Self-care is always important, but it’s especially critical during times of stress. Between the length of the process and the emotional and financial impact, divorce is definitely a time of stress.

During a divorce, you will be asked to make choices that will affect you and your kids for the rest of your life. To make the best decisions that you can, you need to have the emotional and physical strength that can only be available if you’re taking care of yourself.

What is self-care?

  • Basic self-care is about becoming and staying healthy.  It involves getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising so that you can stay physically healthy.  If you don’t take care of your health, you risk entering a cycle of fatigue and illness.
  • Emotional self-care is unique. Emotional self-care involves those activities that will support your mind and spirit. The activities that recharge these areas will vary. Some people need lots of quiet downtime to read or journal.  Others need physical activity or social outings.  There is no right or wrong way to take care of yourself– think about what works for you: yoga, kick boxing, reading a book or meeting a friend for coffee.
  • Self-care involves nurturing your social life.  Having positive relationships and connecting with these people in person, not just on Facebook, is an important component of self-care. 
  • Red flags in self-care.  I just said there is no right or wrong way for self-care, but there is a caveat to that.  If you find yourself using substances like alcohol or drugs to feel better, seek professional help. Relying on these substances is a slippery slope and, unfortunately, it’s too easy to slide down during difficult times.

Challenges to self-care:

  • Mindset.  Some people think self-care is selfish.  Actually, we are more able to care for others when we take care of ourselves.  It is the airplane oxygen mask analogy: Put your oxygen mask on before you assist others, because you can’t help anyone if you pass out.
  • TimeVery rarely do people complain about too much spare time.  We live in a time when work, family and community obligations take up a lot of our time.  You have to protect time for self-care.  Take a walk during your lunch break or with a friend so that you can have social and exercise time.  Take 30 minutes before bed to read a book instead of answering emails or straightening the house.  Build in small blocks to every day and bigger blocks when your schedule allows. 

Parents who are able to take care of themselves during the process of divorce are more emotionally available to help their kids navigate the process.  During divorce, there is often the danger of kids stepping up to caretake for their parents.  You can prevent this by taking care of yourself and allowing your kids to use their energy to continue being a kid.