“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.
Wednesday’s Dose of Financial Savvy…
It is inevitable that our finances are affected in a divorce. Unfortunately many women find themselves resorting to using credit cards in their life after divorce. Credit card companies have become known for their sneaky practices of raising rates and shortening grace periods without the customer knowing, and ultimately negatively affecting consumers’ credit scores.
Fortunately the government is addressing some of these credit card issues. Some new laws went into effect this week as part of the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Some of the major changes include…
* Credit card companies cannot raise your rate on your current balance unless your promotional rate has ended or you are more than 60 days delinquent on your account.
* Credit card companies must notify customers 45 days in advance if their rate will be going up and then it only applies to the new charges. Customers have the option of opting out by closing their account and then they continue to pay the old rate until it is paid off. Unfortunately, though, there is not cap on the rates.
* Anyone under age 21 applying for a credit card must have a co-signer 21 or older if they cannot prove they have the independent income required to be approved.
Though these new laws will better protect consumers, experts predict that there will be some repercussions such as higher annual fees; fewer promotional offers with low introductory interest rates; fewer perks such as gifts and miles; and tighter credit card approval standards. The best strategy to protect yourself is to take responsibility for your own financial savvy and use your credit cards wisely to develop healthy spending habits.
Here are a few simple tips to keep you out of credit card trouble and avoid “giving away your money” by paying unnecessary interest…
* Make it a habit not to use your credit card to make “necessity” purchases. This includes food, gas and clothing. Buying simple everyday items on credit can easily develop into a bad habit of substituting your credit card for cash. By always using your cash or debit card, you will avoid paying any interest on your every day purchases.
* Do not apply for multiple credit cards. This will give you a false sense of financial security and ultimately get you in trouble when you cannot pay off the balances.
* Try to develop a habit of paying off your credit card(s) each month. If that’s not possible, be sure to pay off more than the minimum-only payment(s). When you make the minimum payment(s) each month, you are not only increasing the length of time it will take for you to pay off your debt, but also increasing the overall amount of interest you will pay.
* Make it a habit not to use your credit card to buy things you cannot afford. Living off borrowed money only gets you into debt and financial trouble. Learn to make disciplined decisions when it comes to buying items you “need” versus those you simply “want.”
* Always let your creditor(s) know in advance if you are having financial challenges and will not be able to pay your monthly payment(s) on time.
If you are honest about the situation and show good intent, most creditors will be willing to offer some type of temporary assistance or at least wave the late fees. It is crucial that you address this before the payments are late, though.
* Do not exceed with your credit limit! You should aim to stay under 50% of your total credit limit. A major part of your credit score reflects the quantity of the debt you actually have as compared to the amount you have available to you. Therefore, it is important to keep your balance(s) low in order to preserve good credit standing.
Making poor purchasing decisions and being irresponsible with your credit after divorce has long-term effects on you and your children. These habits will ultimately affect your ability to make those “big” purchases down the road such as a new car or a new home. Poor credit now affects future interest rates for mortgages and car loans, but also for everyday expenses such as car, homeowners, and health insurance!
Tuesday’s Dose of Outer Savvy…
The weather here in Connecticut is just dreary this week…dark, cold, and heavy rains with a big snow storm predicted as we head toward the weekend. Suffice it to say that the last thing I felt like doing was getting dressed up and going to a cocktail party!
It was my annual garden club cocktail party in the town where I used to live before I moved to Southport with my kids 5 years ago. Though it has become tougher to be involved from a distance over the years, I have remained an “affiliate” member and do participate in some of the civic, conservation, and horticulture activites during the year, while admiring the incredible creativity and talent of my flower arranging friends who enter all the shows.
The women in this organization have been my close friends over the past 20 years, despite the fact that many grew up with my former husband (and some of the older members were friends with his parents!). These were some of my strongest supporters when I was going through my divorce helping me to keep my self-esteem in tact. They would have done anything to help me during those dark days and I truly treasure these friendships!!
So despite the weather, and feeling sort of blah because of it, I put on a cute dark red dress and black suede boots, made my hors d’oeuvres, and braved the hideous weather on I95. I am so glad I made the decision!
I had a great time catching up and making plans with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Turns out one friend, who is also divorced, has a freshman at the same university as my son so we can now coordinate vacation rides. A highlight of the night, though…a friend asked me if I had had a “peel” because she thought my skin looked so good! No peels, just lots of moisturizer before bed!!
