Self-care during and after divorce is tough.
Most people’s first reaction to learning you are getting divorced is, “I’m sorry to hear that”.
Most people’s second reaction is “Take care of yourself.” Voiced of course in an upbeat yet somehow depressing tone with the ever-present head-tilt. (Kari is right… it’s a real thing. Please, please help a sister out – don’t head-tilt!)
If I had a fiver for every time one of those two phrases has been said to me during or since my divorce, I could have paid for my divorce. Seriously.
My therapist says “Take care of yourself” to me. The random lady in the restroom (who I saw in the mandatory divorce parenting class) says it to me. The Uber driver taking me to my first crappy appointment with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst says it to me. My mother says it to me. The receptionist at my son’s Tae Kwon Do school says it to me.
Everyone says it!
But what really gets my goat is that no one ever tells you how to “take care of yourself”! What the hell does that mean? Eat ice cream all day? Drink a bottle of wine?
Oo, oo how about sharing the excruciating details of the worst part of your life on the internet??
Bingo! I think I shall go with the last option. (You’re welcome.)
In all seriousness though, this phrase is a terrible one. It means different things to different people. Everything from getting sleep, to exercise, to drinking wine. During my journey, I have found ten specific self-care actions I did to “take care” of myself.
If you want to truly be helpful to a person going through a divorce, death, or other serious life change, share one of these specific self-care actions instead of saying “Take care of yourself.”
1) Shower everyday
This may seem obvious, but trust me, during the first couple of months post-divorce decision – it isn’t. Every day you need to get up, shower, and get dressed. And when I say “get dressed”, I mean in jeans or dress slacks with hair and face done. This is big people. Sweatpants, yoga pants, lounge pants are. not. allowed. If you have to go into an office or other employment during the week then apply this action on the weekend. I list this action as number one for self-care for a reason. Do it!
2 ) Cut out alcohol and reduce caffeine
Both of these wonderful drugs are great used in moderation when your life is going well. However, when your life is in the shitter – don’t do it. These two drugs will amplify the emotional highs and lows of what you are going through, making the journey that much worse. Sure you can drown your sorrows and numb the pain temporarily but the after effects are no fun.
Speaking of after effects…
3) Get plenty of sleep – use drugs if you have to
Sleep is extremely critical for self-care during tough emotional times. It’s how we humans reset and rest allowing us to manage stress better. Both alcohol and too much caffeine impact your sleep negatively. (Google it if you don’t believe me.) You need as much good quality sleep as you can get.
The anxiety felt during tough life events may prevent you from sleeping entirely or getting good quality sleep. If that is the case, I would recommend using melatonin as a drug to help you safely get rest. Melatonin was my BFF for several weeks.
4) Talk to people and be real when you do
Find a good friend, reach out to local support groups, find a therapist, or seek religious connections and talk to people. When you talk, talk with raw honesty about how you are feeling and the things weighing you down.
Honest connection with others and help with emotional healing are found when we share our vulnerabilities with others. Brene Brown has an excellent TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. I have deepened several friendships and made some amazing new ones during this fucked up time by being vulnerable.
This is not the time to be all “I don’t want to burden them with my problems” or thinking that you always have to be perfect. Which leads us to….
5) Get off personal social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.)
Personal social media channels are a terrible place to hang out when your life sucks. I’m going to make a bold statement here and say that the vast majority of personal social media is just a way to electronically brag. Constantly seeing other people’s highlight reels of their “amazing” lives while yours is a shit hole will not make you feel better. Get off personal social media sites!
6) Go outside
Many studies have shown the “sunshine vitamin” is a powerful way to boost your mood and ward off depression. Sun has many health benefits. To get the most benefit, it is recommended you get 10-15 minutes of sun each day. Let’s be real – you need every bit of a mood boost you can find when going through a divorce. Go outside, peeps.
(If for some crazy reason you physically can’t go outside, take some vitamin D supplements. On that note, take a general daily vitamin too; odds are high you aren’t eating well during a divorce.)
Yes, I know, I know, this is a “duh” action. However, it’s important for your physical health and mood. Do at least 20 minutes of exercise each day.
Sunshine Tip: Exercise outside to get your sun at the same time.
8) Engage in “comfort” activities and food
Think back to your childhood (or other good memories without your soon-to-be-ex-spouse), what activities did you do and what food did you eat?
Did you play board games or watch certain movies? Listen to a specific type of music? Does brand name macaroni and cheese remind you of your grandparents? How about certain foods eaten during family holiday gatherings?
Seek out and engage in the activities and eat the food that reminds you of good memories. Sure life is no bowl of cherries right now, but it wasn’t always terrible and it will be good again. Engage in actions that remind you of good times. If you can’t physically do something, try pulling out photos and walking down a happy memory lane that way.
9) Write “it” down
Whatever “it” is, write it down! You need to get all the crap floating around in your head out! Life will seem way more overwhelming and awful when “it” just spins around and around in your head.
“It” may be lists of things you need to do related to the divorce or life. “It” may be feelings you are having. “It” may be stuff that is happening at work that adds to the emotional upheaval. Regardless of what “it” is, make it more manageable and less scary by writing it down somewhere, anywhere.
Weren’t expecting that one, were you?? While this one will definitely make me turn red if I know you, I’m going to say it anyway:
The benefits of orgasms include better moods, higher immunity to illness, increased social actions, decreased pain. And let’s be honest orgasms just feel good – and that’s what all ten self-care actions are about – feeling awesome despite the crap happening in life.
There you have it. Instead of telling someone “take care of yourself”, share one of these specific self-care actions.
Even better, be a true friend. Physically show up and talk about real shit with someone going through tough times.