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How to Ease Money Stress During Divorce

Three steps to dissolve financial stress from divorce and feel empowered.

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

My shoulders instantly dropped and I felt like I could breathe again when I remembered Bari Tessler’s words: “We can find new solutions even when money stress is high.”

When I was going through my divorce, money simply terrified me.

I was always worried I would not have enough and even if I did, my ex (or the government) would try and take it.

I recall feeling a pit in my stomach anytime I got a bill in the mail from my lawyer, the parent mediator, or the government.

In fact, those letters would often put me in a state of panic.

I now know after reading and learning from Bari Tessler in her award-winning book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness that I am not alone.

Bari explained in her most heart-centered way that when people are faced with a financial struggle and challenge, they often fall into the fight, flight, or freeze response.

Sound familiar?

Have you ever run to the bathroom after finding out you maxed your credit card or climbed back into bed after realizing you were losing your source of income, or call and scream at customer service to dispute an exorbitantly high medical bill?

If so, then you had the fight, flight, freeze reactions, too.

Bari explains that simply knowing that we are in this state is the first step to reducing overall stress.

I love how she explains with such candor that no matter how comfortable you are, there will always be money surprises that come up. In fact, one of the most enjoyable parts of her work is she shares her own personal ones.

While everyone will experience financial struggles, people going through divorce are even more likely to encounter financial strife, stress, and overwhelm.

I wanted to share with you the three steps Bari Tessler teaches to manage financial stress and feel more confident that you can handle any financial struggle that comes your way.

Step 1

Bari explains that the only way we can manage our fear is to name and acknowledge it. Many people avoid facing their fears around money (i.e. don’t open mail, avoid calls from creditors, overspend without thinking). In order to find a solution to your woes, you must first name the problem. Bari suggests you say out loud to yourself, “I am in a money struggle.”

Once you have named the problem, notice the feelings that accompany that problem. Do you feel tightness in your chest, nauseous, a headache? Do you feel afraid, sad, hopeless? What does your body want to do? Run, hide, fight?

This is my favorite part and what I think makes Bari’s work uniquely fabulous and so in sync with my own practice. She suggests you notice your feelings and “befriend them.” She likens it to inviting them to tea. Bring your feelings in beside you so they do not completely overwhelm you and get to know them. Ask them how they like their tea and what they need. So good, right?

Step 2

Ask yourself new creative questions. Try to ask questions that never occurred to you to ask yourself before. Bari suggests:

  • What would need to be different for me to see this as an opportunity rather than only a problem?
  • How can I find more spaciousness in this moment of struggle?
  • How can I continue to live a life I love, even given this struggle?
  • Can I be open to new ideas that I have never known before?
  • What is my deepest desire at this moment?

Bari suggests that you take these questions with you when your body is in a relaxed state. Don’t sit at your desk with an open document and think you will get all the answers. Ask them when you are out for a walk, taking a bath, or talking to a trusted friend.

Step 3

This step is profound and also hard to do! Bari encourages people to acknowledge that they do not know how long it will take to move through this challenge. It may take weeks, months, and sometimes years. This struggle is a process that will continue to unfold. I would encourage you to notice and feel the feelings related to this unknowing. As you do, keep connecting to a deep trust that as you ask more questions and welcome your feelings, you will come up with the right shift for you. It is important for those moments when you start doubting yourself to remind yourself that you will heal and that you will make it through.

Financial stress is on the rise with people getting divorced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession in our economy. Worry and stress are understandable, but as we discussed in this piece, they can keep you from making the best decisions for yourself.

How can you imagine these steps helping you?