Guest blogger: Claire Macklin (formerly Black)

One thing is certain about going through a divorce – it will lead to change in all areas of your life.  And that may be challenging and painful.  Perhaps you feel like you are on a rollercoaster full of ups and downs, twists and turns.  Or a sea that is sometimes stormy, sometimes calm, but always unpredictable.

One of the fundamental pillars of all my work coaching clients who are going through a break up or divorce is to concentrate on what you can control.  One of the mistakes many of my clients make is to focus on the very things that are most outside their sphere of control – like their ex’s behaviour, words and decisions.

What can you control?

You can control YOUR stuff: your words, actions, thoughts, behaviour, decisions, feelings, reactions, body language, assumptions, beliefs and ideas.

You can’t control what your ex says, does, thinks, decides, feels or assumes.  You can’t control how they see the situation, or what they believe.  And when you try to, you may end up feeling frustrated when they simply don’t do what/say/see you want.  Not only that, by focusing on them, you give your own power and energy away.

Whenever your divorce throws a curveball, or something happens that you feel strongly about, ask yourself:

  • What CAN I control here?
  • What could I do differently?
  • What are my choices?

Even if you are in the early stages of your break up, there are things you can do to take back a little bit of control over your life.  Here are 7 examples:

Change it up

Making changes to your environment can really shift how you feel.  Perhaps take down those wedding pictures, and throw out the duvet your mother-in-law gave you for Christmas.  Replace them with something that helps you to feel differently.  Move furniture around, buy a new duvet set, change the lighting, take some new photos and put them up instead.  Tune your radio to a different channel, and watch something different on TV.

Dress for how you want to feel

It’s easy when you’re feeling low to dress in your oldest, but most comfortable clothes.  Start to notice how your clothes make you feel, and dress for how you WANT to feel – so pick clothes that uplift you, that boost your spirits, that make you stand taller and feel more confident.

Choose your support network wisely

You can control who you spend time with.  Choose to spend time with those friends and family who make you feel better, who listen to what you need, and who you trust not to gossip behind your back.  These are your radiators.  Avoid those who make you feel drained, or who want to probe every small detail only to talk about it when you aren’t there.

And definitely avoid those who start sentences with “If I were you”, “You should …” and “When I got divorced, I ….” – they are not you, they aren’t in your shoes, and their experiences were different to yours.

Don’t subject yourself to torture by social media

You can absolutely control what you look at, and what you say, on social media.  I have worked with so many clients who spend time scrolling their ex’s Instagram/facebook/twitter feeds, only to feel upset and angry afterwards.  It really is better for you not to see what your ex is doing, who they are socialising with.

It is definitely a bad idea to stalk your ex, or their new partner, on social media, or to air your anger on your status updates.  None of this will make you feel better in the long run, even if it does give you an endorphin rush in that moment of pressing “post”.

Stop, breathe, think, respond

Use your breath to take a pause before you respond to anything that makes your emotions rise.  Breathe, get oxygen back into your brain so that you can think before you speak.

If you receive an email that riles you, or upsets you, take a deep breath and, if possible, leave it 24 hours before you reply.  Leaving 24 hours will give your brain time to process, and to sleep on it.

The questions you ask yourself

You can control the questions you ask yourself in your head.  If you find yourself asking questions like “why is this happening to me?”, “how could he/she do this to me?”, there is only one way those questions are going: on a downward spiral.

Your brain is like google – it will answer the questions you ask it.  So create a list of better questions:

  • What would be the most helpful thought I could have right now?
  • What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?
  • What don’t I miss?
  • If I knew, what is one tiny upside to this?
  • What one thing always helps me feel better?

Your responses to communication

You can control how, whether and when you respond to communication.  You can choose not to respond to personal attacks designed to rile you.  You can work to ensure that your emails are always polite and civil.  You can choose when you open emails related to your divorce, and whether your notifications are on all the time – you could switch them off after 6 pm for example, so that you never have to read an angry email from your ex, or an email from their solicitor, at bedtime.

Fundamentally, it isn’t what happens to you that makes the difference; it is what you do with what happens to you.  Focusing on what you CAN control is key.  When you focus on what you can control, your energy will follow, and you will start to feel stronger and more empowered.

If you would like to explore how I could work with you to feel more in control, please get in touch.

Guest blogger: Claire Macklin (formerly Black) – Break Up & Divorce Coach: