(Author of Light on the Other Side of Divorce) Dr. Elizabeth Cohen provides us with beneficial tips for taking better care of ourselves.
The idea of self-care is thrown around a lot. But, most of my clients look at me blankly when I mention the concept.
Now, before you click out of this blog thinking you do not have time to take care of yourself try this: think of how you might respond if I told you this blog was about how to help or take care of someone else in your life. You’d likely get your pen and paper out and get cracking, right? But, when the focus is caring for you there is likely more hesitancy, procrastination and disinterest.
Keep reading and trust me that using good emotional and physical self care techniques will save you time, money and stress when managing your divorce and help you carve out some time.
What is self-care?
Let’s start by defining self-care. One of my favorite mantras is “self-care is self-protection.” This means that engaging in behaviors that are kind and loving that require you to take care of yourself first protects you from pain and heartbreak. This is just like flossing our teeth. We floss so we will have healthy teeth in the long run not for the immediate effect. Before we dive into the Sunday self care tips I want to mention a common misconception about self-care. Some of you might think that self-care is simply selfish. After all, we have been taught that focusing on ourselves and taking me time to enjoy ourselves is lavish. We live in a culture where working hard and sacrificing is valued and rest and recuperation is devalued. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself struggling to accept that self-care is worth your time.
There is a difference between being selfish and self-care. Being selfish means you are only thinking about your needs to the detriment of others’ needs around you. Self-care refers to behaviors you engage in so that you can fill up your own gas tank. By nurturing yourself in this way you can be more selfless and giving in the future. The goal here is to take care of yourself so that you can show up as the best version of you to others. It is important to note that there is emotional, physical and spiritual self care. We will discuss all types.
Here are my top Self-Care Sunday tips:
SELF CARE SUNDAY TIP 1: SAY NO
I can still remember the chills I felt down my spine when someone told me that “No” is a full sentence. It suddenly occurred to me that I did not need to over explain, apologize or undo my behavior when I told someone I could not deliver on their request. I noticed I had time and energy back. While you might worry that saying “no” is being mean, keep in mind that there are many ways to say “no” kindly. I often recommend you start with acknowledgement for the request, state your “no” and then end with an expression of gratitude for the consideration.
Emotional SELF CARE SUNDAY TIP 2: ASK FOR HELP
The second tool for self-care is asking for help. Allow yourself at least 15 minutes for this exercise. Write down all the things you do in a day. Write down everything you do from the moment you wake up to when your head hits your pillow. Write down all you do for your family, work, pets, household, and your finances. Use as many pages in your journal as you need.
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Getting all that you do out on paper helps us see how much you do and brings to light what needs attention. Now, next to each of the tasks you listed answer the following two questions:
- Does this have to be done at all?
- Does this have to be done by me?
The first question helps weed out any tasks you are doing out of habit, or routine that simply are not essential anymore. I remember washing my kids sheets every day for years until I realized that as they get older, they do not dirty their sheets with the same frequency they did when they were younger. This example also applies to the second question. It occurred to me that my children now, 13 and 15 at that time could wash their own sheets. I did not have to be the one completing this task.
SELF CARE SUNDAY TIP 3: CREATE A SOUL LOVING SPACE
The third self-care tool is to create a soul-loving space. Consider a space in your home or office that you would like to dedicate to you and your serenity. This is a place where you can land at the end of the day or when you need a moment of respite.
Now, close your eyes and picture a space that feeds your soul. What colors do you see? What textures do you feel? What smells do you smell? What sounds do you hear? Do you want candles, music, blankets, pillows, incense, inspirational images or pictures? Really design a space that would bring ease simply when you are there. If you need some added inspiration feel free to look online and find images that resonate with you.
Emotional SELF CARE SUNDAY TIP 4: THREE THINGS I DID WELL TODAY
The fourth self-care tool is one that I teach to all my clients. Before bed every night pull out a piece of paper and write down three things you did well that day.
When I teach this strategy most clients have the same reaction. Clients almost immediately say, “I won’t be able to find anything because I do not do anything great during the day.” However, I then tell them the secret to this tool which is to pick really small behaviors. Really small. For example, you can write down if you said “bless you” after someone sneezed, held the door open for someone, said hello to the doorman in your office building, smiled at the barista in the morning or listened to a co-worker’s story.
I know these seem like small behaviors, but all the small actions you take every day make up the special person you are. When we dismiss these kind gestures, we are missing parts of us that are kind, thoughtful and generous. We need to keep an eye on to help our sense of self grow and flourish. As you know when you are going through a divorce your confidence takes a hit, so please try this exercise at night and notice what comes into your awareness.
Spiritual self-care Sunday Tip 5: Gratitude list
Unless you have been living under a rock you have likely heard about the power of gratitude lists. If you are like many of my clients you are curious, but not sure how to get started. Like all new behaviors and especially those to help increase self-care and self-confidence we need to start small. I ask my clients to write down 3 things they are grateful for each day.
