Divorce and Dealing With Fear

“Remember your dreams and fight for them.”

Paulo Coelho

Facing your fears is an important part of recovering from your divorce. Because it has a way of altering all of your carefully laid plans, the fears of uncertainty might overwhelm you. 

Fear is a normal reaction to divorce and any kind of radical life change. One of the most common is the fear of being alone. This fear comes from the thought of being rejected, being alone in times of sickness or disability, or dreading the possibility you won’t ever find love again. But being alone does not equate to loneliness. You may need to learn how to be alone and be content with yourself. One of the greatest gifts of divorce is discovering yourself. Don’t pass up this opportunity to ask yourself the questions that define who you are. 

A second common fear is that you might never feel happy again. You may still be dealing with the overwhelming grief of divorce, or you might have a hard time imagining being happy without your ex, but almost anyone can relate to this flavor of fear. Other common fears include worries about money, children, or even a generalized fear about the future–that great unknown stretching out in front of you. But no matter the fear, others have faced it too and can assure you, there is a way forward. 

LINDA’S STORY

“One day as I was getting ready to go out and thinking about the future, I was full of fear. Suddenly I remembered that everything is pretty much a mystery except the next 24 hours. I was determined to live one day at a time. It helped a lot.” (Linda)

GETTING PRACTICAL

Consider some of these strategies to help you get into a more positive mindset. Stepping out of your comfort zone and facing the situation head on will eventually lessen the sting and the power of fear.

Identify. Knowing what makes you afraid can be the first step. Underlying fears can be sneaky, keeping you stuck from moving forward. Knowing and naming the roots of your fears can help you look for a solution in overcoming them.

Take small steps that will eventually 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. If even small steps feel overwhelming, try breaking those steps down even further into micro-steps. 

Learn to mute the negative chatter that keeps feeding 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 shrinking down to the size of a mouse. Then, pick them up and put them into a glass jar, screwing on the lid. They might still be negative and critical, but you can’t hear them any longer!

Reorient your thought process. Learn to take off the lens of fear and replace it sunshine-kissed lenses of hope and positivity. 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 to change your reality. 

Remember your accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Think of all the things you have achieved and conquered in your life. Write them down in a gratitude journal, and don’t minimize them. Know that if you’ve overcome the odds in the past, you can surely do it again.

Get support. Having warm and empathetic people nearby, at least once a day, can help you to 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.

BE AWARE

Fear is normal when facing difficult or unfamiliar situations. Fear can keep you from making a bad decision, or doing something dangerous. Not all fear is bad. But when it becomes overwhelming, or keeps you stuck in an unsafe or unhealthy place, it’s time to pay attention and make changes. Don’t let fear be in charge of your life, because there is a new future out there waiting for you to grow into.

REMEMBER

Just know that you are not the only one experiencing fear and anxiety because of divorce. Others have gone through the gauntlet and made it through. The only way you can put fear behind you is to go through it. Face it head on and experience it entirely. That’s the only way you will and can get past it.

TAKE ACTION

Fear seems to operate and flourish in the darkness. Today, make a point of telling a caring friend or family member about a fear that is bothering you, or join a local divorce support group. Sometimes naming a fear and bringing it out into the daylight can make a difference by reducing its power.

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