5 mindfulness activities to help you during divorce and separation
Divorce and separation are widely accepted as being one of the most emotionally traumatic things a person can go through. At amicable, we understand that it’s the emotional journey of the divorce that can be, not only the hardest part, but the most difficult element to cope with.
We’ve written down some simple mindfulness tools, with the support of the therapists at Spill, to help you refresh when you’re going through a divorce or separation. If you’re able to carve out some time to tend to your mental health, you will reap the rewards in the long term. Not only will you be a great role model for your children (if you have them), but you will also be able to identify and work through more challenging emotions in an informed and accepting way.
If you’d like to speak to one of our separation experts, you can book a free 15-minute call to discuss your personal situation.
Mindfulness and how it can help you cope with divorce
Mindfulness (or introspection) is the practice of acknowledging what you are feeling in any given moment without judging the emotions or sensations experienced. This usually involves acknowledging how your mind and body feel in parallel to your current surroundings, in a particular moment.
How can mindfulness help your mental health?
Divorce and separation can take their toll on your mental health which in turn can have an enormous effect on your day-to-day life. Mindfulness can train you to focus on how you are presently feeling, which in turn can provide you with a greater insight into your mental health, what triggers negative feelings in you and in some cases where you might need to seek additional help through therapy or counselling. You can think of mindfulness as a form of self-care and something that can be practised anytime, anywhere.
“Mindfulness is being present.”
5 mindfulness activities to help you during divorce and separation:
1. Practice RAIN
RAIN stands for a four-step tool used in mindfulness practice. The process is used to help you identify, work through and in doing so alleviate negative feelings and emotions. Whilst this may seem obvious, it’s harder than you might think. Divorce and separation can invoke a rollercoaster of emotions, and it is experienced completely differently from person to person, with every individual's experience of it being unique. By practising RAIN, you’re able to identify how you are feeling more easily and therefore are more able to work through difficult emotions that arise from divorce and separation which can act as a healthy coping strategy.
- R : Recognise what and how you’re feeling. Start by asking yourself ‘what do I feel right now?’... do you feel anxious, sad, numb, relieved, excited?
- A : Allow the feeling to exist, without trying to ignore or bury it, if you don’t accept the feeling it’s more likely to persist. Rather than burying the feeling of ‘sad’, accept that at this moment you feel this way
- I : Investigate what you’re feeling, becoming aware of any thoughts or events that were happening before you started to feel the way you are. For example, was it triggered by an email from your ex, or by saying goodbye to your children for the weekend when they’re staying with their co-parent?
- N : Nurture without judgement. Remember, feelings and emotions aren’t permanent states, and they will pass. It won’t help if you agonise over the emotion or judge yourself for feeling it. It is completely separate from you as a person and acknowledging that you are feeling is the first step in working through it
Listen to this episode of The Divorce Podcast where Kate Daly, Co-founder of amicable and host, was joined by Mark Kozminski to talk about his divorce and the impact it had on his mental health which led him to create The Blue Mind Approach:
2. Mindful breathing
If your divorce or separation is causing you to feel stressed or anxious, a simple mindfulness activity is to focus on your breathing, which may help to ease any stress or anxiety. Slowing down your breathing can help your body to tap into the benefits of your parasympathetic nervous system that helps you to calm down by helping your heart rate to drop and your blood pressure to lower.
Try this simple exercise:
- Get comfortable : Sit on a chair and rest your hands on your knees, ensuring your back is straight and that you’re comfortable
- Focus on your body : Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body. Think about how you feel on the chair, what the chair feels like against you
- Take three deep breaths : in through your nose and out through your mouth, relaxing your muscles each time you breathe out
- Bring your attention to your breathing : Now breathe naturally, focusing your attention on your breath. Think about what it feels like as it goes in through your nose, down your throat into your lungs and back out your nose (or mouth). Think about how your chest expanding in and out feels
- It’s okay for your mind to wander : This is natural and expected, so when you realise you're doing it, just re-focus on your breathing
- 5 minutes: Keep focusing on your breathing for around 5 minutes.
- Focus on your body again : Once 5 minutes have passed, again focus on your body and then open your eyes
3. Mindful meditation
What is meditation?
There isn’t necessarily one set definition for meditation, and it can mean different things for different people. Meditation overlaps mindfulness in the sense it focuses on having heightened awareness and consciousness. The easiest way to understand meditation is through practice.