As I drove back home afterwards, I realized the night was just the shot of energy I had needed on a dreary, cold winter evening. We can easily get caught in the busyness of our daily routines and find excuses not to get out…the weather, we’re too tired, we don’t want to go to a couples party alone, etc. Sometimes, though, we just need to put on that cute dress and get out of the house…even if we don’t feel like it. Besides, you never know who you will run into when you’re looking and feeling great!
Monday’s Dose of Inner Savvy…
My teenage son and daughter and I have been watching the Olympics for the past 10 days and thoroughly enjoying it! It has been a great way to hang out as a family once we’ve gotten through after-school hockey and play practice, dinner, and homework.
In addition to the intense competition, I love the behind-the scenes stories of the athletes…the challenges they (and their families) have overcome; the sacrifices they have made; the pride they feel for their countries; and the pureness of competing for the love of the sport, not because of any amount of money. Clearly these athletes have earned their status as the best athletes in the world. As I’ve watched them, I realize it takes much more than just skill to be in the Olympics…it also takes an “Olympic Mindset” to compete at that level.
When I see the joy in the Olympians faces, it occurs to me how we should all have that same kind of joy in our lives! Though it may seem difficult in our life after divorce, we can have that same joy if we just adopt the Olympic mindset in going after what we want. Here are the characteristics I’ve noticed that we can also apply to our lives…
1. Resilience…An athlete may not have a great race or game or competition every time, but they are able to celebrate the victories and move on to the next competition. In life after divorce, we are forced to deal with adversity. Only by letting go of the past can we truly bounce back and move into our future.
2. Positive Perspective…An athlete’s training focuses on repeating what they do right to perform at their highest level (ultimately eliminating any bad habits), as well as their inner belief that they can and will accomplish their ultimate goals. In order to find true joy in our life after divorce, we need to to rid ourselves of the negative emotions, fears, and limiting beliefs we sometimes carry around.
3. Personal Power…The athlete is really the only one who can control their performance and outcome. Just as they must find and exude an inner strength and confidence, so must we. It is crucial that you rediscover you…who you are and who you want to be as you recreate your life after divorce.
4. Commitment…Developing into an Olympic athlete does not come without personal sacrifice, but that is part of achieving the goal. We also need to make a commitment to do the personal development work necessary to be able to shift our old patterns and choices to achieve more inner peace, confidence, health, abundance, and positive interpersonal relationships.
5. Support…Just as an athlete is supported by their coach and teammates, it is important for us to have emotional support in our journey of transformation. Don’t be too proud to ask friends or family to help you when you need a break from your kids, or contacts when looking for a new job, or help moving a piece of furniture…they want to be there for you! You may also feel you need more professional help so empower yourself and seek out the resources of a support group, a therapist, or a coach.
6. Intense Focus: Keep the End in Mind…The Olympic athlete has the ultimate goal of going for the gold. All of their habits…healthy eating, mentally preparing, keeping in shape, a rigorous practice schedule…focus on that goal. In our life after divorce, to tuly have a life that is “better, not bitter,” we need to intensely focus on our personal development, health & wellness, finances, career & business, and relationships.
Enjoy the rest of the Olympics! I’d love to hear how you’re applying the “Olympic mindset” in your life after divorce.
Friday’s Dose of Relationship Savvy…
It was impossible today to turn the radio or TV on without hearing about Tiger Wood’s big press conference. Personally, I’m a little tired of public apologies for infidelity. John Edwards, Mark Sanford, and now Tiger…all public figures who abused their positions because they could. They all said they were sorry, but I would also guess they’re just as sorry they got caught.
I didn’t watch Tiger’s press conference, but did see a few clips afterwards. There were a few things that struck me…
First, I can’t imagine the pain, the hurt, the humiliation that his wife Elin has endured. No woman (or man), no matter how strained their marriage may be, deserves the complete disrepect of infidelity. I have never understood how a woman could knowingly have an affair with another woman’s husband, especially when there are children involved…but maybe that’s because I believe in empowering other women. The answer to relationship problems is never found in the arms of someone else; only from looking deep within.
Second, as I heard Tiger apologizing to Elin, it occurred to me how many women (and men) never get an apology, either because the cheating spouse doesn’t get caught or because, if they do, the other spouse is made to feel that it was somehow their fault. They are not as attractive or fun or smart or exciting as the paramour. And it’s not just the affair they deserve an apology for, but also for the trust, the pillar of a relationship, that is destroyed as a result.
