Divorce recovery is unique because it embodies a combination of disillusionment and despair around the sudden loss of your deepest attachments. Your most basic dependency needs are at risk, and the person you were counting on for everything has disappeared. This is one of the reasons I don’t teach people to “let go” too early in their recovery. It’s very scary to jump into a new life with no safety net in place.
You have been severely traumatized on a psychological, spiritual, and emotional level and this is why one of the first steps in recovering from this kind of loss is rebuilding your foundation. It’s a delicate balance to untie the knots of a marriage while trying to build new connections to something stable.
Divorce recovery is a dance that takes time, patience, and a lot of support.
A foundation provides the stability and strength needed to support the structure being built on top of it. When the foundation gets shaken or shifts, the structure is threatened and can crumble to the ground. In many marriages, small fractures in the foundation develop over time leaving it vulnerable and unstable. The cracks and fractures might be small lies, missed opportunities for connection, hurt feelings, or snide comments, which pave the way for a full-blown disaster like infidelity or walking out on the marriage.
Divorce hits like an earthquake. What you thought was strong and steadfast has broken into a million pieces leaving you feeling like you are standing on unsteady ground. Knowing this can help you to understand why you feel lost and ungrounded.
Sometimes things need to be broken down so that they can be rebuilt in a new and better way.
This is why the very first step in your divorce recovery is to lay a new foundation for yourself and your life. Rebuilding your foundation is an opportunity to create an even stronger support system both internally and externally. Your internal foundation includes your physical and emotional wellbeing and your external foundation will include your social support system.
When I teach about divorce recovery and getting grounded I like to refer to the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. His hierarchy is portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with our most fundamental human needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top.
Divorce deeply affects the bottom three layers which include (from bottom to top):
- Physiological needs
- Safety needs
- Love and belonging needs
Top Tips for Divorce Recovery
Here are 5 tips to start reconstructing your most basic physiological needs during divorce recovery:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Divorce is very disruptive to the rhythms of your life, but it also throws off your circadian rhythm. Your body functions on a built-in 24-hour clock, and when that clock is off so being your body. The first thing to be affected is your sleep, and when you don’t sleep well you put stress on your body, make poor decisions, and have trouble functioning well. To ensure that you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm you’ll want to make sure that you’re keeping a solid sleep routine by going to bed at a decent hour, waking up at the same time each morning, and eating foods that support sleep.
Getting enough protein in your diet, or eating a small amount of healthy complex carbohydrates (like a sweet potato) before bed can really improve sleep. Omitting computer screens at night, doing some stretching before bed, and taking a bit of melatonin to support your sleep are all good options, too.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is one of the most basic needs for physiologic health, but somehow it becomes a low priority. Water is the basis for human life and without it you’ll become dehydrated, develop poor digestion and you’ll feel depleted. Getting enough water boils down to making a commitment to drink it. Getting a water bottle you love that’s easy to lug around can improve your hydration habit. The general recommendation for water intake is 1 liter of water per 50 pounds of body weight, but drinking a glass every hour can be a starting goal. To improve water absorption, you can add a little bit of sea salt to your cup or bottle. I really like the app waterlogged to manage your water intake.
3. Develop Healthy Eating Habits
The stress and negative emotions of divorce are what cause people to lose weight. While this is often seen as one of the few benefits of divorce, this kind of weight loss isn’t really that healthy. When the body is stressed (or perceiving a threat) digestion slows, cortisol rises, and many other systems become altered to ensure your survival. This is why you might not feel hungry or forget to eat.
The fight or flight system is designed for short-term use, so when it goes on too long it can create health issues. Imbalanced eating or skipping meals will wreak havoc on your physiology. Blood sugar is key to maintaining a stable mood, and not eating well throughout the day will cause it to fluctuate leading to emotional imbalance, and to insulin resistance if it continues. Eating small meals regularly throughout the day, even when you’re not hungry, will help balance blood sugar and will ensure your body is getting enough fuel to keep going.
4. Eat More Fat
Healthy fats like raw, grass-fed butter, ghee, olive oil and coconut oil are very healing when under stress. Fat’s keep you full longer, and they’re nourishing for your nervous system and brain. In fact, your body can’t perform many of its daily functions without fat. Incorporating delicious fat-rich foods like nuts, seeds, avocado and nut butters will provide your body with long-lasting sources of energy, and they will also help you stabilize your blood sugar. Unlike carbohydrate-rich foods like bagels, muffins and nutrition bars, fats slow digestion and provide an alternate source of fuel that the body prefers in times of challenging transition.
5. Take Deep Breaths
This is such a basic recommendation, but we all forget to breathe. Breathing is such a natural part of the body’s survival system, but we can still control how deeply we breathe. Simply taking a deep breath into your diaphragm will calm your nervous system and send messages to your mind and body that you’re actually doing okay. Shallow breathing sends a message of fear and that the body should be on alert. Again, setting reminders in your phone can be really helpful in remembering to breathe so try using an app like Stop, Breathe and Think can help you regulate your practice.