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Managing divorce burnout

Divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences some people will endure. The prolonged and complicated nature of the process, coupled with the strong emotions that the process evokes, can lead to burnout. Burnout is more than ordinary stress and tiredness. Burnout is exhaustion with a strong sense of powerlessness. Left unchecked, it can cause frustration, withdrawal, procrastination, overload, muddled thinking, and a loss in productivity. Over the long term, burnout can cause serious mental and physical health problems.

If your divorce is making you feel burned out, what can you do? Taking action may seem difficult, especially if you feel trapped in circumstances that are not your choice or that are beyond your control. Consider the following steps for dealing with burnout. You may have more options than you realize.

1. Evaluate Your Priorities.

Divorce is an opportunity to redefine your priorities and to reinvent yourself in a positive way. The first step is to figure out what is important to you. For some parents who have been less involved in their children’s lives, divorce provides the opportunity to become an active, involved caregiver. For someone who has historically been a stay-at-home spouse, divorce represents an opportunity to establish a new career, or to return to a previously-successful one. For others, divorce is an opportunity to shed old obligations and commitments in favor of new priorities.

2. Simplify.

Simplify your expenses.As Americans, we tend to assume that many things are necessities when in fact they are luxuries. Do a detailed budget. For the next few months, track every penny you spend. That’s the only way you will know where the money goes. Then assess where you can cut expenses. How much are you spending on restaurants and Starbucks each month? How much is your Netflix costing you, and would it be cheaper to rent your movies from Redbox? Are you paying for a gym membership you use once a week or once a month? How much is that fancy car costing you monthly when you factor in premium gasoline, maintenance costs and insurance, and what transportation options might be cheaper?

Simplify your schedule.All of us have the same number of hours in a day. The only thing we can control is how we spend that time. Think about your commitments. What do you say yes to, and what do you decline? What could you say no to if it would give you more time to do the things that you have identified as priorities?

3. Take Time for Yourself.

When stress is high, you are prone to illness and injury. Be gentle on yourself. Take time for rest and recreation. Recreation does not have to be expensive to be beneficial. Go to church. Find a divorce support group. Take a walk. Meditate or do yoga. Cultivate new interests or friendships. Volunteer. Sometimes the act of serving others who are truly less fortunate is enough to get you out of your own head and to show you that your situation is relatively manageable.

4. Take the Long View

Divorce changes every aspect of your life — your identity, your finances, your dreams. For many couples, the emotional roller coaster does not come to a stop until more than a year or two has passed after the divorce is final. It takes time to become financially self-sufficient, to settle into a pattern of co-parenting, and to become established in a new house, a new job, and maybe even a new circle of friends.

When you are in the midst of all the turmoil, remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” Divorce is a transition from one life to another. In five years, you will look back on the process. You will see your marriage as a closed chapter in your life, and you will also see that a new chapter of your life has begun.

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