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No Cost Self-Care During Divorce? Is That Even Possible?

38 ways to get through your divorce without spending a dime.

New skills will help you get through the life crisis of divorce.
Source: Pixabay/Pexels

In Part 1, How Did Self-Care Get Co-opted by Big Business?, I suggested that self-care need not cost money. You can spend money to “treat yourself” to a spa day or a new outfit, but that is not necessary for self-care. When you are separating or divorcing, take advantage of your off-duty time to develop new self-care habits. Give yourself some time to adjust to all the changes while developing some new self-care practices.

Mental Self-Care

Mental self-care will help you think more clearly, focus, concentrate, assess, plan, manage time, remember, and make decisions. This is important as you work through your legal divorce process. Here are some examples:

1. Avoid people who make you feel bad about yourself. Unfortunately, many of your married friends will feel helpless when you suffer. It makes them feel better when you ask for help or support, because they’ll feel less helpless. Tempting as it is to isolate, no matter how awful you feel right now, reach out.

2. Don’t be afraid to say “no,” to new obligations or requests when you don’t feel up to it. Don’t be worried about letting someone down when you cannot do more than you are already doing.

3. When you have negative thoughts, look for evidence to refute them. Any self-critical thought, or one that includes the word “should,” is a red flag! Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a good friend.

4. Do something different. Try a new recipe or check out a new museum or park.

5. Write a note to someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Call a friend and set up a coffee date.

6. Block off time in your calendar where nothing at all is scheduled. Use that time to take a walk around the block, or take a nap. Do nothing except that which you enjoy. Read a magazine just for fun. Everything else can wait!

7. Try to get to bed and get up at the same time every day. You will feel more balanced if you have a routine, and you’ll feel better when you sleep better. You can’t cope with hardships or make reasonable decisions when you are sleep-deprived.

8. Jot down three things every day for which you are grateful. Soon your “lens” of awareness will shift as you notice positive things around you.

9. Journal for at least five minutes every day. Let your hand go on “auto-pilot,” writing down whatever comes to mind. The goal is to allow your thoughts and feelings to flow on to the page, without judgment or censoring.

10. Get off social media and the computer for at least three hours before you go to bed. Social media can be especially toxic when you see your friends (or your spouse) looking like their lives are perfect.

Adrianna Calvo/Pexels
Spend time with someone who loves you.
Source: Adrianna Calvo/Pexels

Emotional Self-Care

Changing thoughts and behaviors is much easier than changing feelings. Here are some ideas:

1. If you need to cry or scream, get in your car (do not turn on the engine!) and roll up all the windows. No one will hear you, and it might be cathartic to get those feelings out.

2. Your body cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time. Your body cannot do certain things simultaneously. For example, you cannot keep your eyes open when you sneeze. (I know you are going to try this the next time you sneeze.)The quickest way to help your body relax is to do some deep belly breaths. Try just three deep breaths, five times a day.

3. Put on some music that you love even if the music makes you cry.

4. Visualize a peaceful place or loving experience that you have had. Hold the image for five minutes, allowing yourself to be completely absorbed by good feelings. Focus on the image, the colors, the sounds, the sensations, and the peacefulness.

5. Positive affirmations can help reduce stress and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. Write some positive affirmations on Post-it notes and stick them on your bathroom mirror. Change them every few days. You’ll find all kinds of affirmations online.

6. Some find adult coloring books calming. Don’t stress about staying in the lines, because that defeats the whole purpose.

7. Make a to-do list. Pick at least one, but no more than three for today. The rest can wait.

8. Do something nice for someone else. Make cookies for a neighbor, or write a glowing Yelp review for someone who did a good job.

9. Catch yourself in the act when your inner critic acts up. Don’t believe everything you think. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true!

10. Spend some time with your pet. Visit a dog park or a pet store.

Soak in a hot bath or whirlpool tub to release muscle tension and physical pain.
Source: Burst/Pexels

Physical Self-Care

You live inside your body. Your body is holding the rest of you together! When you feel good physically, you’ll feel better mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Even if you have not been an active person, there are many ways to take care of yourself physically.

1. Stretch. When you wake up, take a minute to stretch your body. Drink a glass of water. Enjoy the stretch.

2. Breathe. Breathing brings oxygen into your body and brain. It will improve your mental clarity, increase your energy, and reduce your stress levels.

3. Take a walk around the block. As you walk, look around you; listen to the sounds of the birds or the breeze. A 20-minute walk four days a week will feel great. Invite a friend to join you. Maybe there is a walking group in your neighborhood. If not, start one!

4. If you are a runner, go for a jog and get that “runner’s high”—the increase in endorphins that feels good in your body and mind. Cycling and swimming work too. For some people, hard exercise helps clear the mind and improves sleep.

5. Get out in nature. It is said that nature is the best medicine. There is more oxygen and less noise, and it’s a great way to let go of what is on your mind. So get outside, in the fresh air, enjoy the beauty around you, and take some good deep belly breaths while you are there.

6. Yoga is good for strength, flexibility, and balance. It will help you feel more functional. If you have never done yoga, now is a good time to try a beginner’s class. Do not judge yourself; it is a practice, not a competition. Alternatively, you can find many excellent yoga videos online to do in your own living room.

7. Soak in a hot bath or whirlpool tub to release muscle tension and physical pain.

8. Dance. It is okay to dance alone in your kitchen. Put on music you love and dance until you are out of breath. Breathing hard is good for you, because it brings oxygen and endorphins into your system.

9. If you do not belong to a gym, walking up and down the stairs is a good workout. I have seen people do this in public buildings!

Suraphat Nuea-on/Pexels
Separation and divorce make you question your faith, your sense of safety in the world, and your sense of purpose.
Source: Suraphat Nuea-on/Pexels

Spiritual Self-Care

When your separation and divorce make you question your faith, your sense of safety in the world, your sense of purpose, or your sense that you have value, these ideas may help.

1. If you have a spiritual community this is a good time to go to a service or to pray.

2. Meditation is much easier than you may realize. Look for meditation groups or classes in your community, or check out the many apps and websites that teach meditation techniques. Simply find a quiet place to sit and just focus on your breath. Your mind will certainly wander; when you notice you have drifted away, return your attention to your breath. Let thoughts just drift away like passing clouds. Start with two minutes a day. Add a minute or two every day. Meditation is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual activity. Try it for 30 days and notice how it affects you.

3. Random acts of kindness are uplifting. Someone in the car in front of me once paid my bridge toll. It made me smile for the rest of the day. Fill someone’s expired parking meter, or feed a stray animal. Write a nice note when you pay your restaurant check.

4. Give things you no longer use or need to a shelter or a local treatment program.

5. Volunteering makes you feel good. Knit caps or make quilts for your local cancer center. Take your children to visit people in senior care centers. They can play cards or just talk to lonely residents. Many animal rescue centers need volunteers. Take some time to volunteer at a local shelter or dining hall.

6. Join a support group. Your participation will help others too.

7. Get your hands in the dirt. Work in your garden, or a community garden. Make a green space in your home with a few houseplants. Put some flowers on your table. Tending to plants (or pets or children) causes your body to release my favorite feel-good neurotransmitter, oxytocin, the “tend and befriend” hormone.

8. Did you ever want to draw, paint, sculpt, sew, sing, dance, build something, invent something, hunt for mushrooms, raise chickens, cook, decorate, work with wood? Set aside some time to explore a new interest. Check yourself if you start to judge yourself.

9. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. You will adjust and recover, and it will get better.

© Ann Buscho, Ph.D. 2019

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