Third, and probably the most significant part of Tiger’s speech to me, was how he admitted that he felt “entitled” to do what he did. While it’s easy for celebrities to feel entitled, it occurred to me how many non-celebrities also feel entitiled. As a single mom of four, I am determined that my children, especially my three boys, will not grow into adults who feel they are entitled to do what they want when they want. They will grow to understand they are not their own highest beings. I have made faith a priority in our lives, but given the world we live in it’s a challenge for all parents, and especially single parents, to raise compassionate children with a conscience.
Clearly infidelity is a heated topic and most people have some opinion about Tiger’s behavior and subsequent apology. It’s sad to me how many families today are destroyed by the deceit of infidelity and the illusion that the grass is always greener on the other side. Only time will tell if Elin and Tiger will become another divorced statistic.
Thursday’s Dose of Professional Savvy…
Why do some women seem to succeed in all they do, especially when it comes to their career or business, but others just flounder? It is primarily because these women have set goals and have taken the steps to successfully achieve them. Though it may seem that they always easily achieve their goals, it takes focus and commitment, and sometimes sacrifice.
Here are some strategies successful women use in their personal and professional lives:
1. Successful women start with a long-term goal. They write it down and focus on why it’s important and when they want to achieve the goal.
Try this yourself and be as visual as possible. When you are writing your goal be clear with yourself about how achieving this goal will change your life for the better. Once this long-term goal has been documented, break the goal into tangible steps that need to be taken to achieve the goal. By breaking the steps down you will be able to see this as a manageable process, and not be overwhelmed.
2. Successful women make certain that they really want the goal and that it is consistent with how they want to live their lives.
Ask yourself, “Do I really want this goal? Will this goal give me a better life?” Answering these questions will give you more drive and determination to achieve your goal.
3. Successful women speak up!
Don’t keep your goals to yourself. Sharing your goals will help you get the support you need from friends, family, or business associates. You may be concerned with telling others about your goals because you are worried you may not achieve it. However, by sharing your goals and plans you are more likely to achieve your them either with their support or in-spite of them.
4. Successful women keep a list of all their goals, both long and short term, and review them often.
After writing your goals down and why you want to achieve them, be sure to review them regularly. Keep them in a place (or places) that is visible , such as your bedroom mirror, your refrigerator or by your computer in your office, to keep you motivated. You can’t just write them and tuck them away somewhere ‘safe’ You have to discipline yourself to keep your goals top of mind and stick to what you have committed to.
5. Successful women stay focused and do not give up.
Consistently reviewing your goals helps to keep you focused and taking the steps you need toward achieving them. While working toward your goals, you may face challenges that might change the way you see yourself. You may find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone and that’s great…it means you are stretching and growing and getting closer to where you want to be! Never be discouraged. Obstacles are just a test for how committed you are to achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself. Prepare yourself to face anything and do whatever it takes to attain the goal. Only you can make it happen. Nothing can stop you if you set your mind to it and commit to taking massive action!
I’d love to know your personal and professional goals…please share them!
Wednesday’s Dose of Financial Savvy…
A Savvy Divorced Chick recently asked me a question about health insurance once her divorce is finalized. I thought maybe some other women in our community might have the same concerns so I’d like to share what I have learned.
While it is definitely better to get your own health insurance while you are healthy and don’t have pre-existing conditions, your husband or former husband’s company (if he is employed and has health benefits) is required by law to provide you with COBRA for up to 36 months.
COBRA is the temporary continuation of health coverage under a group plan. You will typically have to pay the entire premium unless that is part of your financial settlement (though the premium will no longer be subsidized by his company), but at least it can tie you over until you can find employment with benefits. Also, you will still receive dental coverage under COBRA if that is part of the company’s plan, but dental will most likely be an addition to any private insurance plan, not automatically included.
If COBRA is offered and you take it, make sure that you follow up with your husband’s corporate HR department once the divorce is finalized to make sure all the proper paperwork is executed. You only have 60 days to notify the plan administrator to have your existing coverage continue. My former husband didn’t realize he was supposed to notify his company and I almost lost the option of COBRA!
Personally, I took the COBRA option for a few months and then found less expensive individual insurance online at www.ehealthinsurance.com. This site will provide you with lots of comparable options in terms of coverage such as deductibles, copays, services, etc. The higher your deductible, the lower the monthly premium you will have to pay. If you are very healthy, this may be the more cost-effective route!
Also, if you have children, your husband will probably be responsible for covering them until after they graduate from college. Your divorce agreement will outline who is responsible for the deductibles, co-pays and perscriptions beyond the premium payments.
