Self-Care During Divorce

When a family dynamic goes sour, it impacts everyone's mental health. When taking steps to resolve the conflict, an often overlooked yet critical focus needs to be self-care. In the latest Family Matters podcast, Kate Reese had the chance to speak to Alexandra Herrera, MA-ATR, LPC, about this topic. They looked at why self-care is so essential, signs and symptoms to look out for, and some helpful self-care techniques that everyone should practice.

What is self-care?

When professionals talk about "self-care," they have some general practices in mind. Everyone is different, but everyone needs to create time and space to focus on their particular needs. Self-care includes mindfulness, setting boundaries, and setting aside time to recover from situational or daily stresses and challenges. With these practices, people can get clarity around their limits and avoid exceeding them.

Signs that self-care is needed.

Lack of self-care has significant consequences. It can impact attention and focus, which makes difficulties even harder. People also feel overwhelmed, fatigued, and irritable. While a stressful situation like a divorce or a child custody dispute can cause these symptoms, lack of self-care makes them worse and can make a difficult situation worse. Other signs that its time for some self-care include compassion fatigue and burnout.

When is self-care essential?

The experts agree that self-care is necessary for a healthy, happy life, but sometimes the need is essential. When going through a challenging or traumatic period like divorce or custody, the additional stressors demand even more of the body and mind, so it is critical to be clear about boundaries and limits as well as engage in active self-care efforts.

What are some ways to practice self-care?

There are so many ways to practice self-care, and the key is to find techniques that help re-center, relax, and recover. One important theme is healthy detachment - the practice of stepping out of the rest of the world for some time, doing something healthy and pleasant. Examples include reading, walking, yoga, art, or gardening. Meditation can be an excellent way to detach, but it can be challenging for beginners. Luckily, there are apps and guided meditations on YouTube that can help. Self-care can include focusing on the body, getting a massage, getting enough sleep, and improving diet. Finally, guided imagery is an excellent way to step out of the noise and visualize positive and peaceful locations.

Take a deep breath  

One of the simplest yet fundamental techniques of self-care is breathwork. Often when people are anxious, irritable, or not practicing self-care, they will either breathe more rapidly or hold their breath - both of which add to the body's physical tension and increases stress. By focusing on breathing, slow, deep breaths in and out, signals go to the brain and body to relax. This helps to engage in the following activities in a mindful manner. In fact, Kate says she has used this as a quick, effective preparation for a stressful event like a deposition or court.

Self-care is a daily practice

Instead of waiting to be overwhelmed entirely and suffer mental and physical consequences, self-care is more effective when part of a daily routine. Self-compassion is not feeling sorry for yourself. It is taking steps to check in with where you are to get clarity - whether by journaling, taking an inventory of both positives and negatives of the day, or another approach. Instead of being overwhelmed by huge challenges, set incremental goals that break down the bigger issue into actionable steps. Be clear and firm on boundaries, and do not forget that a support network only supports through connection and engagement.

At ReeseLaw, we see clients going through one of the most complicated challenges of their lifetime. We see how practicing self-care has a significant impact on the ability to cope with stressors like divorce or child custody. We often encourage our clients to seek therapy, and we have an excellent network of professionals who can help. If you are going through a family law dispute, contact us to talk about your options and how to make sure you are tending to yourself.

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