You’re lying awake when you should be sleeping, a million horrible scenarios taunting you.
“I can’t believe I’m going to have to meet with his asshole pit-bull lawyer. Again.”
“The settlement date is a week from today. What if they throw a hissyfit and refuse to sign?! I can’t keep doing this!”
The clock is glaring 2:37AM and you have to get up in four hours. Great. Another day to worry about all the crap that will go wrong in your divorce.
We’ve all worried ourselves sick during separation and divorce. We are terrified that the worst possible thing is going to happen, and we sit there, unable to breath, our neck muscles tensed up, our head pounding, that anxiety holding us hostage.
So, what will you do? Will you continue to go day in, day out worrying about a future you think you cannot control? Do you continue to let all the “what ifs” crowd your brain as you try to run errands, pick the kids up, fix dinner, meet with your boss, and oh, I don’t know, try to live your life?
It’s nice for well-meaning people to tell you, “oh, look on the bright side…it will all be over soon!” but what if those words are hollow and all you want to do is scream, “Shut up! You have no idea what I’m going through!!!”
Freaking out about the future? We’ll fix that! Image via Cyclist Wife.
The “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?” Exercise
When you’re frazzled and unable to concentrate, thinking about all unknowns in divorce and automatically assuming they’ll be something bad, you shortchange yourself. Not only because the unknowns could actually be something amazing, but also because by assuming the worst will always happen, you let the divorce anxiety win.
And the only way you can face that anxiety down is to deal with it head on.
Instead of telling yourself to not think about worst-case scenarios with your divorce, this post is about actually confronting them.
As is the case with most of Surviving Your Split’s proven strategies, facing this type of anxiety is done in three steps.
1. Map out worst case scenario(s) for your divorce
2. Write down what you would do if they happened
3. Write down who you can reach out to for help
Need a little nudge to get you going? Take a look at some worst-case scenarios I worked through during my own shit-show of a divorce:
1. Map out worst case scenario(s) for your divorce
I am going to get totally screwed over
In three years I’m still going to be stuck in this mess and I’ll never be free and independent. I’m going to be like a prisoner.
I’ll be broke. I’ll have no idea how to function on a limited income and I’ll wrack up a bunch of credit card debt and deplete my savings and….
***You’ve probably noticed a lot of worst-case scenarios are complete exaggerations of two things: our actual lives and our imagined futures. There’s a reason for that. When we panic and get caught up in divorce drama, of course everything is going to look and feel like the Zombie Apocalypse.***
Unless you’re getting divorced while you manage to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, chances are your worst-case scenarios are actually pretty freakin’ manageable. Image via PlayBuzz.
2. Write down what you would do if this happened. And no, you cannot put, “I would just curl up into a fetal position and not leave my bedroom.” Take a look at my example, and think about your own experience.
Getting totally screwed over: Hmmmm. Now that I think of it, what does that even mean? Do I think I’m going to get screwed over financially? With custody? Okay. How about I first figure out what is really worrying me? Oh, I see, it’s the fact that I’m nervous because we have joint accounts and I’m not good at budgeting. Alright. What steps do I still need to take to protect myself financially? When will I accomplish those things?
3. Write down who you can reach out to for help.
It takes a strong person to know that they cannot do everything themselves. If, when planning your own worst-case scenario and you find yourself writing about money and finances, you might want to consider reaching out to a trusted financial advisor who can help you with managing your money.
Or, if you recognize in this exercise that a lot of the anxiety is coming from money, dig deeper into that and educate yourself about all the options you have.
The same goes for any Worst Case Scenario result you see, whether it deals with feeling afraid of moving on, worrying about finding a job, or learning how to live alone, the more you analyze your fears and why you’re feeling them, the easier it will be to educate yourself. And the more you educate yourself, the easier it will be to take action. And when you know you can take action and that you’ll be okay, the less anxiety you will feel.
Remember to be kind to yourself (but also honest with yourself) when doing this exercise! Since a lot of the anxiety goes away once you know how to plan for the things that are making you anxious, it’s important to work through the steps mindfully and truthfully. Nothing is too shameful or embarrassing or silly to express.
At the end you’ll find out that although the change to your life that divorce has brought may merely inconvenience you, you are too strong and smart for it to ever ruin you.
Next week, we’re going to learn how to bring some missing happiness into our lives, even when you’re feeling like you’re in a fog. Stay tuned!