Yes, I’m talking to you. If you’re laying on the couch or are in bed, for the next five minutes while you read this, I want you to give me your full attention. I’m not asking for much, even though what once seemed effortless to you such as a trip to the market or getting through the day without crying now feels equivalent to climbing a mountain. Five minutes is all I ask. Trust me when I say that the next five minutes will change your life.
I have been where you are now. I left a marriage that wasn’t right for me, moved out and on, and created the life I always dreamt about with a new partner (now husband) who is perfect for me and me for him. But to do this, I had to become courageous and strong, stronger than I was in the days just before embarking on the divorce process.
Like everyone else, I was no stranger to hard times. When I was 11, my parents divorced. Although it was extremely difficult splitting time between my mom’s and dad’s houses and life changed as I knew it, I had no choice but to adjust over time. All of us, no matter who we are and where we came from, are resilient. Whether we lose our job, break up with a significant other, become ill, or get divorced, we have the ability to pick ourselves up again, start over, and move forward. Whatever the setback, you have a choice to either let your circumstances get the best of you or use it as an opportunity to improve your life.
For many, divorce is the most life-altering event many people have had to deal with up to the point they walk into my office. Apart from counseling my clients about how to extricate themselves from their marriages, I also provide them with guidance as to how they can begin again, stronger than they were before. Here’s what I say.
1. Exercise self-care. Whether you’ve been neglecting your health or appearance, it’s time to set aside part of your day for you. For those of you who swear you don’t have even five minutes to spare, I assure you five minutes is all it takes to make a difference in your life. With five minutes you can meditate, do a few sit-ups in your living room, enjoy a cup of coffee without distraction, and apply some makeup. Start with five minutes. The next day, make it six, and the day after that seven. Quiet your mind and do one small thing for yourself each day. Treating yourself well is the one the best ways to build mental and physical strength.
2. Take control of your finances. Even if you’re in the midst of a divorce and your financial picture is presently uncertain, an excellent way to maintain a sense of control is to focus on what you do know instead of what you don’t. For instance, analyze how much money you were spending in your pre-divorce life and how much you predict you will need to live after you finalize your divorce. Even if you have to live with less, you will be living with the freedom you never had before. You’re building a new life for yourself. Set goals and focus your efforts on how you can reach them. Start small. One topic per day is all it takes. Surely your future deserves five minutes of your time, right?
3. Organize your space. The only way to feel more out of control than you already do is to live in an area reflecting that same disorder. Busy yourself by getting rid of clutter. When you live or work in a space that is streamlined and not filled with excess paper, clothing, and household items, you will feel more at ease and less as though the walls are closing in on you. Spend five minutes each morning examining what you no longer use or need and toss.
4. Change your surroundings. For those of you whose divorce takes you to a new home, maybe in a new locale, you’re getting an automatic change of scenery. If you’re going to continue living in the marital home, consider making adjustments to your house that will make it distinctly your own. Small changes such as a new coat of paint or bedding can feel very empowering. Don’t have time or money for those larger projects? Add a few flowers to your kitchen table and witness the change for yourself. You’re living on your own now so why not make it feel that way, too? Once again, all you need is five minutes.
5. Branch out. It’s true that strength comes from within, but it can also come from outside forces. If you don’t already have one, begin building a network for yourself comprised of supportive and like-minded individuals. Those people don’t all need to be divorced either. They only need to be the kind who are vested in your best interests and want to see you happy and well. These can be old friends as well as new ones, platonic or romantic. Explore interests, hobbies, or professional endeavors you haven’t had the chance to before and share them with others. Spend five minutes online exploring what meetup groups or activities your community offers and then make it a priority to attend one.
By following the advice above, little by little, piece by piece, and minute by minute you will see changes in how you look and feel. Remember, you’re stronger than you think. If you don’t yet believe in yourself, know that there is one person who does — me.