According to the American Psychological Association, more Americans are feeling the effects of stress in life. When surveyed, nearly half reported stress-related insomnia and about a third reported feeling anxious, irritable, or fatigued due to stress. While there are several life events that can generate these stress-related symptoms they are often experienced during separation and divorce. Separation and divorce can turn the world upside-down and lead to questioning everything making them two of the most challenging and stressful of all life events.
During separation or divorce, as stress becomes more a part of life, so must self-care. The Oxford Dictionary definition of self-care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress”. Putting this definition into action is one way to make self-care a part of life and that can be done by breaking it down into three approaches.
1) Self-care is what you do.
This means taking an active role by doing things that support you. Self-care is not a one-shot deal. It serves best as a cultivated, practical, daily practice. When looking for what to do for self-care consider listening to your rhythms. Rest when tired, move when restless, explore when curious. Aligning with yourself even briefly throughout the day is good self-care.
2) Self-care is also what you don’t do.
This means protecting one’s own wellbeing by reducing or eliminating the thoughts, feeling and actions that don’t serve. Some examples are no longer buying sweets that will sit in wait to tempt you or taking a mini social media vacation whenever you come away frustrated, exhausted or disheartened by what’s on the screen.
3) Self-care is what you let others do.
This could mean letting others do for themselves rather than doing for them. Also, you can let others do for you. There is a common struggle with confusing self-care for selfishness. They are not the same. When you take care of your self in this way, others are strengthened rather than taken from. Letting your daughter arrange her own ride or letting a friend prepare a meal for you can be affirming for all.
Sometimes it’s most helpful to start with just one of these approaches self-care. So for today, pick one thing you can do, not do, or let someone else do and begin. Keep it simple and supportive.
Sources: American Psychological Association (2017). Stress in America: The State of Our Nation. Stress in America ™ Survey
Renee Ellis, MA LPCC RMT is a counselor in East Denver. She is committed to helping clients move through life’s difficult transitions and gracefully bring wisdom to life. For more information visit
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