By Dr. Ann Gatty, Ph.D. This article first appeared on GalTime.com
No one has to tell you that going through a divorce can cause stress. Coping with it can be one of the most difficult life transitions that people experience. You wake up one morning and find that you are suddenly single and stressed.
When I divorced my spouse, I had to deal with the disruption and restructuring of my day-to-day living arrangements and develop a cohesive transition for my children. I also knew that in order to develop a sense of self-esteem and dodge the feeling of overwhelming stress, I needed to establish a new identity as an individual -- not a partner in a couple relationship. It is easy to become overwhelmed, stressed, depressed and angry during the divorce. Here are three strategies I used to help me successfully navigate the transition.
1. Stop the blame game
Yes, bad things happen to good people! We all know this. But if you suddenly find yourself picking up the remnants of a broken relationship, the last thing you need to do is start the blame game. No woulda, shoulda’s or coulda’s can change the situation. We are subject to our own flawed human traits and, yes, a relationship that fails is caused by a lot of different reasons. Learn and move on.
If you are a newly single mom like I was, there is a greater reason for avoiding the blame game. The children are watching how you handle the situation, and you need to show them that you can stay positive and move through the transition without remaining angry and stressed. The more I projected a healthy perspective and developed a comfortable daily routine for my family, the better my kids reacted.
2. Get creative
Why not use this transition to create a newly minted chapter in your life? I took the time to stop and reassess my strengths that I could use to create a satisfying and productive new chapter. There is no one magic formula for raising your kids, so by emphasizing our strengths, we can create a strategy that will be successful for everyone, including the kids. It is important to be creative and resourceful.
I decided to incorporate strategies that allowed my children to participate in creating a comfortable home life. For example, what family chores could they take on that would allow them to contribute to the new lifestyle? We reconfigured the household management chores formerly shared by two adults so that I was not overwhelmed as the single adult, and the children could gain a sense of contributing.
At the same time, I made certain that I established good time management skills so that I was not taking on more responsibilities than I could handle. I built in some private “me time” so that I could recharge my batteries at the end of the day. With effective time management skills, I planned my week so that healthy meals could be prepared that we could share together.
3. Network, network, network
When we end a relationship, it is common to focus on the loss. You have lost a partner, and if left unchecked, you may begin to focus on your own loneliness and your diminished family. At this fragile time of transition, you need to network with friends and establish or re-establish friendships from the past. Healthy networking is important during this time.
When dealing with the emotional strains of a divorce, it is not unusual to want to become isolated. But relationships matter and becoming suddenly single does not mean you have to go through life alone. Going through a divorce can tear down even the strongest self-esteem.
Feelings of failure and depression need to be replaced with feelings of optimism and enthusiasm. Sharing with a strong support network helps keep the negative stress, anxiety and depression emotions in check. Building a support network helps provide an outlet for needed advice when raising kids. Talking things over with like-minded supportive friends helps a lot.
Ann Gatty, Ph,D., coaches individuals in stress management strategies and building life transitions to balance personal and professional goals. Visit her website, stress-management-4-women.com to learn more about stress management tools, stress reducing tips, and information to help women, moms and teens effectively manage their daily stressors so that they can reach their full potential in their personal and professional lives.
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