Looking after you

Taking care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your children. If you don’t look after yourself properly, you won’t be able to support your children when they need you.

Take care of yourself by:

  • eating, sleeping and exercising regularly
  • trying to stay mindful of your feelings about the situation
  • accessing support so you can manage your feelings in a responsible manner
  • making planned changes rather than reactive ones.

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Denial, anger and depression: how to deal with them

During divorce it’s normal to go through a huge range of emotions. Often these emotions may feel overwhelming.

Are you in denial?

At this stage you may feel like distancing yourself from the situation or, for some parents, this stage can also manifest itself as shock or disbelief.

During this stage you might:

  • feel like ‘this can’t be happening to me’
  • choose not to participate in the process
  • actively sabotage your partner’s attempts to file for divorce or leave the family home
  • postpone telling family or friends that things are changing
  • continue life as if nothing has changed
  • tell yourself ‘this is just a phase’
  • distract yourself to avoid dealing with the reality of the separation by working extra hours or keeping yourself busy
  • minimise the impact by telling yourself things are fine
  • try to distance yourself emotionally from your feelings by engaging in self-destructive behaviour, such as misusing alcohol or drugs, overeating, gambling or overspending
  • delay telling children or make up excuses for a parent’s absence or change of residence.

The Mayo Clinic has useful information on denial: when it can be healthy and how to deal with it when it becomes a problem. 

Anger

Anger is a normal reaction to divorce. You can deal successfully with anger by learning to recognise the feelings and finding appropriate ways to deal with them.

When you become angry you might:

  • feel more irritable and short-tempered
  • make irrational parenting decisions
  • overreact
  • feel extremely tense and stressed
  • make personal attacks or look for ways to get even with your ex-partner
  • become less emotionally available for your children
  • be unsupportive of the children’s relationship with their other parent
  • criticise or say bad things about the other parent in front of the children.

If you find yourself getting angry, find a way to distance yourself. Give yourself time to vent your feelings to a friend, sort through your feelings and cool off.

Once you have cooled off, then approach the situation. If the issue involves the other parent, instead of waging a personal attack, stay focused on the issue at hand.

Other ways to manage your anger might involve:

  • exercising
  • writing
  • deep breathing
  • talking to a friend
  • finding professional, spiritual or religious support.

It’s important to find healthy ways that work for you. The NHS Choices site has further information on anger and how to deal with it. 

Depression

When going through the process of separation and divorce, it is quite normal to feel depressed or intensely sad. For most parents, these feelings will get better over time.

However, if you find that the sadness is persistent, becomes worse or is affecting your daily life, you should seek professional help from your GP.

While at times it may feel overwhelmingly difficult, try to identify major causes of stress and seek help managing day-to-day activities. You may also find that taking some kind of positive action every day, no matter how small, will help you find the energy you need to get through the day.