Mindfulness mediation is simply the practice of mindfulness via the medium of mediation. There are many useful and often free resources that offer guided meditation sessions to help you practice this. The breathing mindfulness exercise is one form of this. Below is another example of short mindfulness mediation that you can practice at home to help you with your divorce or separation, it’s called the body scan and is a great way to ease yourself into mindfulness mediation:
- Get comfortable : Sit or lie down, and ensure that you’re comfortable.
- Take three deep breaths : in through your nose and out through your mouth, relaxing your muscles each time you breathe out.
- Focus on your body : Breathing naturally, bring your attention to the top of your head, thinking about how it feels and breathe into any sore or tender points that you may feel. Work your way down your body, concentrating on your eyes, mouth, neck chest, abdomen, arms, hips, upper and then lower legs, your feet and finally your toes. If you notice any tightness, relax your muscles. Again, it’s okay for your mind to wander, just re-focus on the body part you were concentrating on.
- 5 minutes : There is no set time for this exercise but around 5 minutes is a good amount of time to dedicate.
- Open your eyes : take one more deep breath and then open your eyes.
4. Mindfulness exercise
Mindfulness is both a practice and a state of mind, so it can be combined with any exercise you like. Below are a few examples. Trying a new activity such as Yoga or Pilates is great for helping with your mental health on the back of divorce or separation as it will increase endorphins, helping you to take a step back from the day-to-day stresses. It may even expose you to a new social circle, especially if your normal social groups are entangled with your ex-partner.
- Yoga : Yoga is a great form of exercise for practising mindfulness, as breathing is an important element. With each new position think about how your body feels
- Pilates : As with Yoga, Pilates is a good way of practising mindfulness as breathing is important. Again, have an awareness of how you and your body feel with each exercise you practice
- Swimming : Think about how the water feels against your skin, and how your body feels moving through the water. Focus on your breathing and how you feel in the moment
5. Mindfulness sleep
We know that your ability to sleep well can be negatively impacted by your divorce or separation. It can also be reciprocal in the sense that getting less sleep may reduce your ability to cope with divorce and vice versa. However, mindfulness may be able to help with this. Whilst you may find a guided mediation easier in terms of helping you to fall asleep, both the breathing mindfulness meditation and the body scan should also help put you in a relaxed state, conducive to sleeping more easily, also helping fix broken sleep cycles.
A further exercise, helpful in terms of sleeping, is the ‘retracing your day’ exercise:
Retracing your day exercise:
Get comfortable in your bed, close your eyes, take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then breathe naturally and re-trace your day, from start to finish. Retrace waking up, showering, getting dressed, eating your breakfast, going to work, what you did at work, eating your lunch, going home, what you did after work etc. Spend a few moments on each part of your day, focusing on how you felt and having an awareness of your surroundings at that moment. This is a good way to drift off to sleep.
Seek advice if you’re not sure:
If you are frequently feeling overly stressed, depressed, or anxious to the extent it’s having an impact on your or your family’s well-being, then you should seek help. Prolonged periods of a certain negative emotion or mood aren’t usually a good sign and can be an indication that you need extra help. There are plenty of ways of dealing with this and there are many free resources including charities, websites, apps, podcasts, and online tools. If you’re worried, then contact your doctor and see what they recommend.
Where can I find help?
How can mindfulness help you to cope with divorce?
Mindfulness can be a useful tool in helping you to cope with divorce as part of the emotional journey. Mindfulness mediation is simply the practice of mindfulness via the medium of mediation. Many useful and often free resources offer guided meditation sessions to help you practice this
Is there meditation for divorce pain?
Meditation can be used to help divorce pain and healing from a separation by re-centring you emotionally.
Is there meditation for dealing with divorce?
Meditation won’t deal with your divorce, but it may help you to cope with the emotional journey and heal from a separation. There are many forms of meditation that you can do alone or using a coach.
Tips from Clinical Psychologist, Dr Isabelle Hung, on how to keep your emotions in check.
Kate and her guests discuss the impact of divorce and separation on individuals' mental health, how anxiety and overwhelm manifest and what can be done to help manage these feelings.
Many people assume you need a lawyer to divorce/separate. You don't. Read our guide to divorcing without lawyers.