Most people understand divorce is one of the most stressful events a person can experience, and that it can be one of the most significant financial transactions that one engages in during their lifetime (thus, the stress). If there are children involved, the stress is compounded exponentially.
What is often overlooked, however, are the less apparent, but residual effects divorce can have on one’s well-being. For example, a high-functioning manager or executive may need to expend more energy being as efficient or productive at his or her job during a contested divorce given the amount of demands that he or she will have juggling work responsibilities and the divorce process. Even in an amicable divorce where dispute resolution models are implemented, the parties will experience higher levels of stress on days leading up to a mediation or collaborative meeting. And the reconfiguration of the family brings about a new holiday routine, new weekend routines, and new daily routines – all life disruptors.
The flight attendant instruction we all hear prior to take-off: “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others” is good advice for anyone going through a divorce. We all know the reason you have to put on your own mask first is because if you are not receiving your own oxygen you will not be able to help others. But in practicality, adults often put everyone else first and take care of themselves with whatever little time and resources they have left over. Staying healthy during a divorce will serve you well physically, mentally, and emotionally as you transition into your new life.
1. Lean on your support network. Asking for help is hard for many individuals. But learning to seek help when needed and accept assistance when offered can greatly reduce stress. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness (let’s say that again a couple of times), but is simply being human. If you ask a family member to help watch your children because you have to attend to something at work, that does not make you a bad parent. In fact, you are more likely to be present with your children when you are home if you are not constantly checking your phone monitoring your work-related situation.
2. Be present with your children. We hear a lot about “being present” and making “intentional” choices. These principles are key with your children both during and after the divorce. Parents spend thousands of dollars every year paying attorneys to “get them” as much parenting time as possible with their children. But that is not money well spent if you and your children are on your screens for the majority of your parenting time. Consider implementing a routine “no-screen time” for your family so you can truly focus, listen to, and interact with them. Participating in fun activities rather than watching movies or playing video games is also a great way to naturally engage in meaningful conversations with your children.
3. Rely on your experts. Presumably you are paying your attorney thousands of dollars to navigate you through your divorce. You may also have an accountant, therapist, child-specialist, financial planner, or other professional assisting you. These professionals deal with divorce on a daily basis and should be your first go-to when an issue crops up. While family members and friends are a wonderful personal resource and an excellent outlet to vent to, they are not divorce professionals. Well-intentioned friends can be much more useful as a supportive shoulder than a financial planner or divorce attorney.
4. Develop a well-being routine. Remember the flight attendant quote about putting on your oxygen mask first? That directly applies to your own well-being routine during a divorce. You will be much better positioned to deal with complex decisions if you are well-rested and not sleep deprived. Also watching what food and drinks you consume and when you consume them will provide insight into when you are feeling stress and how you are coping. Staying hydrated and exercising on a regular basis will also combat the effects of stress that you are dealing with and has added general health benefits.
5. Consume information with care. We are in the age of constantly being bombarded with “breaking” news. Social media has compounded our exposure to these items by having this at our fingertips 24 hours per day. It is important to watch what you consume both digitally and via television and how it affects you. If your digital consumption is indirectly causing you stress, consider limiting it to first thing in the morning – and then go about your day and focus on your life, your work, and your children!