In a recent Washington Post ABC News poll a great majority of the respondents said they were stressed, with more than half reporting serious anxiety. Loss of income or loss of financial security were big concerns. Enemies around the world flexing their muscles; terrorism; health care; the economy. There is a lot to be scared about. Welcome to the daily world of divorced/divorcing women!
If we’re honest, especially at the beginning of this trip, the fear that we might suddenly become a wrinkled, friendless bag lady seems to be simmering just below the surface. The key is to take a deep breath, get some help and face your fears head on.
When it comes to the stress and worry and fear that shows up during an unwanted midlife divorce, most women are not just slightly concerned, they are terrified. Not only are financial issues sometimes in a complete mess, your social connections are altered, and you have to figure out a parenting plan and how to support yourself. Often you have no retirement or safety net. And all of this is happening just when you thought things were going to get a little easier. All that adds up to more than your share of personal fear and trembling.
In my studies about developing the best strategies to help women going through divorce, I came across the “Warfighting” book that the Marines use to get battle ready. Amazingly, there are many similarities in getting ready to go into physical battle and going into the battle of survival after divorce.
Very simply, here are four principals the Marines and Navy Seals teach about conquering stress and fear. These tips will help RADiCAL Women, too. These tips sound simple, but their practice is extremely powerful. They get results.
- Set Realistic Goals
- Get Mentally and Physically Fit
- Practice Positive Self Talk
- Utilize Arousal Control
#1 Goal Setting
Set concrete, realistic goals: Know where it is you want to end up. I know at first, sometimes the goal is simply survival. Get solidly in your mind what you want in a situation and then do what it takes to get there. Women after midlife divorce want to physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially survive, but we want to do more than survive. We want to have an invigorating, adventurous, joy-filled life! So spend some time figuring out exactly where you want to be in a year, and then start taking small steps every single day to move to that destination. It’s hard to get someplace if you don’t know where you’re going. Think seriously about what your goals are now, and then keep pressing on until those goals are accomplished. Start simply and then keep refining your goals as you grow stronger and your dreams become more clear.
#2 Mental and Physical Fitness
Marines start getting in shape the minute they get to basic training. The military knows that getting in shape physically prepares soldiers for every stress they will face. That’s true for you, too. Taking care of your body is one of your most important jobs during divorce recovery. Eating right; exercising; getting enough sleep; being around positive people all help with getting fit physically and emotionally. Exercise to even out your erratic emotions. Get resources that stimulate your positive thinking. Read inspiring uplifting literature. Find a support group of women who understand your situation and will encourage you on your journey. Do whatever concrete actions you can to get yourself to a better place physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Soon other parts of your life will begin to fall in place as well.
#3 Positive Self-Talk
Marines recruits go from saying, “There’s no way I can do this,” to “I can’t do this,” to “I’d better try to do this,” to “Other people are doing this, so maybe I can do this,” to “I think I can do this,” to “I’m learning to do this” to “I can do this,” to “You just try to stop me from doing this!”
We think much faster than we talk. Those words filling our heads need to be positive and proactive. No matter what catastrophe happens in your life, your self-talk determines what happens next. You can tell yourself that you will be sad and mad and bitter for the rest of your life, or you can tell yourself that you will make something amazingly wonderful of your life. Whatever you continually say to yourself, happens. The cool thing is: Self-talk is your choice. Concentrate on what you want instead of what you’re worried about, and you’ll find your life starts moving toward what you desire instead of what you dread.
#4 Arousal Control:
This doesn’t have anything to do with sex. It has everything to do with strategies to control our body and our physical systems when under extreme stress. In training, Navy Seals are taken under water with their oxygen tanks over and over again, and they practice taking them apart and putting them back together. Then one day when they go underwater and their instructor unexpectedly rips their tank off and dismantles it, they know exactly what to do. Practice calm responses to things that upset you. Write them down if you need to. Recall what has worked in the past. What are your core strengths? Review the successes you have had in your life and build on those. What calms you? Prayer? Taking a walk? Listening to music? Here’s another tip from the Marines: Take four deep cleansing breaths when you are faced with a situation that causes you immediate stress or fear. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth with a longer exhale. Get as much oxygen in your body as you can. This allows you to think more clearly and calms you so that you make the best response possible.
These straightforward tools work for the Marines and the Navy Seals, and they will work for you in the middle of your divorce. Early on, make early recovery as simple as you can by putting into practice these common-sense suggestions. If you’re new to the divorce struggle, don’t look too far into the future. Be patient with yourself. If you consistently do the four suggestions listed above, day by day you will get stronger. Soon you can stop worrying about survival, and you can starting creating the amazing life you desire and deserve.
Below is a link to our report on Conquering the Loneliness of Divorce. Rebuilding happens in taking those small, good actions every day.