I have some rules about what they are allowed to write. They cannot write large conceptual ideas they are grateful for like love, family, and health. While I certainly hope you have those things and feel grateful for them, they are not helpful for this practice because they are to operationalize. However, we can say “I am grateful for the spontaneous hug my 14-year-old gave me this morning. I want you to notice small moments of gratitude.
For example, a common item on New Yorkers‘ gratitude lists is catching the subway before it pulls out of the station. A miraculous thing happens when you start looking for small moments of gratitude during your day, you start to notice even more! If you know you have to write down 3 things that you appreciated during the day you are going to be searching out more positive experiences in your day than negative.
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Emotional self-care tips
Emotional self-care is the act of validating and accepting your emotions as they are without trying to change them. This includes self-compassion, self-love and acceptance. Here are three tips of how to give yourself emotional self-care.
- Put your hand on your heart and say to yourself “my love you deserve love and affection. 5 friends every single mom needs
- Ask yourself what you would say to a trusted friend who was struggling with the same situation. Often we can find much more compassion for another person than we can for ourselves.
- Remind yourself on a daily basis that your feelings matter. This means all your feelings. In order to be a full vibrant person you need to allow all the rainbow of feelings you have (anger, sadness, grief, joy, love, excitement). The more you allow the deeper you love for yourself and your life.
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Physical self-care tips
Physical self-care tips require you to connect and treat your body with the immense respect and love it deserves. Here are three tips on how to give yourself physical self-care
- Check in with your body. Wake up in the morning and while you are brushing your teeth ask your body how it feels and wait for the answer. Take a moment to hear beyond the first automatic response of “tired” or “overwhelmed.” Listen for physical descriptions of what your actual body feels like. For example, “my feet feel heavy” or “my head feels stuffed with air.” Just observing your body (and not even doing anything about it) is a loving gesture to your body.
- Rest is an essential self-care tool. We live in a world where we are told that being productive is the goal. But, we are mammals and we must rest in order to get the most out of our lives. We cannot skimp on rejuvenation or we will burnout. Our nervous systems need time to replenish their energy. How much time are you allowing for replenishing?
- Movement of any kind is an important physical self-care tool. Movement is required for our nervous systems to process and discharge the stress response from everyday experiences. We have a biological stress response system called the fight/flight/freeze response.
We need to allow for the nervous system energy of these powerful reactions to move through our body. Hence, the importance of movement. Movement doesn’t have to be exercise. It can be gardening, dancing to your favorite playlist (my go to), rotating your joints or belly laughing really hard.
Spiritual self-care tips
Spiritual self-care involves connecting to the experience that you are not in control of your environment and experience 100% of the time. You do not have to believe in another entity or have a religious affiliation, you simply have to trust that you are not in charge of everything! Here are three tips on how to give yourself spiritual self-care
- Meditation. When we hear meditation we often think of a monk sitting on a mountain for days or months at a time in peace. But, actually, meditation is a much subtler form of presence. Meditation is a daily practice of noticing without judgment.
For example, the next time you are washing the dishes take a moment to notice what it feels like on your hands to be covered in soap or using a sponge. Really feel into the sensations of the water temperature, the smell of the dish soap and the texture of the dishes. Observing with a non-judgemental curious eye allows you to take your judgment, ego and opinion out of your experience. This is a practice that when done over time has a profound experience on your day-to-day perspective.
- Find your people. We are social beings. We evolved to connect to stay safe and multiply. No matter how much you have been hurt by others in the past, you need others to survive. The key is to find your people, not the people you default to being with, but people you choose.
Write a list of the top 3 things you want out of a friend and allow yourself to dream big. Think about what you need when you are struggling and the type of support you crave. Now start looking for friends like that and do not settle. You deserve the love and support you desire.
- Control Exercise. We all like to think we have control over a lot of our life because it helps us feel safer, but really we only have control over our behavior. So, take out a piece of paper and write a line down the middle.
On the left side write a heading that says “things I cannot control” and on the right side write “Things I can control.” Now getting writing.
Your kids’ response to your ex when you drop them off: You cannot control. Making sure you get enough sleep and water throughout the day: You can control. Make this list every morning so you can set yourself up for success and begin to focus on what will actually move the dial in your life (taking care of you) and releasing what you cannot change (another person).
There are so many benefits to practicing self care. By making these tools part of your daily routine you will be able to show up fully for yourself and others. Imagine if the next time you tackled a stressful activity you felt filled-up and cared for. You can make that happen by following these steps.
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Light on the Other Side of Divorce
Discovering the New You
#1 New Release in Divorce
Offering a well-researched and tested method for recovering from a broken heart after divorce, Dr. Elizabeth Cohen brings her highly successful “Afterglow” process to you in Light on the Other Side of Divorce. Don’t just move on after a breakup―thrive.
Readers of divorce books for women and men like This Is Me Letting You Go by Heidi Priebe, Conscious Uncoupling by Katherine Woodward Thomas, and Finding Love After Heartbreak by Stephan Labossiere will find joy after heartbreak with Light on the Other Side of Divorce.