“I’ m so stressed!” How often do you find yourself saying this in your mind or to family and friends?
Stress, as a modern term, arose from physiological studies in the 1930s, becoming the commonplace term as we know it today during the 1950s. Not that our ancestors didn’t have stress – they most certainly did (think disease, invasions, wars, natural disasters) – and who’s to say if theirs felt more or less intense to them than ours does to us today. We don’t want to be too quick to label our stress as the exclusive domain of the “modern” world. Maybe it’s more about the choices we make around the activities, events, and people we find stressful rather than the century that we occupy in history.
As divorced women, we are not strangers to stress. What if, though, while we are suffering our stress and becoming intimate with its ramifications in terms of health, peace of mind, and quality of life, we were to consider that there just may be another side to the tapestry that is our life? And, what if that other side is actually the “front” where the threads are smooth and the colors bright, and we’ve been living on the “back” where the picture is vague and the threads full of knots? What if it were possible to reduce the stress in our lives so that we began experiencing life as taking place on that smoother, brighter side? On the more “stress-less” side of divorce?
We’re all familiar with the notion that it isn’t a particular situation that’s stressful, but our response to it, especially our thoughts about it. Granted, sometimes stress is an autonomic response – a sudden shock or fright, but sometimes stress is about the choices we make. The habitual thoughts we think in response to stress can sometimes exacerbate the accompanying stress we feel in our minds and bodies. For example:
As a single mom you’re trying to balance it all on your own…your kids, your career, your home. You have a deadline for a work project, but it’s your child’s first high school soccer game and you promised you’d be there. The clock reminds you that you’re cutting it close for both! You can respond to the stress by:
tightening your jaw and saying, “It’s all so-and-so’s fault!”, or
yell, hit something, and say, “I always wait to the last minute – what’s wrong with me?”, or
pause, consciously relax your muscles, take a deep breath, close your eyes for a few minutes (if not driving!) and reframe the moment by stating, “I have all the time I need to (fill in the blank).”
For each stressful situation, there are responses that soothe us or make things worse. When we are stressed or fearful, we don’t make good decisions. This often creates a spiral of negativity and stress that, worse case, can literally be fatal.
When we can lessen our stress, sometimes just a notch or two, things begin to swing the other direction and the stress begins to ebb. That pivot point is where stress management kicks in. And having the tools and techniques in place to make that shift can make all the difference in our lives!
We hear a lot about change throughout our lives; we experience a lot of change, too. We all agree that change is inevitable, though most of us believe it certainly isn’t desirable. Often change comes sweeping into our lives, dramatically altering the landscape we have worked so hard to establish. During those moments, especially, it is hard to view change as something meant for our betterment. You may even have found yourself feeling this way during and after your divorce.
But the truth is that change is a good thing, and in order to have a successful life, we have to be accepting of the changes that take place. Adaptation may seem like a survival strategy, but by adapting, we are also growing. By accepting and adapting to change, we are ultimately making a choice in the direction of positive personal development.
It usually takes time and perspective to see the benefits of change. In addition to our divorce, most of us can easily look back on our lives and recognize times of change that at first seemed destructive rather than productive. Looking back also provides the necessary view of seeing how everything has actually turned out okay – that the difficult changes that took place did in fact bring about personal growth, opened new doors of opportunity and offered unexpected shifts in seeing ourselves differently.
So the next time change brews up in your life…and it will… try shifting your perspective, approach it differently, and remember the following…
1. View the change as an opportunity for personal growth. See and accept change as a way of personally developing into more than you thought you could be. Find that inner strength you never knew you had! Bettering your life can only happen by first removing what is holding it back. The ‘old set’ has to be torn down first before a new, more vibrant one can be built. This is the only way circumstances will improve.
2. Recognize that change is hard to swallow in just one gulp. Give yourself the time you need to accept change on your own internal timetable. We each have our own internal clock that is different
than anybody else’s. We transition through many stages of change that can range from denial on the one hand to commitment on the other. This process takes a different amount of time for each person. Surrender to the process and accept however long it will take to work your way through these stages of change. If others can get through change quickly, good for them. Go only at the pace that’s right for you!
