, what feels good to you, and what you want for your future. Some ideas for practicing emotional self care:
Set clear boundaries. For some, this is the hardest thing to do, especially if you are a people-pleaser type. If you are stretched too thin, and feel overwhelmed by all the ‘stuff’ you have on your plate, you need a boundary. A good place to start is with the word ‘no’. When asked to make cookies for the PTA or to take care of a friend’s pet for the weekend, ask yourself, ‘How does saying ‘yes’ to this request serve me?’ Then really think about and consider if you have the time or emotional energy to give to it, or not. If not, simply say no. Try using the phrase, ‘That won’t work for me.’ No need to give an excuse or over-explain–simply stating, ‘That won’t work for me,’ is good enough. Reserve using the word ‘sorry’ for times when you are truly sorry for something. Saying ‘Sorry, that won’t work for me’ weakens your stance and opens the door to being convinced or coerced into choosing someone else over yourself. Put yourself first.
Find your tribe. Do you have at least one good friend you can rely on, who is 100% on your side but will also call you out on your BS? That’s your person. Share your feelings with them, tell them your thoughts and fears, and consider their opinions. You know the friend who always wants to hear all the dirty details of what your ex said or did? Not your person. Make a concerted effort to spend time with friends who lift you up and help you move forward–not someone who will keep you bogged down in what is going wrong.
Give yourself a break. When things don’t go your way, don’t beat yourself up. Accepting who you are in the moment is also important self-care. Are you trying to improve or change? Then pat yourself on the back for trying! You won’t succeed every time, but you are still moving forward, and that’s what counts.
Spiritual self-care nurtures your soul. It gets at the essence of life and who you are. There are many ways you can honor our spiritual self:
Pray/Meditate. Go to church or temple if you need a connection to a higher power. If that’s not your thing, meditate, journal, pray or do something that feels good to your soul.
Spend time in Nature. Go for a hike, dig in the dirt to plant a garden, or take a 10 minute walk. Play outdoors with your kids or your dog, sit by a campfire and take in all the sights, smells, and feelings [this is a good time to practice gratitude, also!]. Spending time in nature has proven benefits to adults AND kids. It is a great way to feed your soul and get the kids off the screens for an afternoon!
Connect to those things that are meaningful in your life. Visit your grandma. Call your Dad. Get your paint supplies out. Volunteer at a food shelter or pet rescue. Find or go back to things that give meaning to your life and make you feel whole. The possibilities are endless and different for everyone. Find time to make those connections as often as you can to nurture your soul.
Self care is extremely important for you to start doing TODAY. Just one little thing can boost your mood, help you feel confident and competent, and set you on the road to feeling better, so that you can actually DO better. Your kids will thank you.
Have more questions? I’d love to chat with you about where you’re at in your divorce process and how I can help you in creating a new, fulfilling life story. Email me to start the conversation!