How do you shift from heightened emotions and fear to being able to make smart life decisions?
The divorce process has so many obstacles that provoke so many questions. Think about these?
Who is really making the decisions?
How do I maintain my “normal" life when everything is falling apart?
Who will I be once this is over?
I am passionate about supporting you on your journey to overcome obstacles and achieve your desired outcomes.
You may be feeling anxious, sad, scared, or lonely. Whatever you are feeling now is not wrong. Not feeling “fine” is being true to yourself. Being the true expression of yourself is a healthy way to be.
Then there are times when we need to be thinking clearly, and making choices that will be lasting and of the highest value in life.
No matter what phase of divorce you are in, moving from fear to making smart decisions is vital.
For example, you may be in the contemplation phase and wondering if you should stay or should I go? You may be in the midst of your divorce, deep into legal matters, custody battles and dealing with messages from a toxic or bullying soon-to-be-ex. This is massively overwhelming. If you are post-divorce, it can be scary embarking on a new life as a single person. That fear can cloud your decision making process and prevent you from moving forward.
When you have strong feelings, or emotions, they are often felt in your body. This is called felt perception. I’d like you to tune in and think of a stressful situation going on, and recall where you feel that stress in your body.
For example, you may feel it in your “gut” with the sensation of “butterflies" in your stomach, you may get palpitations, sweaty palms or more.
Where do you feel you feel stress, anxiety or fear in your body?
When I’m under stress, I feel tightness in my chest. It feels like two balled up fists, clenched inside, adding pressure and frankly, adding to my anxiety.
When we are feeling those feelings, emotionally and physically, we are in survival mode. Your emotions create a physical response and your reptilian or ancient brain is taking over your body. Cortisol is being released into your bloodstream, and your only thoughts are of survival. Survival may mean protecting your home, your assets, your rights to your children and your sanity.
However, your strong emotions are not a place from which to make massive, life long decisions about housing, work, finances, custody and more.
When your emotions are heightened, your ancient brain, located at your brain stem, is taking over in order to protect you from threat. But the threat you are in is not physical and what you really need is to access your logical pre-frontal cortex to advocate for yourself and negotiate matters of your divorce agreement.
In flight, fight, or freeze mode, your other bodily systems are shutting down.
For example, if you were to become the prey of a tiger, and you were running and hiding for your life, you would no longer be making decisions about what to have for lunch, or the next project you need to tackle. We cannot access the logical, thinking part of our brain – the prefrontal cortex - when you are in survival or Reptilian brain.
When in the midst of divorce, it is so important to avoid making big decisions when you feel this way.
This is why your felt perception is so important. Your body will let you know through sensation that you are in an emotional state.
So when being stressed gets frustrating, remember, it is actually a gift. Your feelings of stress are a warning sign to curb your actions.
So why is going through divorce likely the biggest business decision of your life?
Your divorce impacts your income, housing, career, family and more.
It’s a time of intense life review and change and massive decisions are being made that will last a lifetime.
Your presence of mind is key to navigating your divorce and post-divorce.
Remember I shared that I felt tightness in my chest when under acute stress? When I felt that way, I was still making massive life decisions because I didn’t know then that I was acting from fear and not logic and as a result, was not making smart decisions.
Your body will let you know whether it’s the right time to negotiate and plan for your future.
The metaphor I use for my time going through divorce, is that I was like a Mother Bear – protecting my kids from the toxicity and pain of the experience.
Having a metaphor for how you feel can be very helpful. It is the next step in recognizing how you are feeling so that you can refrain from taking any action when you feel that way.
If you had a metaphor or image in mind for how you feel when you are anxious and scared, what would that be? Get creative and name something that represents how you feel in times of intense stress and anxiety.
Having a metaphor can help you get in touch with your emotions more easily and help you shift to your prefrontal cortex and start thinking logically.
When you notice your feelings – that felt perception – you have the power to shift.
Your intense emotions provide a doorway where you can pass through emotional reactivity and get to thoughtful mindfulness.
Use your body to give you clues. Ask yourself, is now a great time to talk to my spouse? If not, then don't. Respect yourself and do not succumb to baiting.
Tools to Use to Shift Your Emotions
You have a secret power to use when you feel you are in a fear response. When your emotions are overwhelming, when your words and your body language are not serving your best outcome, you have access to a superpower!
Your superpower is to PAUSE!
Pausing between the stimulus that caused your emotional reaction, and your response is priceless.
How can you Pause?
Pausing can be walking away, taking a drink of water, calling a friend, opening the door or window and getting fresh air, focusing on your 5 senses to bring you into the present moment.
Ask yourself, what am I seeing, feeling, smelling tasting and hearing right now, in this moment?
When you shift to your senses, you are forced into this present moment.
Try this when you are overwhelmed. Remove your shoes and press your feet onto the ground, floor, or earth. Really applying pressure along your toes, the balls of your feet and your heels.
Doing so grounds you in this moment. Feel safe being here in this moment. The act of being present in the moment helps you to release your emotions and move you toward logic.
There is no better way to spend your time than to learn to be the best version of yourself.
As you go through your day, how would you recognize an opportunity to practice the guidance in this post?
Reflect upon why it is important to navigate your divorce wisely and not emotionally. With that in mind, embrace this process of shifting from heightened emotions and fear, to making smart decisions for your life.