Saturday, November 24, 2018

Divorce Wellness – Holiday Co-Parenting

                                         (December, Yosemite Valley)

            Parenting is wonderful. And challenging. Even under the best of circumstances. The holidays can be wonderful, and challenging – especially if you are “newly separated.” Everything seems heightened during this season—more traffic on the roads, longer lines in stores, constant “happy holiday music” – all of which can be particularly challenging if you’re trying to navigate the first holidays since your break-up.
            It can be daunting but it is possible to have smooth, happy holidays. Really. To begin with, try to work on remaining (or regaining) calm, resisting the pull to escalate. And try to keep bringing your focus back to your children, working to see things through their eyes, feel what they are experiencing.  (If you find this difficult, it may be helpful to start with some grounding/centering exercises – breathing, meditating, walking, etc. – feel free to contact me if you would like additional help with this.)
            In addition to the general advice to find some calm, specific co-parenting tips for smooth(er) holidays include:
  • ·       Before the holidays crash around you, find a quiet time to work with your ex (otherwise known as the other parent to your darling children) to come up with specific plans so that surprises are minimized, avoiding confusion for you and for your children;
  • ·       If it’s possible, see if you and your ex can continue some holiday traditions with your children; if you find it causes more tension to be together, create new traditions to enjoy with your children (without the other parent);
  • ·       Try to be flexible and open to changes;
  • ·       Remember to take good care of yourself too;
  • ·       If things seem too overwhelming, (or depressing, or any other big difficult emotion), try to come back to centering yourself and focusing on your children, and if you need to, don’t hesitate to contact a friend or professional to help you through the rough spots...

Although this post is geared toward divorcing parents, the suggestions can also be useful for any single person coming into the holidays. Although the holidays may bring challenges, we can learn new ways to enjoy and feel good.
As always, if you have any questions or if you’d like to talk, feel free to contact me anytime! [You can email me: or contact me through my website: ]

Monday, July 30, 2018

Emergency Response Plan

          Not wanting to add gasoline to the divorce fire, I hate to use the words “emergency” and “divorce” in the same conversation.  However, my mission in life is to help and sometimes that means straight talking about stuff that people don’t want to hear.  So, with that warning, here’s my advice: You need to write an “Emergency Response Plan” as part of your divorce!  The data proves that those who have an emergency plan are more likely to survive a disaster and while I’m not exactly saying that divorces are like disasters, there are definitely some parallels….If you have your plan, when “stuff happens” and your emotions are flaring (which often means you’re reacting instead of thinking), you can follow your plan instead of screaming at your ex in front of your children, or throwing a cast iron pan, or any number of things that normal angry people might do…and then later regret….
          During a divorce (which could start long before the word “DIVORCE!” is uttered and keep going all the way through the final decree and way beyond – sometimes a whole lifetime if there are lingering issues), it’s pretty certain that at least one “emergency” will pop up. Maybe money is withheld, or you learn that your ex is about to take a great vacation with your children and the new love interest, or a judge “unexpectedly” rules against you, etc., etc.  There are a bunch of things that could easily ignite a trigger. I’m guessing that everyone reading this could tell me about some horrific button-pushing-divorce-emergency. 
You can’t plan for everything; however, you can have a general plan to fall back on when the going gets super rough so that when it does (because at some point, it will), instead of retaliating, you can calmly do what you need to do.  I promise you that no matter how livid you get when the “emergency” hits you, your interests will be much better served if you can stick with a measured response.  Trust me, notwithstanding how angry and justified you feel in the moment, a judge reading about it later will probably see it differently.  There’s also the reverberating emotional baggage that you (and your children) will carry from an angry outburst.
          And after the heat has passed, as you continue on with your life, you will feel better if you have used your “Emergency Response Plan” instead of reacting in the moment.  Anger begets anger – no matter how great it might feel at the time (to lash out), feeding the fire of anger only leads to more anger.  Before you get to that point, try to focus on how you want to feel – do you want to feel hopping mad or do you want to feel blissful and content?  There is a time and place for anger, though it’s much better if it can be directed to an appropriate channel. In my Divorce Wellness work, I coach clients to focus on their wellness and help them to take steps to build it. 
          Hopefully you’re now convinced that Emergency Preparedness is a fundamental part of Divorce Wellness and you’re ready to try it. Here’s some ideas to help you get started:
  • ·        In a quiet time, think about your trigger points, write them down, remind yourself that when triggered, you will utilize your Emergency Response Plan
  • ·        Write down a list of friends and family who you can call, text, hang out with when necessary to vent (and use this with care so that loved ones don’t get burned out)
  • ·        Think of activities that self-sooth you (these are individual for each person so my suggestions may not do it for you and that’s okay – think about your own self-soothers). Possibilities: yoga, running, swimming, walking, singing, dancing, washing dishes, gardening, etc., etc. (Recently I dragged my grumpy friend to a plant nursery, a magical couple acres in the middle of the city – we were both blown away at how wonderful it felt to walk through the aisles of beautiful lush little plants – I highly recommend!)
  • ·        Educate yourself about the different ways of obtaining a divorce – e.g., “do it yourself,” mediation, litigation – to decide which method will work best for you
  • ·        Always try to practice self-TLC (tender loving care) – it’s okay if you blow it and blow up sometimes! We are all human beings and not perfect so if you fall off your plan once in a while, please give yourself a pass and move on….