3. Conserve your energy. People spend so much energy fighting and resisting change rather than using their energy in more productive ways of acceptance and letting go. We can choose to channel our energy in more positive ways that can make us feel empowered to deal with change rather than seeing ourselves as mere victims to change. When we direct our energy
toward more positive ways of dealing with change, we invariably create better outcomes in our life.
4. Accept change. Don’t just give the change in your life a handshake… embrace it! Welcome the chance to emerge from your difficult situation with much more strength than you possibly imagined you possessed. Strength brings confidence, and confidence is the necessary precursor to success.
It is normal to feel lost and confused at times, but don’t let yourself stay in that place… it’s time to take back your power. You are a strong and capable woman, so step up and take control of your life. No one else is there to help make decisions. It’s all about you. Don’t let this drag you down, or make you feel bad. It’s meant to lift you up! You have the power to control your life now!
Now’s the time to recharge your batteries and rediscover what made you tick before marriage. You may not be able to go back to exactly what that was, especially if you are now a single parent, but perhaps you can find something better. Maybe your passions have changed over time or maybe it’s time to explore new ones. Whatever you do, don’t just turn inward. Make decisions and take action on those decisions.
Embrace your new life. Travel when your kids are away, pick up a new hobby, find a career you are passionate about…whatever it takes to get into the world of living and not just existing, do it. The past is the past and the entire world lies ahead. Don’t go out into the world just to find the next person to marry. Try your hand at living for you. Life does not have to be about living in pairs. It can truly be about living life on your own terms, but only if you will let yourself. Your life is not over after divorce…it’s just beginning!
There is no doubt that single parenting is a challenge in our life after divorce, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. I admit that when my marriage was coming to an end, I was petrified at the thought of raising four kids (three who are boys) on my own. I had grown up the oldest of four girls so I was pretty confident about raising my daughter, but raising boys was truly going to be a challenge!
Eight years later, I am proud to say that I think I have done a pretty good job with all four of my kids. I actually receive regular phone calls and text messages from my college-aged sons and I recently received a complimentary note (along with pictures from my second son’s high school graduation) from my former father-in-law! This is not to say I have not had to deal with any challenges or that I have not made mistakes along the way (because I definitely have!!), but my kids have thrived academically, emotionally and socially despite the challenges of a single parent home.
Here are my tips for having an awesome relationship with your kids…
Care For Yourself
When you are exhausted and overwhelmed physically and emotionally you are no good to anyone, especially your children. It is crucial that you maintain healthy habits by getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising, and also give yourself some “mom time” without your kids. It is also crucial that you forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up for your failed relationship. Look instead at the gifts and lessons you can take from it. Part of caring for yourself is also asking for help when you need it. When you care for yourself, your children can see and feel the difference in your household.
Always Make Your Kids The Priority
Children in single parent homes may subconsciously feel abandoned, rejected, or incompetent. However, no one matters to your child more than you! Know your priorities and show your kids you believe in them and their abilities. Give them the power to believe in themselves. Help them to understand what a crucial part they play in the family by giving them responsibilities. Take an interest in their interests and be there to support them. You may walk out of the elementary school concert with a headache, but you wouldn’t want to miss that ear-to-ear smile when they walk off the stage the first time!
Expose Your Kids to Some Form of Faith
Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is important for kids to have some form of faith in their lives. They need to know that they are not their own highest being. They may choose to have different beliefs as adults, but they will never know unless they have some exposure earlier in life. Faith and spirituality also teach kids to be caring, compassionate, and contributing members of their community.
Set Clear Boundaries & Consequences
Though it may be tempting at times to be their friend rather than their parent, kids need discipline and limits. This not only helps them to keep out of trouble, but also leads to a feeling of self-control and ultimately higher self-esteem and a positive outlook.
When our kids understand how to make lemonade out of lemons they are more equipped to handle the bumps in life which they will inevitably face.
Keep Communication Open
Children learn early on if you are an approachable and emotionally safe parent. Live true to your values and be a good role model. Know your kids’ friends and their families. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your kids about the issues that concern you. Acknowledge their accomplishments and great choices, yet support them with teachable moments when they make mistakes as they test the limits (because they will!). It is also extremely important to acknowledge any negative emotions and affirm how well they are handling them. Open communication with your kids will only improve your relationship.
