Life is hard. We all struggle with our own issues and life events, and everyone deals with these things differently. For those who have gone through it, it may not be surprising that separation, divorce, and custody disputes are ranked as some of the highest life stressors you can go through. Even the best of us struggle when dealing with these significant life events, and that is okay. The key, figuring out how to keep your cool when emotions, tensions, and disputes get hot.

Keeping your cool is more than just breathing techniques in the heat of an argument (though I wholeheartedly recommend these as well.) Keeping your cool starts with working on yourself and knowing and establishing your own boundaries for this new life you are in. Here are some tips that may be helpful if you are dealing with these difficult life changes.

  • Give yourself a break: No matter how strong you are, these things are going to affect you. That is okay! It doesn’t mean you are weak. It doesn’t mean you can’t control yourself. It doesn’t mean your ex is better than you are. It simply means you are human. And if your ex is claiming they are completely fine and this isn’t affecting them, they are not being truthful with you (or maybe even themselves).
  • Acknowledge and allow yourself to have your feelings: This goes with giving yourself a break, but really taking the time to allow yourself to feel whatever feelings are coming up during this time is crucial. The more you tamp down those emotions and try to pretend they are not there, the more likely they are going to pop out and ruin your day in ways you don’t expect. Recognize that it’s okay to have different feelings. Are you sad the relationship is over? Are you mad that your ex is behaving in a way you don’t like? Are you happy you don’t have to be in that relationship and deal with the negative things that led you down this path? These are all completely normal and acceptable feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, confused, excited, and overwhelmed-and these feelings can be intense. You aren’t a “bad” person for feeling them. And it doesn’t mean you and your ex didn’t have something that was good and special once. Every relationship is unique, and so is every end to the relationship. That’s part of the beauty of the experience.
  • Allow Yourself to Change: Change is often a terrifying thought, and an equally scary process. If you accept that the change is going to happen whether you like it or not, however, you are likely to have an easier time going through it. Don’t fight the process. Take time for yourself and determine what you want this change to look like and how you can help make that happen. You can do this.
  • Accept that you aren’t going to be at your best: With this change, you will likely often find that you are struggling to function at the level you have in the past. That is okay! Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. The world will keep spinning, and you will keep moving forward. You are a human, and need to give yourself the time to get back up to the level you want yourself to be at. Take that time for yourself to heal, regroup and re-energize.
  • Have a Support System: Going through this process alone makes everything much more challenging. Having a support system of friends, family, therapist, etc. can be extremely beneficial. Perhaps joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations would be a good fit for you. Studies show that isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships, and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it (everyone does at times).
  • Exercise: As if we didn’t need another reason to get out and move our bodies, studies show that exercise boots mood, helps clear our brain fog, and helps release some of that pent up aggression. I don’t encourage violence, but if you need to go to a few rounds with a punching bag, you won’t find any judgment from me.
  • Don’t rise to the bait: Oftentimes, when emotions are high and there are hurt feelings involved (which is 99.9% of all family law legal struggles) people act out to bait their ex just to negatively affect them. Don’t give them that power. Easier said than done, I get it. But there is power in reminding yourself that you are in control, and they can only make feel as bad as you let them. Our brains are tricky things, so be sure to remind yourself of this often so you don’t get caught off guard.
  • Take a timeout: You and your ex are going to argue and disagree and getting really angry at each other. Before you let it spin out of control and make matters worse, take a break. If the conversation needs to happen, try calling for a pause to take a break to breathe, think and come back with a clear head and calm heart. It works, I promise.
  • Embrace the power of positive thinking: I know, this may make you want to roll your eyes, but it helps. Try to put it all in perspective. You may be going through some of the most difficult things you have experienced in your life, and this is not intended to minimize that struggle or trauma in any way. That being said, this too shall pass. You have the rest of your life ahead of you. What do you want for that life? How can you get it? Instead of focusing on all the negative things going on, try to focus on the positive. What are some good things that have come about? What are some positive things that you can imagine for your future? I know it is a lot to ask when you are going through such an impactful and traumatic experience, but it can help. I challenge you to try identifying to yourself just one positive thing that you experienced every day, and your brain will start focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. Positive experiences happen to us every day if we take the time to look and acknowledge them. It could be as simple as a stranger smiling to you across the street or holding the elevator door for you.
  • Pay it Forward: Kindness begets more kindness in the world, and it helps you just as much as it helps you are being kind too. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money on a charity or volunteer all your free time. Simple acts of kindness go a long way, and studies show the good feelings we get when we do these acts are almost contagious. So, the next time you are feeling down, try doing something nice for someone else, no matter how big or small, and see how it affects you. Let the person next to you merge in on the freeway, talk to the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store, think twice about reading comments on social media and joining in on the storm of negativity and fighting. You don’t need money or time to be kind, you can simply be kind.

Finally, remember you don’t have to do go through this alone. Butler Law has your back.