One of my most popular posts is my personal story about how to overcome divorce anxiety*. That story talks about what a profound impact the realization that I was already solely responsible for my life had on my ability to move forward with divorce — ultimately helping me overcome divorce anxiety.

It’s been eight years since I went through the dark night of the soul that is divorce and found myself on the other side. Since then, I have used my experiences to coach friends and clients through their own divorce journeys. Read on to learn my best tips for how to overcome divorce anxiety.

*If you are prone to anxiety anyway, your normal anxiety will likely be intensified by divorce anxiety. Be patient with yourself. Use the tools and strategies that work for your normal anxiety in addition to the ones listed below.

"Stop" How to Overcome Divorce Anxiety; photo and article by Ella Boleynn

Be Honest With Yourself to Overcome Divorce Anxiety

Experiencing divorce anxiety is an invitation to delve deeper into your reasons for wanting a divorce. Be honest with yourself about your current relationship, what you want, and what you need in order to get there.

As you complete these steps, give yourself permission to be truly open to what your divorce anxiety is trying to tell you. Is it new fears you need to face head-on in order to have the resources and courage to move forward? Is it your heart saying you really don’t want to leave? Or is it just the same old fears and insecurities being projected in a new form?

It is possible that as you complete these steps, you will determine that you’d rather save your marriage than move forward with divorce. If that is the true desire of your heart after doing the necessary introspection, don’t let anyone make you feel weak for changing your mind — least of all, you.

Get Real About What You Have:
Sitting With Divorce Anxiety

First thing first: be real with yourself about the actual state of this allegedly failed relationship. Don’t sugarcoat who the other person is or where the relationship has landed. Write down everything that is bothering you. Go ahead and write down all the good things too. Divorce anxiety is calling you to recognize what you will be sacrificing by killing this relationship. Don’t run from the good things you will miss or pretend they are not important; acknowledge them so you can find ways to replace them.

This process of sitting with your divorce anxiety may be as quick as writing a list and meditating for half an hour, but it also could be a months-long process of introspection and soul-searching. You cannot expect yourself to feel good about severing a relationship without understanding the true nature of that relationship. Give yourself as much time as you need until you feel that this step is complete.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

Your divorce anxiety is fueled by your fear of leaving. Get to the root of what makes staying intolerable. This will increase the anxiety caused by staying. When the anxiety of staying outweighs the anxiety of leaving, you will feel natural pressure to act.

Get Real About What You Want:
Why Do You Want Divorce?

Getting away from the bad things in your current relationship is only half of what you gain by leaving. Detaching from your current encumbrance also gives you the freedom and bandwidth necessary to create the future you truly want. If you know you want out, you’ve likely already done a bit of daydreaming about what the future could hold. If divorce anxiety is holding you back, it’s time to use those daydreams as motivation. It doesn’t matter whether you write it down, create a mood board, watch romantic movies, or just let your mind wander. Be honest about what you want in life and any future relationships you choose to have. Hold the image of your future life in your mind as you move forward. Take small actions now to work towards that future dream so you can start feeling the motivation of growth and transformation.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

By being honest about what you have and comparing it with what you want, you can see how wide the chasm is. If it’s pretty small, and you and your partner both want to work on things, the relationship may be salvageable. If the gap is significant, keeping the image of your ideal future in your mind will give you motivation to overcome divorce anxiety.

Get Real About Getting There:
Develop a Divorce Plan

Now that you can see where you are and where you’re going, it’s time to be honest with yourself about what it’s going to take to get there. There are a lot of things that have to change and happen in order to make divorce possible. Depending on your current situation, these changes can be a serious source of your divorce anxiety, especially if they feel unattainable in and of themselves. It’s easy to hide from the changes you need to make and the contingency plans you need to start executing, especially when facing divorce anxiety. But the only way to meet your needs is to acknowledge them.

There are five categories you should consider when determining what it is going to take to get to your future.