Make Memories That Will Last
My grandparents were married 57 years and I learned from them the importance of family memories and relationships. Every Sunday after church all 20 grandchildren and our parents would go to my grandparents for “sticky buns and orange juice.” The boys (and occasionally some of the girls) would all play football on their lawn. We can spend all the money in the world on our kids, but if they don’t have strong family relationships they will never truly know how to relate with others. I know my kids will always remember fondue and board games on New Year’s Day, holidays & summer vacations with extended family, and the 2700 mile RV trip I took them on!
Give Lots of Hugs and I Love You’s
What you give, you get back! Don’t be afraid to show your kids, even your teenagers, affection. Though it may be challenging with the media and the values that are portrayed to our kids as important , teach your children about love and respect for others. They will learn to value not only themselves, but also life and will truly enjoy it. Be sure to show them that happiness comes from within and not from anyone or anything else. In the end, happiness is a choice!
Take the High Road With Your Former Spouse
This is probably one of the most challenging parts of being a single parent…the fact that you parent in your home and your former spouse parents in theirs and that there are probably negative emotions that will always linger on some level. If you can at all be on the same page with expectations, privileges and consequences, it will only benefit your children. Kids in single-parent households need permission to talk about the other parent. Be honest and age-appropriate in your discussions, though also use discretion… some things should be left between adults. As difficult as it may be, it is best that your children not hear you disparage the other parent. This only hurts their self-esteem.
Single parenting can be a lonely and exhausting job, but if approached with a positive and open mindset we can empower our kids to develop into happy and competent young adults. When we look back years from now, hopefully we see that the time, love, happiness, and tears were worth it and we can be proud of the impact our kids have had on the world with their unique gifts.
As divorced women, we’re juggling it all…family, household, finances, a profession, volunteering, even a social life. Life can get overwhelming, but at one time or another, we’ve all been hit by the procrastination bug…and intentionally put off things we really needed to do.
Procrastination can manifest itself in many forms, even as simple disguises such as TV and email. It can also show up for many reasons. Our internal barriers such as fear, anxiety, perfectionism, and indecision may surface and take over. In the end, though, procrastination never pays; in fact, it usually comes with a cost… affecting our achievements, bank accounts, reputation, self-esteem, even our credit score. Ultimately procrastination leads to stress and interferes with our happiness.
Procrastination doesn’t have to be a way of life, though. When it starts to affect your productivity, your relationships and even starts to cost you, it’s time to put a stop to it immediately! Overcoming procrastination means committing to moving forward and taking action even when you don’t feel like it. Though it will be a gradual effort and take practice, there are some simple steps we can all take to turn procrastination into productivity and perseverance…
Discover How & Why
The first place to start with resolving your procrastination issues is to get a clear picture of how you use your time and why you delay certain types of projects. Buy yourself a beautiful journal to encourage your positive, can-do attitude and keep a daily log of all your activities, including how long you spend on each. You will soon discover all the distractions and time-wasters that keep you from achieving your goals. In addition, list any activities you deliberately avoid accomplishing and journal about why. The sooner you become aware of your actions and the reasons behind them, the sooner you will be taking charge of your life.
Monetize Your Habit
We’ve all heard that time is money, but how much is your procrastination actually costing you? This can be an actual dollar amount or the cost of a lost opportunity. When you list those activities that you purposely put off in your journal, be sure to include what it costs you. Late bills cost you interest, affect your credit score and ultimately your ability to secure less expensive credit in the future. Insurance companies, mortgage companies, even future employers use your credit score to make their decisions. Prolonging projects at work, updating your resume, dealing with medical issues, car & home maintenance (just to name a few) will all “cost” you more in the long run.
Get Organized & Prioritize Your Goals
When you have systems in place at home and at work, it’s easier to keep yourself on track. Keep your list of projects or goals in one place, not scribbled on different sheets of paper. Create a daily planning system, either electronically or manually, and keep a detailed schedule of all your appointments. Then block off additional time daily to tackle the personal and professional projects you need and want to accomplish. Be sure to set realistic goals by priority, and give yourself a certain time limit to accomplish each. Share your goals with a friend or a coach and you will keep yourself accountable.
