Self care during separation and divorce is what I emphasize first to anyone who comes to Midlife Divorce Recovery for help. There is never a time when we should be focused on taking care of ourselves more than when we are going through divorce. The divorce process is exhausting and overwhelming.

The mental and emotional stress during divorce and the time leading up to that decision causes a level of physical stress, social stress and even spiritual stress that can be debilitating. People often tell us that the loneliness, change, isolation, fear, anger, and sadness have either created a physical paralysis or has sent them to their doctor or to the hospital with various physical complaints.

During my own divorce journey, I ended up in the E.R. thinking I was having a heart attack. I googled my symptoms, and down at the bottom of the page, there were big red letters that said “GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY.” So, I did. 

I later discovered something called “Broken Heart Syndrome,” an emotional tsunami that often causes physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack. 

Most of us don’t plan on divorce. In fact, most of us start our marriage with the idea of staying together through thick and thin, good times and bad, sickness and health until we die. Some marriages roll toward divorce for a long time, but many divorces happen unexpectedly and without any warning at all. Either way, when divorce happens, we are trying to adjust to so many life changes so fast that the stress goes through the roof! 

Divorce causes many major life changes, any one of which can cause overwhelming stress. When you add to the loss of your life partner, financial hardship, loneliness, children’s issues, moving and so many other changes, our minds and our bodies often rebel.

Emotional Self Care

Learning to get control of our emotions is one of our most important divorce self care jobs. Out of control rage or despair or anxiety or fear can cause us to do things that are not good for us. So emotional self care during separation and divorce is mandatory, not an option.

Be Compassionate To Yourself

First of all, we must understand that all of those emotions we are feeling during and after divorce are normal. Often divorcing people talk of the “roller-coaster” of emotions from one day to the next … or one minute to the next! One minute we’re infuriated about the lies and the deception. The next minute we are sobbing and want to run back into their arms. These erratic and intense emotions are very hard on our physical self. 

So just take a deep breath and remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself and use the self care divorce strategies below. You won’t feel this disoriented and this awful forever.

Meditation

Many people going through divorce practice some sort of meditation or spiritually focused time during divorce. Simply getting comfortable, closing our eyes and taking several deep cleansing breaths can center us and cause our emotions to calm down and our minds to stop racing.

Sometimes, when I felt out of control emotionally, I would get out my fly box of fishing flies and “take myself fishing” to my favorite fishing spot in Wyoming. I would get totally into feeling the cool mountain air, envisioning the sparkle of the water on the lake, breathing in the smell of the pines. In my mind, I would choose one of my favorite flies and put it carefully on my line and see myself casting way out into the lake and reeling it in and even feeling the tug on my line when a little brook trout would take my fly.

Learn to take yourself to your favorite nature spot and practice divorce self care in your mind. Nature calms our spirit. Often in a quiet meditation moment I created for myself, I would pray very specifically for someone I love. I would mentally picture them. Be thankful for them. Think of ways to encourage them.

These kinds of mini mental retreats can mean the difference of having a racing heart and high blood pressure or nurturing ourselves into a better emotional place.

Social Interaction

During separation and divorce, loneliness and isolation are two of the most difficult issues to deal with. In midlife divorce especially, our children may be gone to college or already off on their own, and we may be living alone for the first time in our life like I was. Loneliness is almost always listed as one of the top three most difficult things about divorce or separation.

An important kind of self care during divorce is to connect with others. We can either connect with someone we care about and who cares about us, or we can connect with a total stranger. 

Some of the best ways to connect are simple: 

  • Be friendly to a neighbor out walking or to someone at the grocery store. 
  • Thank a veteran or a first responder.
  • Call a friend. Text one of your children or grandchildren.
  • Send someone we care about a card, a goodie box or flowers. 

One of the most important parts of our MasterPlan is being able to be a part of our MDRcommunity that is made up of women from all over the world who are also going through divorce. They “get” how our heart is feeling. Everyone is trying to help everyone else keep moving forward as well. It’s a special tribe of encouragers. 

It’s an amazing group and no one even knows our real name or any contact information and the Conversation room is open 24/7, 365 days of the year. The Community is a welcoming place of comfort, support and inspiration. And, when we share our wisdom and encouragement, we get better, too. 

