How to Deal With The Emotions We Experience Following Our Relationship Breakdown, Separation Or Divorce. Part One: Anger.
Anger is a natural, healthy, protecting emotion.It can be a very positive emotion when it motivates you to turn your life around , to suit you better. Its a powerful tool to let people know your wishes- hopefully in a non aggressive, assertive way. The anger caused by the end of a relationship is different from everyday anger. Our divorce recovery and divorce support groups have great trouble negotiating these strong emotions which can be so destructive.
Julie ,a participant in one of our Divorce Support Groups comments on her experience of anger , following her relationship breakdown: ‘ I realised early on after my separation that what was happening was that the anger was actually directing my life. That the only emotion i was feeling was this anger , as if it was driving every other feeling and emotion out of my head and body and anger was the only thing that was there. I was becoming insensitive to other things and unable to feel any sense of happiness at all , even to the extent where i would go the theatre to see a play, which normally i would enjoy and come out feeling ‘well that was silly’ or ‘that doesn’t really happen’ or the like. So it became one of my first priorities to learn to deal with this and again , i found it very difficult that i would learn coping techniques for a while and then something would happen and i would forget (those techniques) and then i would realise i was back with anger , filling my life , almost. One of the most useful things i learned and am mindful to try and act on, is to ‘take a step back, have a look at the way i am behaving, ask myself is this behaviour benefiting me at all , and if it isn’t – stop it . Initially , of course, the feeling is that you can’t stop it , it was overwhelming my life . But , i did learn, slowly, probably, that you can, in fact, control your behaviour and you can let it go and you can stop it. It was scary, initially , when i learned that i was in charge of the way i was behaving and that i was behaving in certain ways because i wanted to, even though i would say ‘but i don’t like this, i feel uncomfortable, i feel unhappy’. When the answer came back ‘well ,then stop doing it , change it’, it was very difficult to accept, but ultimately,this was very helpful!’
By the time you are reading this, your relationship will probably be over. Blame is an awful drain on your energy -its a wasted energy. If you are feeling angry after your divorce and you want to get rid of it, try the following:
-Hit a tennis racket onto a mattress, yelling and screaming
-Find a close friend and make jokes about your anger . This may sound strange , but it works surprisingly well for some people!
-Play a hard game of squash or tennis and imagine the ball is the subject of your anger.
-Scream loudly and swear, alone in the countryside or in your car (windows up and radio on for this one!)
-Bang saucepans with a wooden spoon or simply tear up paper
-Draw wildly or scribble on large sheets of paper
Remember, you are responsible for your anger. No one makes you angry, but you may be very, very angry about the situation. But you have the ability to recognise that anger and end it. Set a ‘time limit’ on your anger, otherwise it can preoccupy your thoughts.
Take a few minutes now , to think of ways to defuse your anger……
Children And Divorce- Effects of Divorce on Children: How Can You Minimise Them?
Parents need to understand themselves and their problems before they can fully help their children. By seeking out help for yourself , you are taking the first step in your divorce recovery process . By healing yourself and working through the emotions and issues following your relationship breakdown, you will be in a better position to help your children through this difficult time.
Make it clear to your children that you love them and that your relationship ending has nothing to do with their behaviour- it is solely between you and your ex partner. This is very important, particularly for young children who can make incorrect assumptions and may, in some way feel that they are responsible for their parents relationship breakdown.
When your children spend time with your ex partner try not to be tempted to ask your children what he or she is doing. Children should not be used a little ‘spies’.
A relationship breakdown affects all members of the family. Your children will experience the same shock, disbelief, fear and loneliness as you, when the relationship ends. Children need as many loving people around them as possible, so encourage family members including Grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles to keep in contact with your children.This will assist in lessening the impact of divorce on children.
Listen to your children . Encourage them to speak about their worries. Give them permission to be angry and perhaps unreasonable, then reassure them that you still love them.
What You Can Do NOW To Start Feeling Better After Your Separation Or Divorce-Quick Tips, Idea’s And Suggestions
The first few weeks following your separation or divorce can feel devastating , overwhelming and despairing. Maybe you are feeling extreme sadness , depression or anxiety . This is quite natural , however its equally natural to want to feel better ,to experience some relief from these strong emotions. The following idea’s will , hopefully , provide you with an array of tools , coping strategies and ideas to help you in the early days following your separation or divorce. They are NOT meant to be a substitute for professional services offered by psychologists , counselors or doctors. If you are extremely depressed we recommend and encourage you to talk to your family doctor immediately.
From the divorce recovery groups and workshops we have run , over many years , the following concepts , tips and strategies are what participants of our groups have found to be very helpful in dealing with the stresses and strong emotions experienced following your relationship breakdown.
1. Talk It Through- Many of our course participants have commented that having a close friend or family member who will simply ‘listen’ to you , to hear what you have experienced and are currently feeling is incredibly invaluable. The key suggestion is to respectfully request your friend or family member to just listen and NOT offer advice. Whilst people who care for you and are concerned about you , naturally want to try and help , often by giving ‘advice’ it is far more beneficial to simply have them ‘listen’ to you . This allows you to express the deep emotions you are currently feeling and ‘get them out’ . You have probably been struggling with strong thoughts and feelings following your separation or divorce. By having someone simply ‘listen’ to you and allow you to say whats really on your mind , this can be incredibly healing and offer you an almost immediate sense of relief from those thoughts and feelings. You can approach a close trusted friend (someone you know will respect your confidentiality) and request ‘ i would really appreciate if we could get together for a while , somewhere where we won’t be interrupted and if you could just listen to me as i really need to say whats been going on for me. I am not seeking advice , but would find it really helpful just to be able to express whats going on for me at this time”. Obviously , choose your own words. Once you find a friend who will listen, if you are not sure how to start, its sometimes helpful to start off by saying ‘i feel….’ , this will normally open up your dialogue. Your maingoal is to try and express exactly what you are feeling and struggling with. Many of our group members found this incredibly helpful. We have detailed instructions on this on our ‘Recovery” DVD Set.
