Divorce is by far one of the most stressful and unsettling events that occurs in a person’s life and brings up a mixture of emotions, from sadness to anger. You are ending a marriage that you thought would last forever. So, it is very natural (read: normal) to become emotional while going through the process. This holds true regardless if you are engaged in mediation or taking the direction of litigation which is often the more emotionally painful choice.
However, how you manage your emotions while being alert and aware of yourself will allow you to take the necessary steps to stay on top of how you feel so you can make rational, informed, and intentional decisions. It will also undoubtedly help you feel better about yourself, less negative and more in control of your destiny both in the present as well as the future with short and long term goals at the front of mind.
Managing your emotions when you are not in front of or sitting next to your soon to be ex is challenging enough. Just imagine your heightened emotions when you are in the same room. Now that is a challenge! Your ability to manage your emotions and express how you feel becomes that much more important.
And although we all know that doing this is easier said than done, it is possible. You can learn – because it’s a skill – how to take and make strategic and calculated steps to bring your ‘A’ game to mediation or court so that when you walk away and close the door behind you, you feel good. Empowered. Strong. Even in the moment, if you don’t feel that way.
Learning how to control your emotions during the divorce process is, unfortunately, a necessary evil. After you breathe in and breathe out, here are a few key ways to do just that…
We often allow our brain to think about our divorce all the time. So, at the beginning of the process, we may have a few triggers that emotionally charge us up. But over time, that number grows until such a time we feel like the divorce consumes our life leaving us feeling emotional much of our waking hours. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By putting your divorce in a box and placing it on a shelf only to bring it down periodically can we begin to start to break away from the intense feelings associated with going through the divorce process. This is a key way to manage our feelings so that when we do have to show up in court or mediation, we have given ourselves the time and bandwidth needed to move away from our divorce and use that energy elsewhere.
When you are going to mediation or court, limit how much energy you devote to your soon to be ex. Focus on the present and the issues that need to be addressed. Postpone some of your thoughts that can be managed and dealt with at a later time by ‘chunking’ out small portions of your time.
Managing your emotions when you are not in front of or sitting next to your soon to be ex is challenging enough. Just imagine your heightened emotions when you are in the same room. Now that is a challenge!
Learn to identify your thoughts and feelings and check yourself at the door. Literally. Before you open the door to your next mediation or court session, take a deep breath. Clear your mind and focus on the task at hand. Nothing else. Focus away from your feelings of bad conversations or conversations that went nowhere, past arguments, and the fear of the uncertainty about the future. Ask yourself, what do we need to accomplish today? How do I want to present myself? When I start to feel that I am unraveling, what thought can I bring to the front of my mind that will help decrease the flooding of emotions? How can I visualize that to help myself? So, when you go into court or mediation, to the best of your ability, you will have checked your feelings at the door and will be able to present the facts as you see them, rationally.
And remember, emotions can present an opportunity. We often think as emotion as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it. Having emotions during either of these processes shows that as people, we are vested. We are present. Engaged. So when you have an emotion or one is being expressed to you, listen and reflect. This provides you an opportunity to stay in the moment and grow. Give empathy when needed and don’t forget to do that for yourself. Self-care and self-compassion go a long way. And remember, when a negative emotion hits you, be aware that it takes just 90 seconds for it to pass through your system. That’s right – from the time your limbic system generates the emotion to the time that chemical reaction dissipates, is ninety seconds.
By simply being and accepting how we feel – and not asking ourselves why we are feeling a certain way, trying to make sense of our feelings, or thinking too deeply about them – is extremely beneficial. Mindfulness means not only accepting how we feel but not judging ourselves for feeling a certain way. Actively practicing mindfulness can help you move past and through negative feelings quicker.
Whether you end up in divorce court or mediation, expect the unexpected. That is part of life. Expect that there will be times that will simply blindside you. Two steps forward, three back. And there will be moments that will feel seamless. Learning how to manage your emotions and stay in the present will help you move through the process. Giving yourself that ‘space’ to accept, grow, and evolve will ultimately get you through the process faster.
Part of the journey through divorce is to have the ability to not only have short term goals but long term goals – with a primary focus on the big picture. Visualization helps you do this. What do you want your future to look like? If your future was what you wanted it to be, what would this look like? How will you know when you have arrived? What are both the short and long term goals to get you to the future you envision for yourself?
Thinking ahead and planning your end game helps you keep your emotions in check. For example, when we are able to imagine how we would like to manage our emotions during mediation or divorce court, it provides us the opportunity to visualize how that would look. And since we formulate memories visually we can create our end game. This can take the form of visualizing what we will wear, where we will be sitting, and how we would like to respond when we are asked a question. What this also does it creates anxiety that we can practice moving through. It builds our confidence and creates something tangible in our mind to focus. This will often prevent you from saying something that you might regret, finding it hard to get back on track.
It is important to remember, while some emotions are predictable, others are unpredictable, catch us off guard, and blindside us. However, learning how to manage your emotions while going through the process of divorce whether that be in mediation or divorce court, will empower you in ways you didn’t believe possible and ultimately bring you the peace you seek.
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