Happy Friday, Everyone!
Let’s kick off the week-end with a short story….
It was 1:30am about two weeks after my husband moved out, and I sat hunched over the computer, eyes glazed, head throbbing, convinced that the world would end if I didn’t read all the reviews I could find on local divorce attorneys at that very moment. Never mind the fact that where I lived, couples could not file for divorce until they had been separated for six months. But common sense was no match for the stress and panic that was eating away at me.
Many of you probably feel the same during divorce. I know I did. (Image via MemeVault).
I’d like to say that I had a moment of truth that night, that some voice inside me said,“Martha, this can WAIT. Go to sleep and get a better handle on your priorities.” That realization didn’t come until about a month later. For weeks, I would stay up all night thinking I needed to take care of everything–burning the midnight oil, thinking for some reason I needed to start writing a separation agreement by myself and rearrange my apartment and start making copies of old utility bills, and in the morning I was exhausted.
I didn’t know how exhausted I was until I woke up from a nap…in the office restroom.
Stress from divorce is a nightmare—we know we have a million different things to do, with logistics, finances, dealing with our emotions in shambles. The problem is that everybody tells us we have so many things to do, but nobody tells us when exactly we need to do it. Since everybody’s divorce situations are so unique we are left to fend for ourselves when figuring what needs to be done and when. And as you can attest, that is a horrible place to be in. We get stressed because we think that we don’t know how to manage, and that everything is just one big blob of a mess that we’ll never solve.
This week, we’re going to learn how to conquer that stress that comes from not knowing how to organize and prioritize.
And it can be done easier than you would even imagine.
Here are the three ways to get your divorce stress under control, and it is based around a very simple idea: What do I really have to do now, and what things can wait until later, so I can have some room to breathe?
Once you determine what you really need, and when you really need it, you are able to organize the logistics in your divorce journey so that you can overcome the stress and panic. The steps below will teach you how to organize those thoughts…
1. Ask yourself, “what do I need—really need—to do right now?
Most readers are aware of my love for Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs, mainly because the clarity that it provides during separation and divorce. What you can do to organize your thoughts on this question is to list all the things that you legitimately must take care of right away.
Do you need to make sure you and your dependents are safe from harm? Do you need to figure out a new place to live? There is only a few emergency thing that would require your immediate attention: putting everything in this category is how you will get stressed and feel out of control. But being honest without yourself on the things youabsolutely must do will not be as overwhelming as you originally imagined. When I started this exercise, my immediate priorities included?
Making sure my bank accounts and credit cards were safe, so that I had access to cash I needed
Ensuring that I felt safe by myself and that my dependents were safe and not too shocked, and that new living arrangements by myself, although not as comfortable as they had been
Finding someone “safe” who I could talk to—I desperately needed a good therapist because I felt like I was going insane
Your immediate priorities may be different and that’s fine. As long as your safety and basic needs are met, you are going to be okay. Give yourself some credit for taking care of that, because having those priorities squared away should give you the clarity for the next step…
It sounds so simple, but framing your divorce to-dos against Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs will help you organize your priorities. (Image via 21CentTech)
2. List the things that you need to work on in the next 1-3 months.
Don’t worry about next year, or a few years from now. I like to tell my clients that surviving your divorce without going insane requires you to think like an athlete. You wouldn’t go out and run for a marathon without training for it first, would you? Well, treat you divorce the same way—address the issues, but address them in order of priority and timeline. At this point in my split, after I had my basic needs taken care of, I focused on:
Working with my divorcing spouse to separate our assets in as civil of a manner as we could have. Depending on the relationship you have with your spouse, this may be possible, whereas others may have to work with an attorney to accomplish this.
Establishing as many things as I could in my own name—utility bills, insurance policies, etc. For me it was important to assert my own independence to heal, and having things in my own name helped with that process
Figuring out a budget for myself.
Getting educating on divorce in my state. Since divorce takes awhile, it made more sense to not start researching the legal issues, until I had quit panicking about my husband moving out.
Continued visits with my therapist, who was instrumental in helping me process the grief, and how to manage and work through it
Discussing the split with my family members and close friends
3. List the things that you need to accomplish in the next 3-6 months.
After I started feeling more calm and able to manage my grief and anxiety better, I was ready to get into the things that had been too overwhelming and confusing right after my husband moved out. These included:
Studying what exactly was involved in a separation agreement. That way, I would know what to expect when dealing with an attorney
Researching divorce attorney options (this time during the day and not at1:30am). Your situation might have you needing an attorney sooner, especially if you are dealing with a protective order or temporary alimony and child support.
Reading the resources available. There were so many resources out there that give every detail on what to do in order to prepare for legal and financial parts of divorce. Reading those after I had started to seek emotional support were far more helpful than had I read them at the beginning.