Coping with Divorce Stress? Here's How Meditation Can Help

By: Kat Forsythe MSW
: March 02, 2017

How are you coping with your divorce? In therapy? Taking meds? Shaky and unsure of your future? Want more peace of mind immediately?

Start meditating. It needs to be part of your daily routine, right now. I’ve seen it work miracles with my divorcing clients. It’s time for you to catch the train.

Two weeks ago, Glenda, 51, came sobbing into my office. She couldn’t sleep. Dreams of her debts since the divorce haunt her. Her oldest daughter won’t talk to her. She can’t concentrate at work. She’s asking for more meds. The last straw: her ex’s lover ”accidentally” left a message on their home machine, “Oh honey, I missed your hard body last night.”  

Glenda was a walking, talking mess of emotional turmoil and physical stress.  

Sound familiar? Whether you are male or female, Glenda’s story hap+pens to most divorcees to a greater or lesser degree. The good news is that the intensity of Glenda’s life at this moment doesn’t last forever. But, when you’re in the divorce process, especially when dealing with infidelity issues, you think you’re destined to a life of unfocused, disoriented misery.

If I can give you something during your divorce recovery to:

  • replace your valium
  • give you better sleep
  • add to your confidence
  • catapult you out of anxiety and fear
  • quiet your hateful thinking about “her” or “him”
  • calm your pounding heart

And, if I told you it doesn’t cost a penny, would you try it?

My guess is “yes”.

Learn How to Meditate

That’s where I steered Glenda. She balked at first and said it wouldn’t work. Too new-age. I suggested she attend a meditation retreat. She had a million reasons why not. I asked her, “How much is it worth to you to sleep at night and stop the constant tears?” She emailed the registration that afternoon.

At our next session, she beamed, “Kat, have your heard this passage?” She recited the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “Make me an instrument of your peace”. Glenda practices conservative Judaism, but she chose that prayer at the retreat from a list of passages from religions and spirituality around the world, because it spoke to her. It simply asks for peace, and that she be the best person she can be. It calmed her when she said it over and over. She had learned to meditate.

It calmed her. What a concept. Meditation turns out to be food for your soul. When the rest of your already-exhausted body is bombarded with anxiety-inducing stimulation during divorce, there’s a place you can turn to quiet it all down. Meditation. You feed your body with good food. Start feeding your divorce-laden hungry soul with nourishment, too. Meditate.

Glenda is doing a technique called “passage meditation”. For 25 minutes (start with 15 minutes for yourself, if 25 is too long when you first begin), she repeats a time-tested passage over and over to herself. If that doesn’t appeal to you, there are other forms: concentrate on your breath for 25 minutes, or walk quietly repeating a mantra – a short inspiring phrase like: “Beauty above me, beauty below me, beauty beside me, beauty all around me”.  

Here’s what it will do for you, starting at your very first try.

  1. Your stress level takes a downward dive. A small dive at first, but week after week, you’re simply calmer with less anxiety. Many clients actually stop taking anti-depressant/anxiety drugs altogether.
  2. You have more energy.
  3. Your thoughts throughout the day are less critical of yourself and others.
  4. You’re happier.
  5. You have more patience with the divorce process. Little irritations (your ex!) don’t bother you as much.
  6. You make better decisions.
  7. You sleep better.
  8. You move forward with your life because you’re thinking more clearly.
  9. You feel a greater depth and purpose in your life. Your authentic self (not your divorce self) begins to emerge.
  10. You gift yourself with a lifetime skill: You’re training your mind to think the thoughts you want, not the monkey brain chatter that pulls you down.

You Have to Do It for It to Work

Here’s the trick: meditation requires discipline. 

Commit to it. Understand that it takes time. When you start procrastinating, ask yourself: “What am I doing that’s so important that I can’t take time to reduce anxiety and be happier by meditating?” If you can name something more important, go do it. Otherwise, sit in this chair, close your eyes, and meditate for 25-30 mins at least once a day. If you can meditate twice a day, the benefits are exponential.

How to Get Started?

  • Sit up straight in a chair, on a floor cushion, or go for a slow walk on a danger-free path or sidewalk.
  • Sit/walk with good posture and close your eyes (except if you’re walking, of course!).
  • Go through your passage slowly over and over, or silently listen to your breath.
  • If you lose concentration (Everyone does! We’re human.), as in “What will I wear to court?”or “When do I take the car in?”, gently recognize that you’ve lost focus and go back to the passage or your breath.
  • Do this for 25-30 minutes every morning, preferably. If you can’t do it in the morning, schedule another time for it. Be prompt and strict about your promise to do it.

One caveat: sometimes during meditation, when you’re calm, you might have emotional moments of intense fear, sadness, or anger, or the opposite – joy, laughter, or happiness. Let them pass, but don’t stop your meditation. Keep going through the tears, or the laughter. The meditation will eventually help you level out, if you keep going.

Here’s the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, modified to get you started – or find a peaceful passage of your own, from any tradition.

Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Let me not so much need to be consoled, as to console.
To be loved, as to love.
To be understood, as to understand.
For, it’s in the giving that we receive.
It’s in the pardoning, that we are pardoned.
It’s in the letting go of our old ways that we are born to the new ways.

 

As you’ve heard me say before, your mind believes everything you tell it. Start telling it that you want peace, now.

Start your meditation practice today.