  1. Safety and Housing
    You cannot take care of anyone else or your affairs if you aren’t safe. Even insecure housing can take a significant toll on your mental and physical health. Especially if you are worried about domestic violence or homelessness, you need to have a safety and housing plan in place for your divorce. What do you need to do in order to make sure that you have a safe place to live?
  2. Financial Security
    Financial security is one of the primary causes of divorce anxiety. What do you need to do in order to provide for yourself independently? If you have children or other dependents, their needs factor in here as well.
  3. Parenting/Caregiving Responsibilities
    If you are currently sharing parenting or caregiving responsibilities, there are additional considerations that you will need to take into account. What do you need to do in order to make sure that your children and/or dependents continue to receive the care they need through your divorce?
  4. Business, Health, & Insurance
    Your investments, health, and life insurance are likely tied in with your spouse’s so there is a significant amount of work that is required in order to truly separate things. If you work together or run a business together, there will be even more complex considerations — and often, sacrifices. What do you need to do in order to have complete freedom in business, health, and insurance? And if you own a business with your spouse, what are you prepared to give up?
  5. Legal Representation
    If you don’t have children, share a business, or have many assets, using an attorney may be more anxiety than it is worth. But just because you don’t own anything doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty to argue over. That’s why finding a good divorce attorney is recommended even in the most amicable of situations. I did my divorce myself, but looking back, I think a good attorney would have been really beneficial.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

Not having a plan is a significant source of divorce anxiety. Once you develop a divorce plan, the challenges holding you back from divorce are out in the open and can be dealt with head on.

Practical Tips to Overcome Divorce Anxiety

You’ve done the internal work to make sure your divorce anxiety isn’t your heart telling you that you actually want to stay, and you have developed a divorce plan to confront the challenges causing divorce anxiety head-on. So why are you still experiencing divorce anxiety?

Divorce is one of the most painful separations we can experience in this life. It is natural to experience anxiety as you go through this period of transition. Experiencing and working through divorce anxiety is part of the process and to be expected.

Find a Support Network

There’s a reason your spouse is called your life partner. In everything you do, they are paired with you, providing support (or dead weight depending on the situation). No matter the circumstances of the relationship you’re leaving, you are likely used to receiving some or all of your emotional support and socialization from your soon-to-be-ex. Reconnect with old friends and step outside of your comfort zone to make new ones. Join an actual support group locally or connect with a group online.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

The great irony of divorce is that you need support now more than ever. Finding people who you can talk to about your current challenges keeps them from staying bottled up inside. Connecting with people who have been through divorce or are going through it alongside of you will help you keep perspective and remember that this is only a necessary period of struggle before you start the next stage of your life.

Reconnect with Your Body

Most people live disconnected from their bodies, and especially if you have struggled with sexual issues in your marriage, this detachment can keep you from pleasure and healing. Practice intuitive movement, work out in ways that bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to touch yourself. This is a time for discovering and nurturing joy and pleasure in your life. Let go of shame and guilt, embrace your own desires, and revel in the glory that is your body.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

Movement is an excellent way to get rid of anxiety because it burns all of the energy your body creates while stuck in fight or flight response. Releasing this energy is crucial to getting back to stasis. Reconnecting with your body on an intimate level does the same thing; it releases pent-up energy. But it also softens your body and mind, literally healing aspects of yourself you didn’t know were broken. If you have ever experienced sexual trauma, guilt, or shame, taking the time to listen to your body and come into relationship with yourself sexually is one of the most potent sources of self-healing.

Practice Emotional Self-Regulation Techniques

This isn’t the first time you’ve been through something challenging. You’ve developed emotional self-regulation techniques to help you get through hard things in the past. Identify them and practice them now. It’s also a good time to add some new emotional self-regulation techniques to your arsenal. My best techniques are somatic in nature and will be written about in future posts.

