Divorce SOS

Your life feels like it is sinking. The life so familiar to you is drowning. The storm seems endless, and it feels as though there is no end in sight. You may find it difficult to think clearly, feeling a sense of detachment from your present life, perhaps deep-rooted thoughts of failure or shame. You may be experiencing a roller-coaster of emotions oscillating between sadness, relief, anger, or anxiety.

This article shares some strategies based on a cognitive behavioural therapy approach to ensure that you look after your well-being throughout the divorce process.

Cognitive strategies 

Normalise

Divorce can feel isolating, however with approximately 46% of all marriages in the UK ending in divorce, remind yourself that you are not alone.

Keep present-focused 

Divorce can often be a lengthy process and you may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of it all. It is understandable that you may find yourself ruminating about the past or the future. Try and keep your attention focused on the present moments in your life. You can do this by practising to gently bring your mind back to the present moment engaging with whatever it was that you were doing, before you noticed the ruminations. This will help to keep your present space, safe and comfortable.

Focus on what you can control 

At a time when everything seems to be changing in your life, life can feel uncertain. Try and keep a daily routine to help provide some structure and a sense of certainty. It can also be helpful to list all the tasks you need to undertake as part of your divorce e.g. decisions you may need to make and deadlines for any formal applications you may need to file during the divorce. You can then create a tentative timeline, to map these various tasks or to set personal timelines on decision-making. This may help to enable you to control what you can in the process and let go of what you cannot control, rather than feeling overwhelmed by trying to control everything at once.

Adjustment to your new identity

When you go through any life change, it can have profound influences on the way you see yourself. A divorce can trigger identity changes from being married to single, or parents to co-parents. Remember that as with any life change it will take time to adjust. Give yourself time to experience and settle into your new identity. It might be helpful to speak to other people who have been through a divorce about how they managed this adjustment.

Shift your perspective

At a time when it feels like everything in your life is changing, try and shift your perspective to noticing all the things in your environment that have not changed, for example, your job, family, friends. Write these down on a piece of paper and remind yourself when you feel overwhelmed.

Man writing

Strategies to manage emotional and physical well-being

Validation 

It is completely normal to experience a roller-coaster of emotions as you go through a divorce. You may notice frequent daily fluctuations of mood, particularly triggered by interactions between you and your ex-partner. It can help to stop, close your eyes and notice the emotions you are feeling.

Perhaps write down what helps you to manage that emotion, so the next time it comes up, you will know exactly what can help to manage that feeling. Sometimes you might not be able to shift the emotion, try telling yourself that the feeling will pass, it will not last forever.    

Pick your battles

Preserve your emotional capacity to focus on the matters that are important to you during your divorce. Try not to get caught up in every battle, with your ex-partner. Ask yourself what is important to address and what can you let go of. Writing a journal each day can be useful to process your emotions during the divorce process.

Self-care

It is easy to neglect your own emotional and physical health needs during a divorce. It is imperative to be kind and compassionate to yourself during this challenging time in your life. Ensure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle, by sticking to sleep routines and eating regularly with a good diet. Exercise has shown to improve mood by releasing oxytocin and natural endorphins (feel good hormones).  

Behavioural strategies 

Positive and supportive systems 

During a divorce your existing relationships may change with mutual friends or family. It is important that you maintain relationships with people who will support you through the process. Draw upon family and friends that you trust and consider non-judgemental. Keeping a few key people informed can be more helpful than drawing upon support of many people.

Where children may be involved in a divorce, you may wish to inform their teachers/child-care workers of the change to the family system, so they can help to monitor your child’s emotional well-being in school. If you are going through the legal process of a divorce, you will need a dedicated legal team representing you (unless you choose to represent yourself). It is helpful to shop around by having initial consultations with solicitors before you instruct a law firm to represent you, to ensure they have the correct expertise for your case and are the right fit for you personally.  

Be organised 

The administrative tasks of divorce can feel relentless. It may be helpful to get a folder or create a file on your computer to file all your correspondence with your ex-partner, solicitor, property valuations and Form E paperwork. This will enable you to feel more in control of the process.

Budgeting

Couples typically spend £14, 561 on legal and lifestyle costs when they divorce or separate. To prevent solicitors bills from accumulating, spend time thinking about how you will finance your divorce and set a budget on how much you can afford. Where possible, try and correspond with your ex-partner yourself to save legal costs. Keep all your invoices from divorce costs so you can continually monitor how much you are spending.

Hopefully the above strategies will give you a starting point on how to maintain your emotional well being through your divorce. If you find it difficult coping with your divorce, do consider seeking therapy. A therapist will be trained in using evidence-based psychological therapies to help alleviate the distress you are experiencing, in a supportive and confidential space. Ultimately remember that your divorce will end, one thing for certain is that it will not last forever.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London N10 & EC2R

Written by Dr Amar Bains

London N10 & EC2R

Dr Amar Bains is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist - Director of Myndtherapy and Clinical Psychologist for Nightingale Hospital, London.

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