The time leading up to, during, and following the separation or divorce process can be stressful. Fighting with your partner, dealing with the end of the relationship, and confronting your life without them can exact an emotional toll. In the midst of all this, it is important for your mental health and general well-being that you take the time to take care of yourself. Below are some tips on how to practice good self-care throughout the separation and divorce process.
Take Care of Your Body
With all the emotional chaos a separation or divorce can bring, it is tempting to put basic physical needs aside. However, taking the time to look after your body can have positive impacts on your mental and emotional well-being. Having a consistent sleep routine of 7-9 hours per night can help you feel better rested and improve your mood. Additionally, adopting a regular exercise routine of 20-30 minutes per day, or 50-60 minutes three times a week can help produce mood-boosting hormones like endorphins and dopamine. Exercise is also great for self-esteem and confidence and can help combat feelings of worthlessness or undesirability.
A healthy diet is good for both your physical and mental health, as processed junk foods have been linked to higher instances of depression. While it may be tempting to curl up with your favourite comfort food, it may end up making you feel worse in the long run. It may also be tempting to turn to alcohol, recreational drugs, and/or prescription drugs to help take the edge off. This can lead to substance abuse or dependency, adding onto the issues you are already dealing with. Prescription drugs, including medication for treating mental illness, should be taken only as directed by your health care practitioner.
Finally, make sure that you take the time to look after your physical appearance. This may seem like common sense, but often people will neglect bathing, dental routines, hair care, and aesthetics such as make up or accessories in times of stress. Beyond maintaining normalcy, looking good helps you feel better about yourself by increasing confidence and self-esteem.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Keeping up with your regular routine is also good for maintaining normalcy, and can provide a healthy diversion from the negative emotions associated with the separation and divorce process. In addition to your regular routine, consider picking up a new hobby or volunteer activity. Not only does this help maintain your emotional stability, but it can also allow you to improve yourself and foster new relationships. You may also want to consider participating in activities that you enjoy but your partner did not. This can help you reconnect with yourself as an individual, rather than as part of a relationship. This reconnection can also extend to your career, where volunteering for new projects, going the extra mile, and taking on more responsibility can provide a sense of satisfaction and purpose.
Meditation, mindfulness techniques, and journaling your emotions and experiences can help with reducing stress. Writing something in a journal that you are grateful for, or looking forward to, each day can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life and remind you that things will get better. It is also important to acknowledge the emotional hardship you are going through. Scheduling 15-20 minutes every so often to wallow or dwell on negative emotions can help you come to terms with the loss of your relationship, and may provide you with a sense of control over your emotions and potential depressive symptoms.
You should also practice self-compassion and cut yourself some slack. Relationships can fail, and no one is necessarily to blame. Don’t concern yourself with arbitrary timelines of when you are supposed to “get over it” or that you are not moving on quick enough. Forgiving yourself and your partner, and moving on from your relationship together, will take time.
If you can, take the time to seek out and speak to a licensed mental health professional like a therapist or counsellor. While individual self-care can go a long way to improving your mental health and well-being, it is not uncommon to find the process of separation and divorce overwhelming. A licensed mental health professional can help you sort through your emotions, guide you through the process, and provide tailored strategies and self-care routines. Recognizing when you need help takes courage and is nothing to be ashamed of.
Take Care of Your Relationships
It is also important to reach out to your support network of friends and family for help. These relationships, possibly neglected when with your partner, can provide you with compassion and understanding when you need it most. While there is much you can do to work on your mental health individually, people are social creatures. Social interaction has positive benefits for mental health and can help remind you that your life as an individual is filled with meaningful platonic relationships.
Remember that mutual friends may feel torn, have divided loyalties, or have “sided” with your partner. This is not unusual and is to be expected. Consider that any discussions you may have with mutual friends may eventually get back to your partner and govern yourself accordingly. While these friendships are valuable, they are not worth sacrificing your mental health to one-up your partner. If a mutual friend is evasive, non-responsive, or even hostile, it may be time to put yourself first and let that relationship go.
Ultimately, self-care is an individualistic exercise. You will know what best works for you and what doesn’t. Remember that seeking out help from a professional is an option. Taking the time to ensure your mental health and well-being during the separation and divorce process may allow you to come out stronger and better for it.