If you are experiencing the severe emotional trauma of separating and divorcing, your feelings about yourself are awful. You are feeling the effects of being on the emotional roller-coaster constantly. You do have some good moments, some feelings of relief, but these are quickly followed by hollow, grief-stricken and intensely angry and sad feelings. Your feelings are partly about your soon-to-be-ex and largely about yourself. Your almost-ex may have said and done things that contribute greatly to your awful feelings about yourself; you too, may have done and said things that result in really poor self esteem.
You know all of this, your question is: Ok, ok already, what can I do about it?
Many people try to connect with the self they remember from before the relationship began, or from better times within the relationship. There is certainly nothing wrong with tuning in to those parts of yourself, to see if they are still active, or want to be active. However, you are a newer person now, you’ve grown and changed – we all do, all the time! So the real question is: What do I want now?
You will want some time to yourself, which is a necessity during such painful episodes. But, you ask, what do I do during those times? Do I overeat, watch hours of TV, talk endlessly on the phone (or texting) with friends? Do I sleep too much or too little? Doing these things in a high-quality, pampering, loving way is a huge help; overdoing them means falling into addictive behavior patterns and gets self-destructive, meaning helping yourself feel worse.
It’s not easy to distinguish between overdoing and what is healthy. Simply being aware of the difference will help you to evaluate what’s good for you and what isn’t. When you find that you’ve overdone it, just recognize it and see what you know about when it would have been good to shift into something else. Then promise yourself that you’ll remember this valuable information and use it in the future. Keep learning what works for you and gradually you’ll keep feeling better!
If you have trouble being kind to yourself and encouraging yourself to do positive, fun activities – ask yourself why? If you listen, you’ll hear your own harsh inner judge, being pretty mean and judgmental, hyper-critical of your own self. Guess what – we all do it! We all tend to say we are “stupid” or “lazy” or other equally unreasonable, harsh epithets.
Awareness is everything! You will certainly find that you will be intensely self-critical when you feel that you’ve overdone a self-care activity. Simply notice the criticism. Step back and ask yourself if that is helpful. Ask yourself if you would say that to a good friend, or even think it – you would never! Treat yourself the same way. This takes a lot of repetition in order to begin to react differently.
You will also want to do things with friends, family, neighbors or new people you don’t know yet. This can be very iffy, as you can’t predict what your mood will be. Start off with really good friends, they will understand your moods. They will support you, talk with you, distract you and compliment you. If they aren’t doing these things, you are discovering they aren’t the friends you thought they were. Surprisingly, other friends will simply appear; these are people you have known but haven’t been close with before. They might also be people who just show up!
One of the keys is ALLOWING yourself to engage in really helpful, healthy, fun, nourishing activities, even when it looks like you’re doing very little. Staying home is ok, going out by yourself is ok, getting together with friends is ok, taking a class is ok, doing something totally new is ok too – you get the idea – tons of ways of treating yourself well are more than ok.
Meditating is another very helpful, soothing way to find more of your true, good self. Tons of research has shown incredible positive effects of meditation. Just google it and see what speaks to you, there are many types of meditation practices. You may also want to explore your own spirituality, whatever brand appeals to you.
Begin to believe in yourself, follow your own path, become more of who you really are; eventually I hope you find that your divorce brings you gifts you never expected – growth and expansion of your relationship with YOU.