Emotions can be a terrible force, especially when it comes to making long term decisions. In watching over 100 couples go through divorce, I have seen how stress and pressure can cause smart people to make bad decisions that are irreversible, or only reversible at a high cost.
While complete serenity and clear insight may not be a reasonable goal for most families as they work through property division and children’s living arrangements, there are simple steps you can take to keep a clear head during this highly stressful and uncertain time.
Focus on big picture goals
No couple looks forward to the day they have to divide savings accounts and decide who gets the couch or the dog. In the midst of a thousand decisions, keep your eye on the ultimate outcome. What is most important to retain? What will you need in order to create a secure financial beginning for your newly independent life? Create physical reminders that will help you focus, and be prepared to let go of the small stuff. No one gets everything they want in a divorce, so pick your battles wisely.
“Work the problem”
This is a great quote from the movie The Martian. Choose it as your motto, and focus on the closest problem at hand – despite distractions, emotional side-tracks, and the desire to get defensive or vengeful. Remember when you first learned to drive, and how you had to handle decisions one at a time? Apply the same principle here, and do everything you can to look for an actual solution to every issue that comes up.
Step away from Ben & Jerry’s!
Neither Ben nor Jerry is your friend during this stressful time. Food is a source of comfort for many people. You may have a strong desire to drown your disappointments and stress in ice creams, bags of chips or wine. There is nothing wrong with indulging yourself every now and then, but be watchful of stress eating or drinking becoming a pattern. Your body needs real food to be nourished properly, so try to stick to a balanced diet that will help you function at your best.
Make time to recharge and recover
Divorce takes a toll on you, emotionally and financially. It is one of the most stressful life events one can survive, up there with a death of a spouse or serious illness. Be kind to yourself and make time to do things that will restore your mind and your spirits. Whether it’s reading, walking in nature, taking a bath or heading to the gym, make recovery your priority.
Don’t give away your power
An emotional roller-coaster can make you feel like you have no control over your own outcomes. Don’t get swept up in that feeling. Instead, look for opportunities to influence the end result in a constructive manner. You are every bit as human as your spouse, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Speak up for your needs, use the support of your professional team, and remember that you have the power to affect the divorce agreement.
Finding your Zen in the storm of divorce
Divorce isn’t easy. It can be a quick and relatively civil affair, or a painful and dragged-out court battle. Regardless, it is never stress-free. Knowing that, be sure to create a structure for dealing with issues and emotional moments in the most constructive of ways. When you catch yourself veering off-course, take a deep breath and try again. That is the only way to get to the other side with your sanity and dignity intact.