2. Learn to Really Relax. Divorce and Separation are one of the most stressful experiences we can encounter in life. Learning how to develop relaxation skills is an invaluable tool. Yes , it can seem hard to find the time or energy to ‘relax’ when we are stressed , but this is symptomatic of the stress itself- take note of this and take action to find ways that relax YOU.
Based on our divorce support groups and workshops ,participants found the following list of ideas useful to help them relax;
- Walking. Many of our group’s participants had never exercised prior to their relationship breakdown. For many , the simple act of starting to walk was found to be HUGELY beneficial. The increased blood flow , deeper breathing , and increase in endorphins released during brisk walking proved to be hugely helpful in terms of lifting their mood and sense of well being. Try it- test it!! If you are feeling low , anxious or overwhelmed with feelings and thoughts following your divorce or separation , try walking at a brisk pace (but safe and ‘right’ for you) , for 30 to 40 minutes preferably , or whatever you can manage. Focus on the ‘act’ of walking , being in the ‘now’ , feeling the air on your skin . If you have a local park or beach or river , anywhere as close to nature as you can get the better. But above all try it. Walking is a powerful mood lifter.Much of our ‘stress’ seems to be ‘stored’ in our body. By exercising we release this ‘physical’ stress and at the same time release much of our ‘mental’ stress.
- Buy a relaxation CD and make the conscious effort to take time out , maybe in the early evening , to listen to it for 20-30 minutes . The “Recovery” DVD Set has several useful relaxation exercises on it also.
- Just as walking helps relieve physical and mental stress , many of our groups participants found that massage had a surprisingly powerful effect in releasing their stress. Many of the people had never tried massage before , but at other participants recommendations tried it and nearly all reported that it was very helpful in ‘feeling better’. For others , relaxation was found through yoga , squash , swimming , meditation , sport or playing a musical instrument . Take the time to find what ‘relaxes’ you. This is really important and very beneficial during the separation and divorce process.
The Importance of “Self Care” – Further Strategies To Assist You Feel Better .
When you are trying to deal with a range of strong often overpowering feelings and emotions after your relationship ends a very helpful strategy to employ is simply to raise your level of what we call ‘self care’. This means making a conscious effort to set aside time every day to do at least one thing to help yourself feel better , in a healthy , positive way. It is about prioritising YOU for a period of the day . Small acts of ‘giving’ to yourself can make an incredible difference to how you feel .Some of our divorce recovery group participants had rarely done this for themselves and found that once they practiced daily ‘self care’ , their sense of well being improved substantially.
Caring and nurturing yourself should become one of your priorities following your separation or divorce. Maybe you have the thought that ‘its selfish” ,or the like , to spend time this way? It is important to understand that during this period of your life ,that this ‘self care’ it is a key part of your divorce recovery process and you need to allow yourself the absolute right to care for and fully nurture yourself. This ‘self care’ could include , for example ,the following ideas provided by our divorce support and divorce recovery group participants:
- When you think of it , jot down in your journal things that make you feel good. This is important , because during times when your are not feeling so good it can seem hard to come up with ‘self care’ idea’s.
- Book a massage. As we said in an earlier article- relaxing the body creates a relaxed mind.
- If you like gardening – do it. Why? Many of our group participant rated gardening as an activity that relaxed them most! Buy some new seedlings (they can be very inexpensive), prepare the soil . plant and water them . Get engrossed and this distracts the mind.
- Make a cup of your favorite tea or coffee,or visit your favourite cafe .Take the time to simply sip your drink very slowly , really taste and enjoy it and relax. Simple Pleasures are key to ‘self care’.
- Play a sport that you haven’t played in a long time , be it tennis , golf , bowling whatever . The physical activity will relax your body and mind. It does not have to be strenuous . The act of doing something that you have not participated in for a while stimulates parts of the brain and helps lift mood. The same applies to taking up a new activity or interest. Is there something you have wanted to try for a long time? Now may be the time to take action and do it. Be aware that when we don’t feel our best we can easily talk ourselves out of acting on our ‘self care’ ideas. Do NOT let these thoughts stop you.
- Set aside a day when you will eat only healthy , revitalizing food. Prepare a day ahead . Again it does not mean spending a lot of money. Maybe squeeze fresh juice in the morning and have it with cereal and fresh fruit. The act of taking action to create a healthy you is very nurturing physically and mentally. Change creates more change.
- Be creative. This can mean many things and can be a very small or large act. Its up to you! Re arrange the furniture , Pick and arrange some flowers. Sketch the view from your window. Write a poem . Express whats going on inside you. Play that record or CD from 20 years ago and sing along. Change the way you look – new hair styles or clothes can have a huge impact of the way we feel about ourselves.
- Associate with people, be it friends , family or workmates that are positive and uplifting.
Above all else, recognise that you are experiencing an emotionally ‘tough’ time in your life. Recognise this and be kind and forgiving of yourself. We are human , we are not perfect , go easy on yourself. Practice ‘self care’ daily.