Disco diva Gloria Gaynor said it best, "At first I was afraid, I was petrified..." Whether you've chosen divorce or divorce has chosen you, don't worry: you will survive. That said, walking into this new phase of your life can feel like following a dimly lit Yellow Brick Road through the Haunted Forest. For your (mental) safety and (emotional) wellbeing, take these self-care tips with you.
1. No One Is Prepared for Divorce
Divorce is a complicated process, legally and emotionally. If you feel lost, confused, intimidated or uninformed, consider this: it's not about you; it's about divorce. No one feels prepared for divorce. Well, except maybe divorce lawyers and therapists who work with divorcing couples. Or maybe a divorce lawyer who is a therapist who works with divorcing couples? No, probably not even them.
Fortunately, you'll find plenty of useful advice and helpful information readily available in your local community and on the Internet. But before you dive headlong into the vortex of other people's advice, ask yourself, "What's my first step?" Don't worry about what other people say you should do first, but figure out what your own deep, intuitive, knowing voice tell you to do? Whatever it is, take that step, trusting that your first true step will lead you to your next true step, and so on, all along the way.
2. Take Care of Your Body
This may sound ridiculously obvious, but at times of great stress people tend to ignore their most basic needs: healthy food, regular exercise, decent sleep. Your physical wellbeing lays the foundation for your mental and emotional wellbeing. So make good choices for yourself in the coming days and months.
In other words, no, chocolate chip cookie dough isn't an acceptable dinner option. No, lifting that case of merlot out of your car does not count as weight training. Yes, that adrenaline-fueled rush to the 24-hour tattoo parlor may seem like a good idea at the time, but take a moment to ask yourself if you really need that "Born to Be Wild" banner inked on your bum. Hint: Probably not - at least not at 3 a.m.
3. You Have Everything You Need
Divorce brings with it many kinds of loss: loss of a marriage, a home, a lifestyle, a dream. Divorce also brings heaping doses of uncertainty about the future, finances, living arrangements and child custody. That one-two punch of loss and uncertainty can stir up a lot of anxiety. When fear gets a grip on you, tell yourself, "I have everything I need." Say it over and over again, until you believe it. Because it's true - you may not have everything you want right now; but if you really think about it, you probably do have everything you need.
4. You Don't Have to Explain
If you've started telling people about your divorce, then you've probably been asked, "Why?" Be warned: generally, people who ask "Why?" or "What happened?" are not asking these questions for your benefit; they are asking to quench their own thirst for information. Maybe they have fears about their marriages, and they want to compare their notes to yours. Maybe they're looking for information so they can cast judgment or choose sides. Or maybe they're drama-hungry gossips who want first shot at all the gritty details. No matter their motivations for asking, you don't have to explain. If it feels good, go ahead and share your story. If it doesn't, a simple "You know, these things are always complicated," should do the trick.
5. Find Your Tribe
No one gets through divorce alone. Sure, you might hire a lawyer or connect with a skilled therapist to help you through, but odds are you'll need a bigger tribe than that. Who in your family or community really understands you? Who's a good listener? Who has gone through a divorce with dignity, integrity, honesty and smarts? Who's most likely to make you laugh so hard you snort coffee out your nose? You're going to need all of them. As for those people who responded to your divorce announcement with a wide-eyed "Why?!" while off-gassing lethal doses of fear? You don't need them. The people who said, "I am so sorry to hear that. How can I help?"--those are your people, and they're waiting for your call.
6. You Can Do Anything for 10 Minutes
Did you see that episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Where Kimmy, the ridiculously perky (seriously, she makes Pollyanna look like a malcontent) main character explains how she stayed happy while trapped in a bunker for years? She told herself again and again and again, "I can do anything for 10 minutes!" So can you. The divorce process, both legal and emotional, can last a long, long while. Fortunately, you live it only one minute at a time. When you feel overwhelmed by the big picture, try to focus on what's happening right now, in this moment. Tell yourself, "I can do anything for one minute." And remember, there's an end to all this divorce crap. There's an "after." You'll get out, eventually. Promise. Just like Kimmy did.