With all the change, disturbance and activity that comes with divorce, it’s often easy to overlook one key activity: taking care of yourself. When you take care of yourself, you’ll be better able to cope the upheaval and better able to take of those who who are still depending on you such as your children or an aging parent.
Tina Swithin was in her mid-thirties when she got divorced four years ago. Her two girls, now aged six and eight are with her the vast majority of the time. That makes it even more important and at the same time, harder to take care of yourself. Here’s How Tina does it:
I don’t have a lot of free time. I am working full-time and being full-time mom and actually I just got married. I have a new husband so yeah, I have a very busy life, but I’ve always been a very busy person by nature.
If I’m feeling worn out, I just call it a night early, go to bed, get some rest. We live in California, so the weather is great and I can walk the girls to and from school and get fresh air in the mornings. But as for a lot of me time, I don’t really have that.
I attend counseling once a month and surround myself with really great friends and people who understand what I’m going through. I get a lot of healing from my blog and reading other people’s stories and helping other people. I really get a lot from that.
I have started going to church for the first time in my life. Prior to that, I would probably have considered myself some type of atheist, so it’s my life has changed a lot in the past four years in many different ways.
I actually had a really strange dream one night, the last few weeks of our marriage and in my dream somebody from high school who I know now is a pastor had been looking for me. Everywhere I went people were singing, “This person’s trying to get a hold of you.” I woke up the next morning—it was Sunday morning and I looked up a local church service and went to church.
The ironic thing was when I walked into church, the song that was being played was from the person who was looking for me in my dream. He’s actually a songwriter and musician. Up on the screen it said, “Music by Ryan Delmore,” and every goosebump and hair stood up on my whole body and I’ve been going to the same church ever since.
It’s given me a foundation that I never had before and just really strong quality relationships with the people at the church. One of the pastors walked alongside of this whole journey with me for the past four years and even wrote me a personal check when I was looking for an apartment for my daughters and myself. He helped me pay for the deposit and I barely knew this man. He was also the pastor who just married my new husband and I a few weeks ago.
They’ve been a lifeline for me. I’ve identified three common blocks to taking care of yourself. The first is time. If you can hear yourself saying, “I don’t have time for this,” then I’m going to challenge you to start small, really small. Could you find just five minutes in your day? I bet you can. Now in that five minutes do something to take care of yourself. As you get used to taking just five minutes stretch it to ten minutes or maybe do two five minute breaks. Gradually increase it until you are devoting at least 30 minutes a day to yourself.
The second obstacle is related to time but it’s a mental attitude of letting everything else take priority. This is especially true for women who by nature tend to be nurturing and care-giving for others. Do you feel guilty when you take care of yourself? Why do you feel guilty? Where is the voice coming from that is telling you not to do this? How can you quieten this voice? What happens if you talk back to the voice?
If you’re a task-oriented person, taking time out for yourself may mean adding this as a task to your daily to-do list. I know you have one. I do!
The third obstacle is figuring out what it is that feeds your soul. This is what will bring the most benefit from your self-care but if it’s been a while since you’ve made yourself a priority then you may not know what this is. It could be going to church as Tina did; it could taking a walk either with friends or on your own; it could be enjoying a quiet cup of coffee on your own in the morning before your kids wake up. There’s a ton of possibilities. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to involve spending any money. It’s whatever is going to help recharge your batteries.
Are you making time for yourself? What feeds your soul?
Tina Swithin describes herself as a one-time victim now survivor. She’s spent the past four years in a horrific custody battle with her ex who she believes suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can read about her journey at her blog, One Mom’s Battle and also in her book, Divorcing a Narcissist.
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