How to look after yourself properly during a divorce — yes, it’s THAT important
Updated: Jan 29
Going through a divorce isn’t easy.
The person you once thought you would share your life with forever will no longer be a part of your life in the same way. The relationship you had and the family unit you created together has forever changed, and in many ways broken apart.
You are likely feeling emotional, at least a little overwhelmed and somewhat anxiety-ridden about the fact that you are facing one of the most stressful life events you have ever encountered.
Whatever stage of the process you’re at right now, taking care of yourself and your family should be your first priority.
During the separation process
Let’s start by reading through the definition of the separation process in Australia. If you’re not from Australia, start by googling the separation process in your home country; the process can vary widely across the globe. For our American clients, see the American definition here.
A separation, whether formal or informal — can affect people in different ways. Without a doubt, it is a major, life-altering change for both parties. Most people say the feeling is akin with the grief of losing a loved one; you may be feeling shocked, sad, angry, and in some cases, a feeling of depressed or in denial.
Seeking out professional help can make a world of difference — from divorce coaching to other forms of professional therapy.
You may find yourself sleepless, impatient, aggrieved or irritable. You may find that you are getting sick more easily, or having trouble thinking straight, or forgetting the simplest of things. You may find yourself weeping or melodramatic. You may feel helpless or lost. You may feel the full spectrum of emotions — sometimes all at once.
Emotions during this difficult phase tend to come to us thick and fast. In the grieving and separation process, there is so many details that need your attention. Dealing with your children and your loved ones and their own expectations and demands will likely feel draining and at times completely overwhelming.
What is a Formal Separation?
Essentially, a formal separation is a legal separation that will involve the courts.
A divorce solicitor or lawyer will draw-up a separation agreement which details the different responsibilities and rights of each party. If you are considering a divorce, then a formal separation is the closest that you will get to it instantaneously in some countries, including Ireland and Australia. In these instances, you will remain legally married to one another. In other countries, such as the United States, couples can file for a divorce without first having a separation in place.
As any divorce coach will advise — the more both parties can agree on the elements of your separation beforehand, the better. Coming to a mutual agreement, rather than fighting, will make the process go much more smoothly and help to reduce the costs that are associated with separation and divorce. Mediation is an option if things start to feel strained or you cannot reach an agreement on specific aspects.
The final stages of an informal separation in Australia involves the production of a contract, with that both parties need to abide by. In America, this step is often surpassed in pursuit of a Divorce Decree.
A formal separation will involve matters including, but not limited to: maintenance payments, living arrangements for the children, contact arrangements, how any property, possessions and couple’s joint money money will be split. Pay attention to what goes into your contract, because if any of these terms are breached, then they will likely be addressed during divorce proceedings.
When compared to an informal separation arrangement both in Australia and abroad, there are pros and cons to be considered. Where your Goggle search may fail to provide the answers you want, a divorce coach can help you decide which option is right for you.
For many, a formal separation arrangement provides a degree of stability and security during a highly-emotional and unstable period in one’s life. A written legal separation agreement can help to reduce the costs of a divorce in Australia and most other countries, and prevent you from having to battle through the aspects it settles in the future. It will cost more than an informal separation, but it may save you time and money down the road in divorce court. While it is possible to alter the terms of a formal separation agreement, you must get the explicit approval of your partner to do so.
What is an Informal Separation?
An informal separation is actually quite similar to a formal separation in Australia, but can vary in other countries across the globe. The most significant differences being the courts are not involved, and it is a much more cost-effective way to handle matters. However, this type of separation will only work if your relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse is still amicable. Due to the fact the courts are not involved, this option will likely place a far lower level of emotional strain on your everyday lives.
At DSC, we have a team of divorce experts with first-hand experience of the process and the emotions you are dealing with right now. Please feel free to download our courses or reach out with any questions.
How to cope with the stress of divorce.
