Here’s how I worked through overwhelm to get things done.
As we step into the new year, I want to take the opportunity to emphasize the significance of setting small goals after a divorce.
I know firsthand the complete turmoil that comes with the end of a marriage. It’s a time filled with uncertainty, change, and an unimaginable sense of loss.
It’s also a time when you need to be on top of high-stakes legal, practical and logistical tasks that require a huge amount of focus. Not much to ask, right?
When I was in the first months of my divorce, I would fall into a paralyzed state when I had to do practical things like call my lawyer, look for a house, or write a list of possessions that were going to be divided up.
It was already a herculean effort just to get up each day, get the kids organized and get myself to work.
It’s almost as though there is only enough RAM in our brains to process the tsunami of emotions that wipe us out each day, let alone the logistics of creating an entirely new living situation and sorting out legal responsibilities.
The issue was that every time I would put one step in place to move towards separation, it would feel like another emotional body blow.
It was all becoming real, and I didn’t want to face it. So, part of the resistance to getting the tasks done was an awareness that it was going to hurt every time I completed one.
However, I found that by writing down all the things I needed to do and choosing just one thing to focus on at a time, I was able to eventually work my way through them. I committed to not looking at another task until I had completed the task before it.
When you can’t seem to get going on getting things done, it’s important to break down each task into even smaller, more manageable steps to avoid overwhelm and ‘freeze’ setting in.
It’s also helpful to allow yourself some time to check in with yourself and regroup emotionally after each one because there’s a chance that it will trigger some pretty intense feelings each time you tick a goal off your list.
I remember feeling elated when I finally found a home that was perfect for the kids and me. On the way home after signing the lease, I started to sob and had to pull over in my car because I felt almost in a state of shock that it was actually happening.
I was moving into my own home!
It was incredibly disorientating to go from feeling great about finalising a home to being overcome with panic because things were becoming so real.
Further Down The Track
If you’re past the logistics stage of divorce and are now beginning to live your new life, goals are important in the rebuilding process. Are there things you want to get done now but can’t seem to make a start?
Maybe you’re looking for a new job and can’t face opening the laptop, or you want to get out and build a social life, but you keep getting lured by the comfort of staying home and hiding.
Break your goal down into tiny actions, and do one step at a time.
For example, I wanted to join the squash club because it was an activity that was good for my physical health and would also help me to meet new people.
I kept putting it off because I was imagining the awkwardness of walking into the club and not knowing a single person. Weeks went by, and I still hadn’t gone.
Eventually, I decided to break it down into small chunks and tackle one thing each time.
Step one, call the club and chat with the manager about times and membership options. Step two, find my racquet in the garage. Step three, drive to the club for one session.
(I allowed myself permission to go only once if that’s all I felt comfortable with. Just walk in the door and make a start.)
It may sound silly to break something down into minute steps like this, but sometimes small things can feel very daunting when you’re recovering after divorce.
I ended up having a great time and meeting some nice people. I know that breaking it down helped me get over the barrier of feeling nervous to walk into a room full of strangers.
Here’s why setting small goals after divorce can be incredibly beneficial, regardless of what stage you are in:
- Regaining a Sense of Control: Divorce can leave us feeling powerless and adrift. Setting small goals allows us to regain a sense of control over our lives. They provide structure, purpose, and a roadmap for moving forward, even when the path may seem unclear.
- Building Confidence and Self-Esteem: Accomplishing small goals, no matter how trivial they may seem, can significantly boost our self-confidence. Each achievement serves as a reminder of our capabilities, helping to rebuild self-esteem that may have been shaken during the divorce process.
- Fostering a Positive Mindset: Divorce often brings forth negative emotions and thoughts. Setting and achieving small goals create positive experiences and a sense of progress. These small victories act as beacons of hope and promote a more optimistic outlook on life post-divorce.
- Creating a New Identity: Divorce marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Setting goals allows us to shape and define this new chapter of our lives. They can be centred around personal growth, career aspirations, hobbies, or any area that sparks a sense of purpose.
- Taking Incremental Steps Toward Larger Objectives: Small goals serve as building blocks towards larger aspirations. By breaking down bigger dreams into manageable tasks, we make them less overwhelming and more achievable.
Where are you at?
Thinking of your own situation, here are two questions for you today:
- What stage are you in? Working through logistics or rebuilding a new life?
- What goals do you have for the coming weeks and months?
They can be as simple as committing to a daily walk, making a phone call, sending an email, or doing one thing for yourself that falls under self-care.
The key is to make them small, realistic, and manageable for the state that you are in right now.
My challenge to you is to pick one of those things, break it into even smaller steps if you need to, and then commit to doing the first step.
If you would like an accountability buddy to help you get the ball rolling, I’d be happy to do that for you. Send me an email with the goal you want to achieve, and then let me know once you’ve achieved it.
You’ll be amazed at how much being accountable to another person boosts your motivation to get something done. Not only that, you get to celebrate your achievement with someone else!
Remember, the journey of healing and achieving our goals after divorce is unique for us all. There is no set timeline or formula. Take each day as it comes, break everything down into manageable steps and focus on ONE thing at at time.
And above all else, celebrate every small victory along the way.
If you know anyone who could benefit from reading this, please consider sharing it with them ❤️
About Carol Madden
Hello, my name is Carol Madden and I am a certified divorce coach working with clients around the world from my online practice in New Zealand.
I aim to help individuals navigate the often overwhelming emotions and practical considerations of separating from a spouse. I understand the unique challenges that divorce can bring, having been through my own divorce ten years ago.
I believe that divorce can be an opportunity for growth and positive change, rather than just a painful ending. Through my coaching, I help clients gain clarity and confidence as they move forward in their lives.
As a writer, I am excited to share my perspectives on divorce with readers seeking solid support during their separations. Whether providing tips for managing the emotional rollercoaster or offering practical advice for effectively co-parenting, I want to help others through this challenging time.
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