Just Get Started
Avoiding procrastination is more effective when we start with little steps. Break down each task or goal into smaller goals that can be systematically accomplished one at a time. Setting small, quickly achievable goals helps you avoid being overwhelmed, lets you quickly see success, and keeps you motivated until you have completed the whole project. It is amazing where many small steps taken together can lead!
Procrastination means losing precious time, wasting valuable resources, and missing life’s golden opportunities. All of this can be avoided by focusing on what your goals are and actually doing what it will take to accomplish them. It will require consistent decisions and a continued commitment to avoid distractions and be in control of your own time. Before you get started on a project, make sure you have everything you need to avoid unnecessary interruptions.
This is the best part of being productive! Make sure you reward yourself once you have accomplished one of your projects…you deserve it!! Maybe even take part of the money you saved by not procrastinating and give yourself something special. Most importantly, though, be sure to spend some time each day doing the things you love to do so you can keep your momentum going, accomplish all you dream of, and live the life you truly deserve.
Living a life without procrastination doesn’t require a radical change; it just requires a decision. By overcoming procrastination you will experience a personal freedom and self-satisfaction you have probably not felt for a long time. Just imagine a life filled with strength, purpose and peace of mind…it is just a few actions away!
In life after divorce, there are many decisions to make and things we would like to change to have the life of our dreams. Taking action, though, can often be intimidating and overwhelming, but it can also be empowering! Taking action can provide the fuel you need to keep moving forward toward a more fulfilling life. Regardless of the time of year, there is no time more perfect than now to design the life you want…and deserve.
As you redesign your life, it is critical that you first understand that your life is exactly as you have designed it. Your life is the way it is right now because of your hesitation in taking action to change it!
In thinking about your life, which situations do you want to change first? Does your career, health, relationships, financial situation, or anything else make you feel powerless and stuck? Choose one simple action you can take immediately to inspire some positive movement in any of the areas you desire change. It does not have to be a huge action, just SOMETHING to start building momentum in your life.
Make a commitment to take your action step by writing it down and telling someone close to you so that you are accountable. You need to push yourself to take the action no matter what! This may seem incredibly difficult or even scary, but remember that most often the things you fear never materialize. In fact, you may not even have a clear reason for feeling scared…you’re just afraid of the “unknown”. Give yourself a pep talk or a little bribe in order to move forward at least a little bit.
Once you take that first step, let go of any expectations of the things that may happen because of it. Allow yourself to feel great simply because you did something about it. Once you have taken a step forward, keep pushing yourself to take others. Even small steps are a positive effort that result in change and cannot help but bring about better circumstances in your life.
Taking action quickly builds momentum. Just as chronic non-action creates a cycle of negativity and stagnation over time, being proactive can create a positive cycle that continues to grow! The more you do it, the easier it gets which eventually makes it seem almost effortless. You will continue to empower and strengthen yourself with every new action you take, and soon your life will look and feel totally different.
In addition to feeling empowered, there is much to be gained from enjoying the journey to your destination. Make it your mission to revel in every moment that you are working toward higher goals. Enjoy the sense of self-discovery and accomplishment you gain with every new goal you achieve. Make it a worthwhile journey and you will savor the end result that much more!
Taking care of yourself is important all the time, but even more so in your life after divorce. As women and mothers we tend to take care of everyone else first. The fact is, though, that we are special and we do deserve to pamper ourselves, despite our busy lives where finding “me” time seems impossible. By taking just a few minutes each day to focus on yourself, you will begin to experience the love and appreciation you deserve, in addition to reducing stress and gaining better control over your emotions. Ultimately taking care of yourself will enable you to make better decisions for yourself and your children in the future.
There are a number of simple things you can do to improve your self care. Overall healthy habits are vital. They will keep your spirits up, promote general well-being, and provide a great example for your children. Getting plenty of sleep on a daily basis and eating a healthy diet will help you look and feel your best. When you feel good physically, you feel even better emotionally.
Establishing a regular exercise routine is imperative. Exercise promotes physical fitness and a healthy heart, but it also releases the “feel good” endorphins that last long after the physical activity has ended. If you’ve always included exercise as part of your daily routine, consider trying something new! Joining a gym, taking a new exercise class, or joining a group that walks, runs, bikes, or hikes will not only add some variety to your exercise routine, but will also enable you to meet new people.