Besides somatic processing techniques, the most effective emotional self-regulation technique I used during my own divorce was having conversations between my wise self and my child self. Whenever I felt anxious, I took a step back while simultaneously allowing myself to feel my emotions at maximum capacity. Then, I would literally talk to myself in my mind, reassuring my child self with love and compassion that everything was going to be okay. Using logical reasoning and affirmations about my own capability of managing the situation, I addressed the rational (and irrational) fears of my inner child. This helped me face the situation with curiosity and openness rather than fear and tension.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

Using emotional self-regulation techniques will help you address divorce anxiety in the moment it arises. Anxiety stems from genuine fears; the key is to recognize the true source of your anxiety and then determine whether it is a fear that needs to be acted upon or a fear that needs to be released. Emotional self-regulation techniques will help you release the anxiety caused by irrational fears and fear of things you cannot control.

Be Proactive About Custody

Think it through, make a plan, and determine what you need to do right now. If you are in a bad relationship, your children are experiencing that toxicity. Once you are sure you are going to leave, it’s important to make the necessary arrangements to keep everyone together. Then, move as quickly as you can to keep your children from being in a disjointed and conflicting situation any longer than necessary.

Remember, even if you hate your soon-to-be-ex, they have likely been playing a significant role in your children’s lives — especially if you are co-parents. It is easy to fall into the trap of pitting the children against the other adult, but you must do everything in your power to avoid it. Nothing will erode your relationship with your children as much or as quickly as putting them in the middle of a divorce. Unless the other adult is negatively impacting your children, recognize that their continued involvement in your children’s lives is to your children’s benefit. Having two parents who love and care about them will always be better than one. Don’t rob your children of their parent over your own vengefulness — even when it feels warranted.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

If you have children, custody is likely your biggest source of divorce anxiety. But you likely have anxiety about keeping them in this negative situation too. Knowing what you need to do with custody and being proactive to get it done will put your mind significantly at ease so you can focus on the other aspects of divorce.

Seek Mental Health Treatment

There’s no shame in seeking mental health treatment; I believe we all need it. Talking things out with an impartial person is a great way to keep you on track and motivate you through the difficult aspects of a divorce. You can use talk therapy and other coping techniques you learn in therapy to help you overcome divorce anxiety.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

Talk therapy is incredibly effective at relieving anxiety, and you’ll learn coping techniques that you can apply to this and all other challenging experiences in your life. Plus, a therapist is a built-in support person which can help you get through this transition period until you replace your soon-to-be-ex with new supportive people in your life.

Hold Off On Drugs & Diagnoses

Mental health is important, but this isn’t the time to experiment with new diagnoses and prescription drugs. Grieving is normal, and even trauma is pretty much expected. Your whole life is shifting and changing, and the person you usually rely on for support is not available to you. Of course you’re anxious and depressed. You may even be ticking boxes for symptoms of PTSD, BPD, and a host of other mental illnesses at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you have them.

Divorce is one of the most intense forms of separation and loss you will experience in life. Unless you were experiencing these issues before encountering divorce anxiety, hold off on diagnosis and medical treatment of mental health issues until after your life has calmed down.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

The medications used to treat mental health conditions are incredibly potent, and the last thing you want to do is make your problem worse with a false diagnosis and crippling side effects.

Surround Yourself With Your Favorite Things

Surround yourself with your favorite sights, sounds, scents, and flavors. Revel in the things your soon-to-be-ex hated that you love. Redecorate. Listen to the music they hated. Cook the food they’re allergic to. Reclaim your space and life — and then fill them with the things you love.

How will this help you overcome divorce anxiety?

It may seem simple, but your environment plays a massive role in your emotions. Taking the time to make sure it brings you joy is worth the effort. Plus, now that you have the freedom to do things your own way, changing your environment to align better with your own desires will help motivate you as to the reasons you are getting this divorce in the first place.

In Conclusion:

Overcoming divorce anxiety is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to connect more deeply with yourself, your desires, and your environment. The future of your dreams awaits; don’t let divorce anxiety hold you back from it.

Need a bit of help getting there? Let me be your divorce doula. Unlike an attorney who focuses on assisting with the technical aspects of your divorce, a divorce doula coaches you through the personal and emotional aspects. I offer 1-on-1 phone coaching to help you through your divorce.

You may also enjoy:

How I Overcame My Divorce Anxiety

Finding Freedom in Betrayal

What is Intuitive Movement? (Tips & Techniques)

How to Survive an Existential Crisis

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