  • ·
  • ·        Contact me if you want to talk about your Divorce Wellness and creating the new normal that makes you happy – OR 510.210.3796

Friday, May 4, 2018

Believing in Yourself

                I am so very fortunate that on account of age, travails, travels, and some guided instruction, I seem to be learning more and more of life’s great lessons. Probably the most important lesson is that believing in ourselves forms the essential foundation to healthy, happy, living. This one thing – believing in yourself – more than any other thing, sets your tone for each day. And affects every aspect of your life.  Certainly, I am not saying that if you believe in yourself nothing bad or evil or incomprehensibly difficult will happen.  However, what I absolutely know to be true is that our lives are much more easeful if we have a healthy self-esteem; the difficult events are easier to handle.
               How does this relate to divorcing, co-parenting, relationship breakup and heartache?  Fundamentally. Numerous articles have been written about free fall drops in self-esteem during breakups.  It’s almost bound to happen to some degree; however, you can prepare yourself and learn how to make improvements. (See below for some how-to helpful tips.)  As part of your divorce scenario, the benefits of a healthy self-love are well worth the work. Good self-esteem helps you to trust yourself to do what you need to do, even when the tasks are daunting and it seems you will never get through your divorce, let alone have a happy post-divorce life.   
Armed with a healthy self-esteem, you will not waste your precious energy second guessing yourself as you make huge decisions, which might include how you want your divorce to proceed (i.e., mediation or litigation, etc.), what makes sense for shared custody, whether you can keep the house or sell it, etc., etc., etc. – tons of gigantic decisions.  When we believe in ourselves, we are positioned to be centered and grounded – maybe picture yourself in a good strong Warrior’s Pose if you do Yoga, or if you have martial arts training, in a good fight stance. Steady and ready for what is to come. Believing that you will not get knocked down. Ever. And also knowing that when you do get knocked down (because let’s be honest, your divorce will up-end you at least once), you will be able to get back up.  
               Most divorces come at people fast and furious (unless of course you’re going to court, and then the lag times can be extremely frustrating).  A flurry of actions and emotions. Having a solid self-esteem, being grounded and centered, will help you to stay focused and resist the negative self-talk (and often the negative comments from your ex).  If you believe in yourself, you will get less rattled when your angry ex is telling you that you’re not worth jack, that you’re not going to have time with your kids, that you’re not going to get any financial support, etc., etc. When your self-esteem is good, you can let these comments roll off your back (think ducks and water).  And just to be clear, although it may be thought of as a gender thing, shaky self-esteem during a breakup is not limited to women; I have had plenty of male clients who have been laid low by their berating exes.
Believing in yourself and being grounded also puts you in a good position to make choices about what you would like and to calmly take steps to achieve those goals, rather than reacting from a defensive position. You will be in a better place to make those super important decisions about your future and your children’s lives when you have a good, solid, self-esteem.  In short, you will be in a great place to start formulating your Plan Be (aka Plan Believe) as you move through and beyond your breakup.  You can trust me – I’ve been through a nasty breakup, lots of life challenges, increasing numbers of gray hair, and am quite happy now living my Plan Be….

Resources to help you believe in yourself:

Monday, January 22, 2018

The "Divorce Diet"

               A few months into my own divorce my mother came up from Los Angeles for a visit. She asked me why I was “so thin.” Her words weren’t condemning but she was concerned. I have always been “thin” but clearly I had gotten even smaller. I shrugged it off and happily told her about all of my recent physical activity, thinking I was simply burning more calories. A few months after my mother’s visit I ran into a former neighbor who exclaimed, “Oh, you’ve been on the ‘Divorce Diet’!”  I’d never heard of such a thing – what was she talking about??
               The fact is, the “Divorce Diet” is a real phenomenon.  According to a recent New York Times article, it is caused by “stress, rage, sadness, and (for some) a need to control any part of their lives…that hasn’t fallen into complete chaos.”  This seems accurate and I was happy to see it in the news. Recently I saw a friend who is divorcing and had lost a lot of weight.  I mentioned the “diet” to her.  She’d never heard of it. It made me think of my surprise at hearing the term during my divorce and I realized that this is one of those “nasty topics” that we don’t talk about, and we probably should. Talking about it  might help divorcing people to pay a little closer attention when they start dropping pounds they’re not intending (or wanting) to lose. 
               Eating properly is one of the most basic – and essential – things we can do to take good care of ourselves. Especially during times of extreme stress…like a divorce….