The number one thing you need to look after in divorce is yourself – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
While this might seem like the last thing you want to do right now, the better your health, the more equipped you will be to be able to handle what is bound to be a very testing time. Invest energy into yourself and ensure that you have strength and clarity you need.
Start by making a list for self-care.
Make a list of all the things you need to make time for yourself and your wellbeing.
This might be as simple as booking in to see a professional divorce coach or simply making sure that you make it on time to a yoga class every few days just to clear your head. Perhaps you need to watch funny movies, listening to a few inspirational podcasts, or tune into a few TED talks.
Whatever is on your list for feeling better, make it a priority and schedule a time in your diary to get it done.
During this time, it’s key to nurture your health, be kind to yourself, nourish your body and keep a calm mind. You need to work toward being the healthiest version of yourself possible.
Get in a fair amount of exercise —even if you don’t want to!
Exercise is a great way to manage stress and get your endorphins flowing.
It boosts your energy, and it is proven to help you sleep better. While it will be the last thing you want to do, remember just how great you’re going to feel afterwards and get yourself to the gym.
A healthy level of exercise is a minimum of 30 minutes a day. What type of exercise you choose to do is irrelevant right now — choose whatever you want and stick to it throughout this process. You can choose walking, running, yoga, swimming — whatever. Find something that you can fit into your schedule and commit.
If the kids are at swimming lessons, jump in a lane and pull out a few laps of your own. If they’re into football, jog a few laps around the field after dropping them off for practice. Start to view exercise as your “you-time” — you may lead a busy life and have people to care for, but exercise will help you perform better in everything else that you do.
Eat healthy and mindfully.
During stressful times, appetites can either disappear completely or assert themselves with a vengeance.
No matter where you fall on the food spectrum, be sure to fill your diet with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; steer clear as much as possible from processed foods and added sugars. As hard as it may seem to focus on your diet right now, eating nutritious, whole foods will boost your mood and your energy levels. Include feel-good foods like fish and fresh fruit in your diet. Stay well hydrated to boost your brain power and try and limit your alcohol consumption as much as possible. Alcohol can heighten and dramatise negative feelings and may lead to slips in your progress.
According to the Food and Mood Centre, a better-quality of diet is closely associated with reduced depression risk. On the flip side, studies also demonstrate that unhealthy eating patterns are associated with increased depression and anxiety.
Whichever way you look at it, eating right and eating regularly are especially essential to looking after yourself during a divorce, even more so than in our day-to-day lives.
Get an adequate amount of sleep.
Sleep is a major player in health and wellbeing; it is crucial to good decision making, focus, and mental clarity — and you need all of these advantages on your list now more than ever before.
Stress can keep you awake throughout the night just as effectively as too much alcohol, sugar, or caffeine. Even if sleep seems elusive, you need to give yourself a fighting chance.
Start with simple yet subtle changes; switch off all devices before you go to bed, cut down on the alcohol and caffeine, and make sure you exercise during the day. If you need extra assistance, a very helpful tool for sleep is the Calm app.
Establish evening and morning rituals. Perhaps you’d like to try waking up and listening to something positive, such a as a podcast, or start your day with meditation or prayer. At night, a healthy tea of gentle stretch routine may be helpful; find what works for you and set a reminder on your phone to repeat your ritual before bed.
Changing the first ten minutes of your morning can positively influence your entire day.
Seek help when you know you need it.
You are not alone, no matter how it may feel. Many, many others have started right where you are, and gone on to lead happy, successful lives.
When you start to feel too overwhelmed to you, seek a divorce coach, or a therapist, or both.
During this time, it’s important to accept help, support and encouragement; whether that be from family members or professionals.
Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. Seeking support from others will help you not only cope, but start the healing process as well.
Professional divorce coaches can help you normalise where you are and how you are feeling. They can also help you know exactly what you need to do next and what moves are in your best interest. They can act as a sounding board, a guide and a confidant through one of the most difficult processes you’ll ever experience.
If you need support and don´t know where to find it, we know the best professionals.