7 Critical Things I've Learned About Self-Care During My Divorce

Self-care during divorce is important, don’t abandon yourself.

Woman doing self care post divorce Cup of Couple, Karolina Grabowska, microgen | Canva

During my long and abusive divorce, sleep deprivation, stress and duress were a part of my daily life. It became a vicious cycle. The more stressed I was the less I could sleep.

My family and friends voiced their concerns. I was equally as worried.

But the divorce abuse my husband was inflicting was severe and I was struggling.

One day I was with my niece. It was an average day. We weren’t talking about divorce or my life. We were just hanging out.


Suddenly tears filled her eyes.

"I’m worried something bad is going to happen to you," she said. "I’m worried about how much stress you’re under."

Even now, it’s painful to remember the sight of my gorgeous niece in distress over my never-ending divorce. A young woman with a family of her own shouldn’t have had to worry about me.

I’ve learned a lot from the mistakes I made during the divorce. I should have immediately initiated a plan and routine of self-care.

Divorce is the worst time to abandon ourselves.


If necessary, I should have enlisted family and friends to help me initiate a much-needed support structure in my daily life. One that promoted my ability to prioritize self-care.

I thought I could manage on my own. I thought my divorce wouldn’t last as long as it ultimately did.

I didn’t believe my husband was capable of severe financial abuse and bullying. I thought divorce would be a fair process and abusive behavior would be nipped in the bud.

I thought divorce would be an emotional sprint, not a marathon. I thought I would quickly bounce back.

I was wrong.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve spent more than a decade in counseling, researching, and writing about love, relationships, and divorce.


A breakup should separate us from another, not ourselves.

RELATED: A Spiritual Mentor Shares The One Phrase That Heals Post-Divorce Hearts

Here are 7 things I've learned about self-care during my divorce:

1. Take care of your soul.

Divorce doesn’t just hurt our hearts, it strips our souls.

We need to nourish the deepest depths of ourselves during a divorce. We have to prioritize the things that can strengthen our positive thoughts and well-being.

Prayer, music, and meditation are three ways to achieve this. They are also easily accomplished despite an overwhelming schedule or stress.

You can pray in the morning or at night. During my divorce, I often prayed just to fall asleep. After my divorce, I started my day with a morning prayer.


Music was one of the few things I could get lost in. I would blare the music in my car and feel a soulful levity. I stuck to happy tunes and changed the channel if a sad song was playing. Unless I really needed a good cry. After my divorce, I started playing music in my home again. I wish I’d done that throughout my divorce. Music is soulfully transformative.

Meditation can be the hardest out of these three to achieve because it requires some level of relaxation. But even five minutes of spa music combined with a repetitive positive mantra can impart some tranquility.

2. Take care of your heart.

Divorce is a direct hit to our hearts, so we need to prioritize the things that heal and tend to it.

I had to pour my emotions out. I’m someone who doesn’t suffer in silence. I need to externalize it, not internalize it. And I was overtalking to my family and friends because my stress was unbearable.


At the start of my divorce, an editor offered me the chance to write a column. She said I could choose the topic. I left behind the features that I wrote as a freelance journalist and my work as a business columnist and I began writing about love, relationships, and divorce.

It was cathartic. It allowed me to talk about divorce without literally talking about it.

But not everyone wants to share their emotions publicly. It might be easier to share with a counselor or write in a journal. It might be comforting to read other people’s divorce stories to feel less alone. It might feel better talking to family and friends.

3. Take care of your purpose.

Divorce is a loss but it’s also a re-direction and a new path.


All is not lost, it’s not over. Initially, it feels this way. It feels as if a massive chunk of our lives is gone. It’s okay to give in to this emotion, tend to it, and mourn it. It’s a part of letting go, rebuilding, and personal restoration.

But after that, it’s time to focus on our own purpose.

Divorce permits the luxury of self-care. It allows us to put ourselves first. Our hopes, our dreams, our passions, our pursuits, our restoration, and our purpose. We need to recognize, identify, and take care of our purpose in divorce.

RELATED: 5 Tips To Help You Develop A Solid Self-Care Plan

4. Take care of your body.

Divorce mandates both internal and external considerations.


