Tips for when your divorce just keeps on throwing you curveballs
One of my clients, Rosa (not her real name) emailed me today, saying that her life feels rather like a game of Whack a Mole. Whack a mole is a children’s game in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles, which pop up randomly, back into their holes. I knew exactly what Rosa meant. Every time she thinks she’s dealt with one issue or curveball, up pops another that needs dealing with. It’s a great analogy for how it can sometimes feel when you’re in the middle of a separation or divorce. Every time a new mole raises its head, it can throw you into a spin, sending stress hormones and adrenalin flooding your body and causing your heart rate to rise, your belly to tie itself in knots and your imagination to go into overdrive.
Here are my top 3 tips for handling the curveballs that separation can throw your way.
Remember what is within your control
Often the issues are centred around your ex, and their behaviours and actions. Remind yourself of what you can and can’t control. Whilst you can control your own feelings, thoughts, actions and behaviours, you cannot control, and are not responsible for theirs. Likewise, you are responsible for your part in any communication, not theirs. When your thoughts start with “why can’t my ex just xxxx?”, remember that you can’t make them do anything.
Instead, think about your own choices.
What choice could you make that might change the situation?
What could you do differently that might lead to a different result?
Importantly, remember that your breath is always within your control. The first thing to do whenever your separation throws something up for you is to take a deep breath. Get oxygen back into the emotional part of your brain that might be telling you to run away, fight and shout, or bury your head in the sand. Notice how breathing whilst you count in for 5 and out for 8 calms your heart rate and interrupts those thoughts.
Breathing gives you time to think about how you want to feel or respond.
Shift your physical response
Have you noticed that whenever you have a strong emotional reaction to something, you feel it in your body? The mind and body are intrinsically linked, so our emotions are reflected in our physical reactions. The excitement of going on holiday might feel like a bubble of energy in your chest; the nerves before an exam may feel like a churning in the belly; the fear when you notice the arrival of an email from your ex may feel like a blockage in your throat.
Next time something happens, take a deep breath, and notice the emotion you feel and how your body responds.
Pause and ask yourself how you would describe it. If you knew what it looked like, what would you say? What colour would it be? What image might you see?
Rosa told me that her worries and fears felt like a deep dark pool at the bottom of her belly. It weighed her down, and made her feel heavy and sluggish. It sloshed and moved like oil. Together, we changed how the pool felt. Rosa added some light, and made the water shallower, less oily. She also gave it a name - her “Worry Pool”, and she imagined herself diving in. The pool didn’t disappear, but it was much more comfortable. Rosa found that when she imagined diving into the Worry Pool, she was less worried, and more able to face the things that were scaring her.
Notice and shift the language in your mind
Notice how you talk about what happens in your mind. The words you use to describe your situation and how you feel will affect your mood, your physiology, your state of mind, your body language and your actions – which in turn will affect the results you get.
Do you see yourself as the victim of everything that is happening around you? Seeing yourself as the victim of events over which you have no control leaves you feeling helpless and hopeless.
Instead, start to ask yourself what you can do to make things better. How could you view the situation differently?
I always say to clients that it isn’t what happens to you that makes the difference. It is what you do with what happens to you. YOU are the one person who can change the way you think, feel and act. YOU can turn things around, take back your power and decide to take small positive steps forward.
“If you always focus on negative things, you’ll feel bad. If you start to look for solutions that are different and better, that’s the way your world will become. This is not “positive thinking”. It is brain science.”
Ask yourself what choices you have. If you hear yourself saying “but I have no choice!", challenge your internal dialogue. Is that 100% true? If you believe you have no choices, guess what? You won’t see any choices!
As Viktor Frankl, survivor of the holocaust and famous psychoanalyst wrote:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When you look for choices, be open to possibilities.
Remind yourself that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got – so if what you’re doing isn’t working, do anything else.
Be open to trying new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things. If you find yourself saying things like “I would really like to xxx, but ……” then challenge the words that come after ‘but’. Are they 100% true? Or are they an excuse not to change what you’re doing?
Ask yourself what small steps you could take today to move forward. The steps don’t have to be big, and you don’t have to reach the end goal right now. Lots of small steps forward over time add up to big changes.
Notice the words you use when you talk about your separation. Is it all about how sad/stuck/angry you feel? How could you talk about it differently?
What have you learnt?
What new things have you done?
What are the good things in your life?
What have you done for the first time?
What are you proud of?
What have you achieved?
When you make a conscious decision to take back control over your thoughts, feelings and actions, you can make massive changes to how you view everything!
If you would like to know more about coaching with me, please get in contact! I am always happy to talk to you about how I can help.