“The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Franklin Roosevelt famously said that. Obviously, he hadn’t gone through a divorce. Fear of the unknown is a natural response to times of change when what was familiar is suddenly unfamiliar and the future is unclear.
Facing your fears is an important part of both moving through and recovering from your divorce. Fear has a sneaky way of messing with even your most carefully laid plans. Uncertainty can surprise and overwhelm you.
One of the most common fears divorcing people say they experience is the fear of being alone. You worry about being rejected, being alone in times of sickness or disability, or the possibility you won’t find love again. But being alone doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely. You may need to learn how to be alone and be content with yourself. One of the greatest gifts of divorce is the opportunity for self-rediscovery. Acknowledge the normal fear you feel during this time. But then ask yourself what you want next. Taking control of your journey with deliberate intention can help you see your future and alleviate your fear of it. Alone time can be a good thing.
A second common fear is a fear you’ll never be happy again. Dealing with the grief of divorce, it may be hard to imagine yourself smiling today, tomorrow, or even next month. Other common fears include worries about money, children, and an opaque, generalized fear of the future, that great unknown stretched out in front of you. No matter what you fear, know this: others have faced it, too, and have come through it to find new life on the other side. There is a way forward.
Consider these strategies to help you move beyond fear to a more positive mindset. Facing fear head-on can lessen its sting and power.
Knowing what makes you afraid can be the first step. Underlying fears can be sneaky, keeping you from moving forward. Know and name the roots of your fears. Sometimes, a good therapist can help. Then you can begin to look for a solution to overcoming them.
Take a small step. Repeat. You’ll find small steps lead to bigger ones. The more you face the challenges that are in your way, the more you will gain confidence and power to move on. This is basic inertia. An object in motion stays in motion.
Tune out the chatter
Mute the negative noise that feeds your fears. We all have that little voice in our head that tells us everything can and will go wrong. Author Anne Lamott suggests imagining that critical voice coming from an actual person — maybe an angry, critical person in your family or community. Visualize that person shrunken down to the size of a mouse. Then, pick them up, put them in a glass jar, and tighten the lid. They can be negative and critical all they want but you can’t hear them.
A proven way to replace the lens of fear with one of positivity and hope is simply to breathe. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can activate your body’s relaxation response and help you slough off fear-based feelings. Spending time in nature can also reduce fear and anxiety, and increase pleasant feelings. Changing your outlook can help you change your reality.
Review your accomplishments
No matter how great or small, think of all the things you’ve achieved and conquered in your life. Write them down in a gratitude journal, and don’t minimize them. If you’ve triumphed over all these things in the past, you can surely do it again in the future.
We all need somebody to lean on
Having warm and empathetic people nearby, at least once a day, can help you feel calmer and more in control of your fear-based feelings. Support from others who understand and care about your struggles is essential to moving beyond fear. Who are your Power People? Lean on them.
Fear is normal, so is overcoming it
Fear is a natural human reaction to the unknown. It’s key to our evolution and survival. Fear can keep you from making a bad decision, or from doing something dangerous. Not all fear is bad. But when fear becomes overwhelming or keeps you stuck in an unsafe or unhealthy place, it’s time to take charge and make changes. There is a new future out there waiting for you to discover.
You’re not alone
Know that you are not the only one experiencing fear and anxiety because of divorce. Others have gone through the same gauntlet in which you find yourself. The only way you can put fear behind you is to move through it. Face it head-on, experience it entirely, lean on your family and friends, and use these tools. You’ll get through it, too.