Self-Care After Divorce: Talking with Dr. Elizabeth Cohen
Recently, I invited Dr. Elizabeth Cohen back to the Schein On podcast to discuss her new book. In her book Light on the Other Side of Divorce, Dr. Cohen talks about the benefits of finding the little pleasures in post-divorce life.
In their conversation, Dr. Cohen touched on a wide variety of topics, through her lens as a clinical psychologist in New York. We took a deep dive into the subject of post-divorce healing and how pleasure can be the key to success. Whether this includes stepping back into the dating pool or ensuring you are taking good care of yourself, Dr. Cohen offers several tools on managing not just your divorce, but the emotional stress that can wear down even the strongest person.
Tips to reduce stress during a divorce
As someone who went through a painful and emotional divorce herself, Dr. Cohen notes that it is important to recognize and experience even the smallest pleasures in life during a turbulent time. She mentions one small but powerful exercise you can do just about anywhere to ground yourself in the moment:
The next time you reach for your coffee, notice what it feels like to put your hand around the warm mug. Actually notice the sensation of warmth going from the cup to your hand. That is a moment, one moment of pleasure where you are dialing in to your own experience. And you might say it’s small. Your listeners might think that’s such a small thing, but I promise you – connecting to who you are is just a ton of small things built on top of each other.
Let your team help you reduce the stress of a divorce
Another thing Dr. Cohen discussed was that family law clients don’t have to shoulder the stress and responsibilities of a divorce alone. Dr. Cohen points out, “It’s as if we wake up and suddenly we think everything is our responsibility. Now, maybe that was how you were in your marriage or when you were growing up. But it’s wild because, for example, I would never think to do my own taxes because I’m not a CPA.” By working with a team of professionals – like a matrimonial attorney, a financial advisor, and other professionals – you can reduce the workload (and the associated stress) that comes with planning a different future.
And whether you need assistance with your emotional health or your legal issues, she asserts, “You need someone to walk on that battlefield for you. Someone who is prepared, who has the experience, who has the knowledge, and you need to allow them to advocate for you.”
Self-care as a priority during and after divorce
Dr. Cohen looks at setting up a self-care plan as a blueprint for future happiness. She also emphasizes that the time for self-care is now, and not “after the divorce is over.” You could end up waiting years for that vacation or spa weekend and, as she points out, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to continually take care of ourselves or we will burn out.”
But how do you manage to live a fulfilling life during divorce, and not just wait for the paperwork to be signed? Or avoid living in your thoughts over what you might have done differently? Dr. Cohen uses an exercise with her clients where she asks them to associate words with divorce. Whenever they use a negative word (like failure) she will then ask them to provide the opposite word (like opportunity). Replacing the negatives with the positives can slowly but surely cause a change in mindset, she notes.
Post-divorce dating – why not?
Dr. Cohen encourages people to date after divorce, and advises you to approach it with curiosity. Try to look inward at your previous dating and relationship patterns, and notice if you bring them into new ones. Do these patterns work for you? Are you attracting the right types of people for you and your children? If not, you may end up going through the same experiences over and over, which may just bring you more unhappiness and cause you to falsely believe that all people are the same.