Our new Men’s Divorce Recovery Academy has a Community Forum, too.

Journaling

Some people find journaling through art or writing is cathartic and helps us sort out things we’re feeling and thinking. I journaled a lot when I was going through divorce. It helps us get our thoughts and emotions “out there” so we can deal with them more easily.

In the MasterPlan, we encourage members to do a “Live My Vision” poster to envision what they want their new life to look like. I am totally amazed at how many things on the Vision Boards actually come true in incredible and very specific ways! Try it. Maybe that can happen to you, too.

Physical Self Care

Doing good things for your physical self during divorce almost always causes good things to happen emotionally and socially and even spiritually too. Our emotions usually follow our physical actions. 

Hygiene

The problem with hygiene is that especially during the early stages of divorce or separation, we are usually in a fog. We forget to brush our teeth. I remember a day when I thought to myself in the car, did I even really look at myself in the mirror to see if I looked okay?

Following a hygiene regimen during divorce is important. You’ll be less likely to forget something!

Exercise

When you want to feel better emotionally, use your body like you want to feel. Shoulders back! Head up! Smile! Stride instead of shuffling along and you’ll feel better! Just getting outside and walking around the block helps. The better you feel physically, the better you look and the better you look, the better you feel. It’s a big circle of getting stronger. 

There are so many ways to exercise no matter where you are. No equipment needed. You can use plastic bottles of liquid as well as store-bought barbells. Practice balance exercises. There are all kinds of online fitness programs you can do like Zumba, Yoga, Planks, Fun Dance workouts, Weights. Find something that fits your fancy and DO IT at least 5 days a week! Use caution and talk to your doctor if you’re worried about anything. I guarantee that getting healthier and more fit is some of the best after divorce self care you can do. 

Nutrition & Diet

Another really important part of your self care during separation and divorce is improving your eating habits. As part of our MasterPlan, we encourage you to go to your pantry and get rid of all of your “Nasty Trashy Blubber Food” (you know what they are!) and replace them with “Healthy RADiCAL Warrior Woman Food.” Eat mostly a rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, lean protein and other healthy food. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you make this switch. Snack during the day if you can’t face a whole meal. Don’t eat to try to ease the pain. It doesn’t work in the long run.

Drink plenty of healthy clear liquids. Mainly water. If you’re drinking fruit juices, dilute them by at least half. They have too much sugar! Be very careful with alcohol when you’re practicing good self care during and after divorce. Don’t drink alone. Alcohol is a depressant. In moderation it can be okay, but it’s easy for alcohol to become a crutch and actually put a roadblock on your divorce recovery journey.

Sleep

Anyone who is trying to practice self care during separation and divorce knows that sleep is often illusive. We are overwhelmed with so much divorce stuff that as soon as our head hits the pillow, our mind usually starts racing. One of our MasterPlan self-care experts, Karen Rowinsky, gives us some tools about sleep in her interview on “Choosing to Change” (#9).

 “About six or seven in the evening set aside about 15 minutes for your mind to mull over and consider all the stuff that is making you anxious. Then, go about the rest of your evening. Take a walk. Watch a tv show. Read to one of your kids. Then, when your mind starts racing at bedtime, tell your disruptive thoughts to ‘Go away! I gave you time earlier, and I’ll give you time again tomorrow, but now is my sleep time!’ Then take your thoughts somewhere else.” This takes practice, but it works!

Sometimes, people going through divorce, instead of needing an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, simply need a little help going to sleep. There are “sleepy-time” teas and other natural helps. Try those. Don’t drink coffee or caffeinated drinks after noon. No screen time an hour before bed.

Create A Routine

Often when we are going through separation and divorce, our whole life is turned upside-down and inside-out. Everything we thought was solid ground is gone. That often throws any kind of normal routine or schedule out the window. When people come to us for help, we often start with the basics of getting our feet on the floor every day and doing the things we need to do to have a productive, constructive day instead of just wanting to just stay in bed all day!

For a whole year of self care after divorce tips and tools, check out our MasterPlan divorce recovery program.