So much of our time during divorce is spent either worrying about the future or regretting the past that we forget to spend time in the space where we actually have some power: the present moment. And many times even when we are in the present, we create a "false moment" by escaping into survival mechanisms and we numb ourselves senseless.
We hear a lot these days about the importance of "staying in the moment" but as we all discovered it by now, it is much easier said than done. Especially if our current moment is something we just want to escape, no matter the price. So how can we convince ourselves to stay in it despite all the pain, sadness, and fear we are experiencing?
First of all, we need to make a commitment to ourselves that we will do anything it requires to stay sane, stable, and strong during our divorce, which starts with willingness to go through all the pain, fear, sadness, and any other emotions that will come up for us. Unfortunately, staying in the moment means facing and processing the entire emotional ride as it unfolds one day at a time.
There are five practical steps we can take to stay in the moment even when the moment truly sucks.
1. Notice when escaping.
Deep down we know when we do something just to escape the pain, loneliness, sadness or fear. It can be anything from obvious addictive behaviors like drinking, smoking, or using drugs, to seemingly benign activities like shopping, eating, daydreaming, or watching TV. Some might be worse for our overall health than others but all of them serve the same purpose: to numb ourselves so we don't have to feel. We need to identify our own escape mechanisms and be on the lookout for them. Some others can be: busyness, excessive talking or complaining, overworking, gossiping, overly involved in things or other people's lives, long hours of reading, gaming, browsing the net, or overdoing anything to a point when it becomes an escape instead of a balanced activity. When we catch ourselves in any of them we need to pause and ask: What is it we are avoiding? What feelings are we running away from? What reality are we reluctant to face right now?
2. Question all thoughts.
We also try to escape the moment sometimes because we don't want to hear or deal with all the thoughts that are swirling around inside our heads. Listening to them can drive us to anxiety and fear so we distract ourselves with anything we can. But just like our feelings, our thoughts won't simply go away if we ignore them. They will be there waiting for us when we return to reality from numbing and escaping. So might as well face them as they are, frightening, critiquing, blaming, shaming. Knowing well, that just because they are in our heads it doesn't make them true. We need to examine them one by one, how much truth they hold, and how beneficial they are, then decide if we want to keep them or not. As unbelievable as it sounds, we can discard our thoughts if they don't serve us. We do have such power over them!
3. Positively engage all five senses.
A powerful way to return to the present, real moment when we catch ourselves escaping or when our minds run away with uncensored scary thoughts, is to go through our five senses and find something positive we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste in the moment. Finding something small what is good or even enjoyable in the present moment can have a balancing affect on our whole outlook. It's amazing how much little things can shift our perspective if we truly engage in them. And no matter where we are there is always something good around us but we need to find them and appreciate them. Learning to be grateful for the seemingly small and insignificant things is a sure way to find peace and joy even in the midst of our divorce pain.
4. Use breath as anchor to present.
A simple and sure way to return our attention to the here and now is to focus on our breathing for a short time. There are different exercises and techniques we can use, from just simply taking few deep breaths to counting them, or holding it in for few seconds. The most important thing is to focus our full attention only on our breathing for a minute or two, allowing our mind to take a break from its frenzy and our body to slow down a bit. Paying full attention to our physical body will pull us back to the physical moment, anchoring us to the present, and giving us a better chance to make mindful and conscious decisions about whatever we are dealing with.
5. Carry a grounding item.
It can be very helpful to find and designate an item we can easily carry around as a reminder to our commitment to stay in the moment and fully experience even the hardest parts of our divorce journey. It can be a piece of jewelry we like to touch occasionally, a string on the wrist, a special trinket, or even a pebble in a pocket. Fidgets used for self-regulation, like stress balls, squigglets, and tangles are great too. The point is that we have something with us we can use to bring ourselves back when escaping or stressing out about the future. To remind us that our true power is in the now and if we want to claim it we have to stay in it even when the moment sucks.
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