People going through divorce experience strong emotions. Among other things, they may feel angry, hurt, disappointed and scared. These feelings are normal and a natural part of mourning the loss of a marriage and the future you imagined. 

While it’s completely normal to feel these emotions, it’s important that you don’t allow them to overwhelm you. During your divorce you will be making important decisions that will impact your life for years to come. If you have kids, you will be making choices that will impact their lives too. You will also need to be emotionally available to help them deal with their feelings.

Perhaps the most important thing for balancing your emotions is to make sure that you’re meeting your basic physical needs. Make sure that you are sleeping and eating well. Get some exercise. Additionally, there are some basic strategies that you can use to help you manage your emotions:

  • Slow down: Slowing down in the moment means taking a few deep breaths and spending time settling your nervous system. Slowing down overall means taking fewer things on, recognizing not everything can get done when you are also doing the hard work of getting a divorce and being gentle with yourself when you have to cut back.
  • Understand your feelings: This is easier when you have slowed yourself down and stepped back from the triggering event. We have all experienced having a strong reaction to something that is completely disproportionate to the situation. Snapping at a grocery clerk that has mis-bagged your eggs is rarely about the grocery clerk. The real cause might be the meeting about your parenting plan you had with your lawyer right before you went to the store. Understanding the source of your feelings allows you to deal with the actual problem. Having the manager of the grocery store come out is not going to resolve your sadness or anger about your divorce.  Recognizing that certain aspects of the divorce (often financial or child-related) are troubling you allows you to make a plan for dealing directly with those issues. 
  • Maintain perspective:  Easier said than done. Ask yourself: what will matter in five years?  It will matter in five years that you and your spouse took the time to work out solutions that benefit your kids.  It will not matter in five years that you had dishes in the sink. 

As taking care of yourself physically will help you with this process, so will using your social support network.  Having other adults–whether it is friends, family or a professional–that you can talk with about your feelings will help you manage them.  Try to choose people who won’t pour fuel on the fire, but who will rather work to help you explore your feelings in a safe and supported way.

Strong emotions are like waves – they come and go. Teaching yourself to calm down and understand your feelings allows you to respond in a healthy and productive way. When you are able to do that during divorce, you model for your kids how to handle feelings and you allow them to feel supported because they don’t have to spend their energy taking care of you.