If you decide to start your own business rather than work for someone else, you will have to cover your own insurance either with COBRA or private insurance. This may also be a deductible business expense you can take advantage of , but be sure to check with your accountant to make sure. You may also be able to take advantage of a group rate if you become a member of your local or state Chamber of Commerce or become a member of an association affiliated with your industry.
If your divorce is not final yet, I would make sure you discuss all these details with your attorney and include as much detail as possible in your agreement regarding you and your childrens’ health insurance. If your divorce is final and you have private insurance, I would suggest evaluating your individual policy annually to make sure it is covering your needs.
Tuesday’s Dose of Outer Savvy…
It’s amazing how trying something new can energize you, even if it’s a simple activity! It’s actually been a while since I remember trying something new, but recently a friend invited me to be a guest at a Zumba class at her health club. In case you haven’t heard of Zumba, it’s basically a dance exercise class on steroids. Sounds easy enough, but I have never felt so uncoordinated and I am pretty athletic. What a workout, though…and so much fun. I don’t remember laughing that hard in a while!
In addition to burning a lot of calories and moving parts of my body that had never moved, a simple Zumba class reminded me of a few things. Most importantly, it reminded me of the opportunity my divorce has given me to open myself up to new ways of being and doing, and to put the fun back into my life. It’s easy and safe to keep things as they always have been, but the more we try new things in our life after divorce the more we are able to develop a new identity.
As a single mom, depending on your childrens’ visitation schedule, you may now have more free time than you did when you were married. Very often friends may be busy with their families and aren’t available to get together when your kids might be with their dad. Pursuing new interests and interacting with new people not only keeps you from being alone, but also expands your social network and potentially even your professional network. It also allows you to surround yourself with people who may be facing some of the same challenges you do. Be sure to surround yourself with only positive people, though, or those relationships will become draining.
Trying new activities, pursuing a new hobby, or overcoming a fear can truly ignite a new energy within you and make you feel more optimistic about the future. In some cases, it can even have your kids looking at you differently! I’ll never forget the look on my kids’ faces when I told them I had zip-lined through the rainforest in Belize when I went on a business cruise…they know how afraid of heights I am.
I’d love to hear about the new things that you’ve tried in your life after divorce. Please share!
Monday’s Dose of Inner Savvy…
I don’t remember ever spending a Valentine’s Day alone. It wasn’t really meant to be…it just sort of evolved that way this year. And that was okay!
My two younger kids had gone to their dad’s late Saturday afternoon to spend the night and were supposed to be coming home Sunday afternoon. I was busy working on the computer all day Sunday…surrounded by piles of paper with all the tax info I needed to complete the FAFSA forms for my older two sons in college. My plan was to have the forms submitted by the time the kids got home so we could go out for a little Valentine’s dinner.
My head was sort of spinning with numbers when the phone rang. It was my 13 year old daughter asking if she could spend the night at her dad’s and go to a dog show in NYC the next morning with her dad’s girlfriend. I could have been upset because I had made plans for us that evening…or because she was going to do something with her dad’s girlfriend…or because it was Valentine’s Day. But the thing is, I didn’t feel any of that resentment. My daughter loves dogs…she begs me every birthday and Christmas for a cute, adorable one so it didn’t even occur to me to say, “No, I have plans for us.” It would have made her feel badly and put her in the middle of pleasing her mom and doing something she’d really enjoy.
I wasn’t surprised at all by the next call. About two hours later my son called to ask if it was okay for him to stay at his dad’s too. His dad had said he would put him on a train if he wanted to come home, but my son didn’t want to take the train. I could have predicted all of that!
Knowing that I hadn’t made other plans with friends and that I was now alone on Valentine’s Day I could have been hurt and resentful…but I chose not to be! Instead, I enjoyed some “me” time…a quiet night at home, ordering my favorite gournet pizza (which my kids really don’t like anyway) and watching one of my favorite chick flicks, “The Holiday.” The perfect dose of relationship optimism!
As divorced women and single moms, we will always face situations that test our emotions. How we react is really a choice, and sometimes we won’t react the way we wish we had. I could have chosen to focus on not having a Valentine and played “the victim,” but instead I chose to be grateful for the relationships I do have in my life and took advantage of some new-found quiet time. Working through the bitterness from a divorce takes time and some significant personal development work, but life after divorce truly can be better, not bitter…it’s all about your perspective!