Toothbrush
As the busy holiday season winds down, a peculiar thing happens.  We find ourselves cheerfully looking forward to a full work-week ahead.  Why?  Why after extra days off enjoying traditions with our family and friends, do we suddenly shift to the opposite end of the spectrum and seek the return of full inboxes and lengthy to-dos?

We love our routines.  We are programmed from infancy that routines are comforting and contribute to our feelings of stability.  So come January, after several weeks in a row of joyful disruptions, we simply crave our routines again.  We crave the need to “get back to counting calories,” “get back to the gym,” “get back to the budget,” or to “get my house back in order.”  I have heard these comments on repeat over the last 10 days.

One of the reasons divorce is so challenging for families is that it disrupts one of our most basic comforts. Divorce disrupts our routines tenfold. Multiple to-dos are added to your everyday lists, taking up time that would otherwise be spent in your normal routine.  Emotions are warped and thrown so far out of whack that the depressive nature of divorce leaves no energy to keep doing those things that are so beneficial to us.  When I was in the middle of the “divorce drearies” I remember feeling, on more than one occasion, that my normal bedtime routine which include a handful of 30 second tasks was too much to handle.  The thought of picking up my toothbrush was actually daunting.

When finding yourself in the midst of divorce, with little energy, not enough time, and an overwhelming new list of things to do, routines can be more important than ever.  If it is not possible to maintain a routine, begin as soon as you can to establish a new or modified one.  Stick to any semblance of a routine that you can.  Realize that your routines are a comforting aid and try your best not to abandon them.  Be patient with yourself, but try to stay on track.  Remind yourself of how small the actual task that is part of your routine is – don’t think about the big picture and the entire list.  Get to the present moment and go one step at a time.  Remind yourself “brushing my teeth takes less than a minute.” 

By keeping in line with our long held routines during divorce, we in some ways hold onto ourselves.  It is in exercising our routines that we are able to very tangibly exert control over our lives in a time that oftentimes feels uncontrollable. In the end you will be grateful that you held fast to your good habits and feeling like “you” again will be a matter of routine.

Is there a routine that is helping you through your divorce?

Angela Dunne

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