My sister gave me some motherly advice after I had my first baby. It turns out it was something our own mom had said to her. She passed this advice on to me since we had lost our mom.

"Make sure you get up and shower each day and do your hair and makeup. Motherhood can be exhausting and you will feel better if you take good care of yourself."

She was right or should say our mom was right.

Of course, there were days that I didn’t follow this rule. But by and large, I did. And it made me feel ready to tackle the day. It’s easy to feel so stressed that we let ourselves go during a divorce. I gained a lot of weight during mine. I didn’t choose the right outlet. The girl who went to the gym four days a week for two hours a day no longer did.


I also didn’t follow the hair and makeup rule. It was a mistake. It’s one that I no longer make. I took incredible care of myself before my divorce. Divorce was the worst time to stop the best physical care. It only made me feel worse. It made me feel as if my outside matched my inside … pretty crappy.

We have to tend to ourselves internally and externally during a divorce.

5. Take care of your mind.

Divorce can be a time of great stress and duress.

I used to joke that I suffered from divorce dementia. It wasn’t really funny. I worried because my mom got a form of Alzheimers and the more I couldn’t remember the more it nagged at me. We know that prolonged sleep deprivation and stress are terrible for the mind and body.


One of the few places my mind could focus was on walks. I also started riding horses again Because it was a joy and a stress relief.

Lately, I’ve decided to do some word searches and I’ve gotten a puzzle. I’m not sure I could have focused on these things during my actual divorce but I could’ve forced myself to. I could have enlisted my children to do them with me. That would have made sure I concentrated on these areas.

Our minds need physical exercise so we can rest at night and clear moments like walks to let our thoughts roam. Our mind needs the exercise of concentration as well.

6. Take care of your feelings.

Divorce can alter our whole world. Some people will surprise us during divorce, others will disappoint us.


The heartbreak of divorce will not be isolated to the loss of our spouse. We will potentially lose relationships with in-laws and friends. It’s nearly impossible to escape.

A few people hurt me terribly during my divorce. They were not the people I thought they would be. I needed them during the divorce more than I had before. It’s devastating.

But we have to take care of our feelings. We can’t let the pain of judgment or people walking away from us bring us down. All of our emotional energy must go to ourselves and our children. We need every ounce of strength possible to endure a divorce.

Our feelings need to be protected. We can’t be depleted by the thoughtlessness of others.


RELATED: 10 Things You Must Do In Your First Year As A Divorcée

7. Take care to make self-care happen.

We need strong support systems in a divorce. All of the things above, may not happen without enlisting the help of family and friends. I didn’t do enough of this. I don’t know if it was pride. If I wanted or needed to think I could do it all on my own. I don’t know if it was because I hate inconveniencing people.

But it was a mistake.

I needed more help than I accepted. I should have allowed more people to make a meal, run an errand, or whatever it was they were offering. I had a tremendous support system with my family and friends. There were so many wonderful people who wanted to help me.


Self-care means prioritizing ourselves, not wearing ourselves down.

It’s not a weakness. In fact, self-neglect is what got a lot of us into the marital situations we ended up in. We did too much and we expected too little and then one day we woke up miserablely married.

We might not just need help to free up time for self-care. We might need help to ensure self-care.


A friend who agrees to work out with us. A family member who comes over on the weekend and does meal prep for the week. Anything and anyone that will help us stick to a routine and schedule of self-care.

We don’t magically happen upon self-care. We have to insist upon it.

These are 7 things I’ve learned about self-care during my divorce.

Namely, that I didn’t properly care for myself during one of the most emotionally, physically, and financially demanding times in my life. I walked away from self-care when I needed it most.

Divorce is a major life change. It’s challenging. It’s difficult. It’s disruptive. It’s a transition. It’s an adjustment.


We need to do anything that nourishes our inner and outer selves.

Only we know what that is. Is it a trip to the mall, the movies, a dog park, a restaurant, or the beach? Is it an hour on the phone with our best friend? Is it a cozy fire, a great book, or an old movie?

Whatever it is…

We are all worthy of restoring our sustenance and strength.

I should have prioritized self-care. I should have insisted upon it.

Divorce is the worst time to abandon ourselves.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.