How To Make Self-Care A Priority When Filing For Divorce

Updated February 03, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

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In the past, it was widely known that approximately 1/2 of marriages ended in divorce or permanent separation. Evidence suggests that this number is getting closer to 1/3 now, but divorce is still common even though this is an improvement. If you're going through a divorce now, you might be experiencing a lot of negative feelings, including things like anger, hurt, sadness, and stress.

Getting a divorce can take months. The process can be financially and emotionally draining. During times like these, it can be easy to let your self-care routine slip. When your life is in turmoil, taking the time to do little things for yourself might not seem as important, but it's during these times that sticking to a self-care regimen is especially important.

What Is Self-Care?

For those of you who haven't jumped on the self-care bandwagon yet or just never understood the concept, self-care is what it says. Anything you do to take care of yourself is self-care, from your yearly checkup with the doctor to making time for things that make you happy, like a manicure or a day at the golf course.

One study by Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., &Biegel, G.M. (2007) showed that participants receiving the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction approach to self-care "reported significant declines in stress, negative affect, rumination, state and trait anxiety, and significant increases in positive affect and self-compassion." Self-care has been studied and proven to help people in professions where work-related stress is common, as therapists and nurses.

Self-care can help reduce the negative effects of continued stress while on the job - or going through a divorce.

How To Make Self-Care A Priority When Filing For Divorce

1. Go To Counseling

Going to counseling, either as a couple or by yourself, is a great way to take care of your mental wellbeing during a divorce.

You might be thinking, "Why on earth would I go to counseling with someone who I'm divorcing?!" At this point, you've already called it quits, so what's the point, right? In many cases, this might be true if you have nothing left to say to each other. However, in many cases, couples getting divorced might still have feelings for each other, things left unsaid, or things to work out. There might be kids involved, in which case going to therapy can help couples work through their problems so they can effectively co-parent.

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Of course, therapy with your ex probably doesn't bring up the stress-free image that many associates with self-care. Individual therapy is another alternative that can be very helpful when going through a divorce and doesn't involve seeing your ex. A counselor, online or in-person, can guide you as you cope with your divorce by encouraging you to talk about things that are bothering you. A counselor can also help you learn to deal with your emotions healthily and start to move forward.

If the thought of going to counseling in-person is intimidating to you or you feel like counseling might be out of your budget, online options are a great new choice that has become available in the last few years. Services like ReGain are convenient, discreet, and affordable for people going through marriage and relationship issues to get support from a licensed therapist.

2. Set Boundaries

Yes, setting boundaries can be considered part of self-care. If you're going through a messy divorce, the last thing you want is your ex-showing up out of the blue to start an argument. Setting healthy boundaries and being firm about them can help keep things civil throughout the divorce process and give you some peace of mind.

Here are some examples of potential boundaries that you could set with your ex when filing for divorce:

  • Please don't call or text unless it's an emergency
  • Not coming over unannounced - need to call first and needs to be a good reason
  • No verbal abuse in conversations with each other

These are just a few examples of clear boundaries that you can set while going through a divorce. Your relationship is over, which means that you don't have to put up with things that make you uncomfortable, upset, or unhappy. If your ex refuses to follow your boundaries, it can be considered harassment.

Setting boundaries is self-care because you aren't going to allow your health and happiness to be compromised by another person. Taking action like this can be empowering and help you avoid going through unnecessary stress during the divorce process.

3. Exercise Or Meditate

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If you're dealing with chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, it's important to get proper treatment, but there are also things that you can do weekly or daily to prioritize your health and self-care. When you're dealing with a divorce's stress, regular exercise and meditation can make a big difference. Moving your body - even for short periods of time - can help boost your mood and energy when you're feeling low or anxious.

It's no secret that exercise is good for us and a great way of taking care of ourselves, plus it can be fun! A review of the literature by Penedo, F.J.&Dahn, J.R. (2005)found that "randomized clinical trials of physical activity interventions show better health outcomes, including better general and health-related quality of life, better functional capacity and better mood states." If you exercised before your divorce, these are important reasons to keep it up. If not, now is as good a time as any to start.

There are many different exercises that you can try, and they don't need to be expensive or time-consuming. You could:

  • Go for a walk or run
  • Ride a bicycle or rollerblade
  • Get a gym membership
  • Look for yoga or exercise videos on YouTube that you can do at home

Another great tool that you can use to get through a stressful divorce is meditation or mindfulness. Meditation is all about being grounded and in the present moment. This means being aware of how you feel and what is going on around you, but not reacting to it or making judgments. Most meditation isn't about clearing your head completely or blocking out thoughts. The purpose of meditation is to learn to allow thoughts to come and go without giving in to them.

If you find yourself having intruding thoughts about your divorce that get you overthinking and keep you up at night, meditation can probably help, but it takes time and practice. Research into meditation has shown that it can ease anxiety and depression symptoms, help with insomnia, and promote healthy behaviors.

There are many resources out there that can help you learn to meditate if you're a beginner. A few good places to start are:

Starting a meditation practice can seem confusing or intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. It can be as simple as sitting still for ten minutes a day and paying attention to your breath. Meditation can help ease stress during a divorce and even give you a renewed sense of calm and focus.

4. Call (Or Text) A Friend

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When you're getting a divorce, it can be easy to isolate yourself. You may feel like people don't understand what you're going through or, worse, that they're talking behind your back. If you're the type of person who enjoys being around people, this can be hard. Social support is an important part of getting through stressful situations in life, so it's important not to alienate people or allow yourself to feel too alienated.

Don't be afraid to call a friend or family member you trust if you feel like you need to talk to someone. Instead of staying inside all day thinking about how your marriage is ending and worrying about the future outcome, make plans to spend time with people who make you happy. Make a point of doing something fun to forget about your worries every once in a while.

5. Don't Forget "Boring" Self-Care

Self-care gets a lot of hype these days but engaging in regular self-care doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Basic things like taking a shower, preparing healthy meals, and making sure you get a good night's sleep are all ways that you can take care of yourself every day. These things might get looked over often, but they're some of the most important elements of self-care.

Think about it. If you're letting go of taking basic care of yourself when filing for divorce because you're stressed, busy, or depressed, how will things get better? Not taking care of yourself, being unnourished, tired, and a mess is going to make you feel worse. If you get into a routine, sleep well, and eat healthily, you'll start to feel better about yourself, which can jump-start the healing process.

Conclusion

Nobody gets married hoping that they're going to get divorced someday. Dealing with the realities of divorce is hard - filing, going to court and deciding who will get what. That's why you mustn't forget to make self-care a priority when you're filing for divorce. It takes just a little time each day to do basic things to take care of yourself physically and mentally. You will notice the benefits.

Don't let the stress of your divorce take a toll on your health and happiness. Be ready to do what it takes to get through this time, whether that's going to counseling, setting boundaries, exercising, meditating, hanging out with friends, or taking a shower. If you do these things regularly, your divorce will be over before you know it, and you'll come out on the other side a stronger person who knows how to take great care of themselves.


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