Caring for yourself can be fun! Consider reinventing your look. You can make a small change, like a new haircut, or go all out with a hair, makeup, and wardrobe makeover– the choice is yours. Getting help from professionals makes it a special treat, and you can do so fairly inexpensively if you do your homework. You will be amazed at how your new look refines your personal style and refreshes your perspective.
An often overlooked, but necessary aspect of caring for yourself is giving yourself some time on a regular basis. It is so easy to get caught up your day to day responsibilities of life, but if you end each day without so much as a few minutes of quiet time where you can collect your thoughts, you will never fully unwind or de-stress. Consider journaling your thoughts each day, or going for a walk, or meditating. Giving yourself time away, both with and without your kids, is also necessary in caring for yourself.
Most importantly, make sure you have a strong support system in your life after divorce. Care for yourself enough to accept help and support from friends and family at home and at work. If your family offers to watch the children so you can go out to dinner with friends – thank them and go! You may also need some help working through your feelings and getting yourself back on track emotionally. Don’t hesitate to seek friends’ or professional advice if needed.
Caring for ourselves is something many of us take for granted. When our basic needs are met, we can easily forget about all of the other necessities for living a healthy lifestyle. As you continue to rebuild your life after a divorce, there will never be a more important time than now to take the extra step in pampering and caring for yourself physically and emotionally. Take advantage of this opportunity to redefine your life on your terms and you will find you are one step closer to re-establishing your self-esteem. You will be pleasantly surprised by how you will start to attract great things into your life!
When it comes to your quality of life, especially in your life after divorce, attitude is everything! In fact, whatever you focus on the most, you tend to bring into your life. If you choose to hold on to your bitterness and negative emotions, you won’t allow yourself to open your heart and receive new people and opportunities into your life. You live as a victim and don’t allow yourself to take back your power and re-create the amazing life you deserve!
Have you ever known someone who had a terrible attitude? They may have been extremely negative and pessimistic, and were not much fun to be around; or they complained non-stop and blamed everyone else for how terrible their life or circumstances were. Did you find it draining to be in their presence? A negative attitude will not only make you miserable, but everyone around you too!
A positive attitude, on the other hand, turns you into a woman that everyone wants to be with; a woman that constantly experiences and attracts great things, and a woman who loves life! Is that the kind of woman you want to be…”better, not bitter”? If so, here are some tips to help you develop and maintain that magnetic, positive attitude and ultimately a better life.
Do what you love!
This applies to hobbies and fun activities, but it also to one of the biggest parts of your life ~ your work! Do you enjoy your career? Are you spending most of your time on something that you are passionate about that makes you feel fulfilled? If not, consider exploring other career options and moving toward a job you will love. When you regularly do things that make you happy, you can not only help but feel better about yourself and your life. Amazing what happy women can attract into their life!
Always expect the best!
Life after divorce can often seem overwhelming and it can be easy to get into the habit of seeing the doom and gloom in every situation if you let it. However, doing so keeps you forever focused on the negative. Instead, make a conscious decision to expect the best, even if your first impulse is to think negatively. Make it a conscious habit to fill your life with positive affirmations on a daily basis. Even starting your day by writing down a simple thought such as, “This is going to work out great!” or “Wonderful things are going to happen today!” can make a significant difference. The more you make these positive affirmations, the more you train your subconscious and the more you begin to believe it, the more you will begin to experience just that.
Build yourself up!
Think and speak positively to and about yourself every day. After going through a difficult time such as divorce, it is easy to get in the habit of being hard on yourself and talking down to yourself, especially if you were often criticized in your marriage. This can leave you feeling hopeless, frustrated and pessimistic. Get into the habit of building yourself up with positive self-talk and thoughts. Affirm your good qualities and downplay your negative ones. A great place to start is by forgiving yourself and your former spouse and then make it a practice to focus on everything you have in your life to be grateful for.
Build others up!
As often as you can, make an effort to encourage, support and compliment the people you encounter each day. That goes for those in your life who are important to you, as well as strangers you meet in your daily travels. It is amazing how a simple gesture can bring a smile to someone else’s face. The more you focus on recognizing the positive in others, the more others will be attracted to you, and the better you’re going to feel about yourself too.
