In my Facebook Group, “Women Finding P.E.A.C.E. in the Pieces of Divorce, Separation, and Break-up,” there have been conversations about losing yourself in a marriage and not knowing who you are anymore. Many people resonated with this idea. The question came up: How do you even START to go about finding yourself after being lost for so long?
It’s a valid question, and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit.
In the fall-out of losing my job, I remember looking at myself and thinking, “Who ARE you? I don’t even recognize you anymore!!” It was an odd feeling, but here are the things I did to find my way back.
First of all, it’s important to set aside regular time each day or week for YOU. Turn off the phone and other electronics, set aside distractions, have somebody else watch the kids, etc. This time is for you. For many of my clients, this is a new concept. They have spent their whole lives nurturing others, but have neglected to set time aside for themselves. Now is a great opportunity for change. Claiming space for self-reflection and growth can be a positive change during this time of upheaval. So, what exactly do you DO during this time? Here are some ideas that worked for me:
- Designate a journal or notebook to record your feelings as you move through this difficult time. If you’ve not journaled before, now is a good time to give it a try… I’ve found it to be the best way to really connect with myself. Maybe purchase something beautiful and special as a treat for yourself and a commitment to your healing and growth.
2) Nurture yourself. Take a warm bath, schedule a massage, walk in a beautiful place, take a nap, or anything else that feels calming and soothing.
3) Set aside time each week to do an activity that feeds your soul – create art, make music, write, garden, go for a hike, dance, play a sport, make a beautiful meal, volunteer – whatever makes you feel alive. Maybe try something you’ve always wanted to do. During my divorce I took up swing dancing and that was THE BEST DECISION EVER! I got out of the house, met new people, did something fun, learned a new skill… and after about a year of doing it consistently, met my husband. During my job loss, I auditioned for a play, which was also a great decision. I made a whole bunch of new friends and found a new way to be involved in my community.
4) Find a source of spiritual nourishment that genuinely feeds your soul. This could be a traditional religious setting, a spiritual community, uplifting books you read on your own, a yoga practice… anything that gives you peace, hope, and makes you feel supported and connected to the larger whole. This might also be a time to question any religious practice that leaves you feeling guilty, ashamed, or unworthy. If you go to a religious service simply because you’ve always gone, but it leaves you feeling sad and empty, it might be time to give something else a try.
5) Find a balance between alone time for processing your feelings and social support time. Connect with people you care about and reach out for help when you need it.
6) Find a way to MOVE EVERY DAY!!! You don’t have to train for an Iron Man competition, but it’s important to get your body going even if it’s just walking around the block. If there’s a sport you enjoyed as a kid, maybe find a place to try it again. If there’s a class you enjoy, make a commitment to go more often. Or just turn on music and dance around the living room. The benefits of exercise are so well documented I won’t go into them here, but one thing exercise does is release those feel-good endorphins. During this difficult time, we could all use some natural feel-goods!
7) Get plenty of rest. As a light, sensitive sleeper, this has been challenging for me at the best of times and nearly impossible during times of crisis. If you struggle with this as well, do the best you can to stay calm, as being anxious about being awake and not sleeping only intensifies the situation. Embrace the quiet of the night and use it as a time for reflection and journaling.
8) Find a way to laugh – this can be challenging during a painful divorce, but it is said that laughter is the best cure for all ailments. Set aside time each week to watch or read something funny if it is otherwise difficult to laugh. (That’s why I try to post something funny in the group from time to time. When it comes to healing laughing is Serious Business!!)
9) Keep contact with your ex as minimal as possible. If you continue to stay emotionally entangled, your healing will be compromised and your suffering more drawn out.
Most relationship and divorce experts recommend zero contact if at all possible. If you do not have children, this is your best option. If you move in the same social circles, participate in the same activities, or live near each other, you may need to make some adjustments to your routine to avoid contact for a time, but know you will heal and move on more quickly if you are able to make a clean break.
If you have children, this obviously becomes much more complicated as you will share an important responsibility for life. In this case, you will need to learn how to coexist within respectful boundaries. As you move through your own healing, you can learn how to have healthy conversations with your ex, but during the initial phase, keep contact as minimal as possible as you focus on your own recovery.
10) During a huge transition such as a divorce, your limbic system – that primitive, pre-verbal, non-logical part of your brain that controls emotions and has the job of keeping you safe – is in overdrive. In its valiant efforts to protect you, it may actually HIJACK you for a time – which is partly why we feel lost, ungrounded, and can’t do basic things like eat or sleep. Finding a way to calm, soothe, and effectively communicate with this part of the brain is the single biggest recommendation I have for healing and moving forward. When you’re in that hypervigilant, emergency, protective mode of fight-or-flight, peace, joy, and happiness can’t find you. These feel-good emotions are the OPPOSITE of fight-or-flight.
I don’t mean to be an infomercial, but if I’m answering this question, I can’t hold this important recommendation back. There are many mind-body techniques that can effectively communicate with this part of the brain. If you’re interested in learning more about this, you can start by watching the replay of my webinar “5 Steps to Move from Pain to Peace, Trauma to Transformation During Divorce,” signing up for the workshop “Tapping into PEACE,” or sending me a message for a free private call.
Hope this helps! Love and blessings all!