The more you choose to focus on and worry about your failures and weaknesses, the more pessimistic and negative you are going to feel. Instead, consistently affirm your strengths, talents and capabilities. This will enable you to feel empowered and in control of your circumstances, which cannot help but improve your attitude and ultimately, your life.
Life after divorce is challenging, but with the right mindset, support, and focused daily action you can create a life that is better, not bitter. Most of all, though, nurture yourself and affirm that you are a work in progress…not perfect, but great nonetheless!
Life after divorce forces us not only to focus on our personal development, but also on our professional development in order to live our best life. Whether you’ve been in the workforce for a while, or at home raising your children, you may have found yourself with new responsibilities and the need to advance yourself professionally. This could mean working toward a promotion, changing jobs for a more flexible schedule, or re-entering the workforce.
If you have been out of the workforce for many years, you may need to return to school or take classes to develop your skills. Going back to school may be a valuable experience that helps give your life new meaning and new direction Your local community college or university is a good place to start. Stay-at-home moms also have many skills that can be applied to a profession, especially if you have volunteered or had a leadership position with a civic or community group, the PTA or a religious organization. Moms are specialists at time management, event planning, negotiating, listening, communicating and multi-tasking – all skills that are easily transferred to a résumé.
Regardless of your status, take a closer look at your current situation. Whether you are working on part time or a full time basis, decide whether or not it will continue to support your new, post-divorce lifestyle. Supporting your lifestyle is more than just providing the financial resources you need to survive. You also need to evaluate what your skills and talents are and what you are passionate about. Do you feel personally fulfilled in your career? Are you in a career that you are passionate about, or has it just become part of your routine because you never took the time to look at other options? Make sure you write all these thoughts down.
Specifying your career goals and creating a plan is an important step in moving forward professionally. You gain self confidence by seeing your strengths on paper and may discover a career you love. Be sure to share your plans with other people so they can help you achieve your professional goals. Networking and referrals are great ways to get your professional ball rolling. You don’t have to keep a job simply because you’ve worked there for several years You have been given an opportunity to recreate your life so take advantage of that. There is no better feeling than being fulfilled by work you are passionate about!
It is very common for some women to withdraw from their friends and be less social after going through a divorce. Now is not the time to be by yourself, especially during the holiday season! Being alone may only invite excessive dwelling on the past and the regrets you may have.
It may, however, be a good time to re-evaluate your friendships and set new boundaries for the friends you associate with and allow into your life. Choose to surround yourself with people who love you, support you, encourage you, and help you feel your best. Unfortunately, you may find that some of the friendships you had when you were married are actually emotionally draining and bring you down with their excessive complaining or negative attitudes. It may be beneficial to spend less time with mutual friends from your marriage who cannot seem to stop talking about your divorce whenever you are together.
Instead of allowing yourself to be affected by other people’s negative energy, find people who have a positive spirit and fill your life with them! In order to attract these people into our lives and have healthy relationships, self-respect and self-love are key. Spending time with positive people will attract more joy and happiness into your life and allow you to focus on the things that matter most to you. You will be uplifted by their energy, optimistic outlook, and love of life and experience more of the same in your own life.
In your life after divorce, it is also important to develop new friendships that are separate from your previous life. it is important to rediscover things you love to do that may have been forgotten over the years. Did you have hobbies or activities that you stopped doing at some point during your marriage? Most couples take on new activities together, and have far less time to do the things that they once did as individuals. Take time for yourself to rediscover your hobbies and passions, and pursue them once again. Give yourself permission to try new interests or activities you have always wanted to, but for one reason or another, could not make the time.
In addition to adding some new routines to your life, you will also benefit from new relationships with people who share your interests. Join a local organization or social group that participates in activities that interest you. If you enjoy crafts, for example, check your local crafting store’s schedule of classes or social meetings where people get together and craft side by side. If you play an instrument, consider joining a church or group that performs locally. The opportunities are endless – book clubs, gardening groups, parenting organizations, volunteer groups. Whatever your interests are, you can find a group of like-minded people to associate with and create new friendships that may last a lifetime. You may even find a gift!