by Jann Glasser, Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Coach/Psychotherapist, and Collaborative Coach
Fear of an uncertain future can stop us from doing great things, and it can keep us holding onto things and habits that are hurting us. The majority of people occasionally wonder what the future will be like. Whether we will be happy, whether we will have enough money, whether we will be healthy. But when you are contemplating, going through, or coming out of divorce, your anxiety over the future can be overwhelming and unbearable.
For some, future fears are about their children: whether their children will cope with or forgive them for the divorce.
Others question whether they will adjust to living alone, have enough money, or meet someone special who they can share and enjoy life with.
Some are concerned about how family, friends, colleagues, business partners and others will react to the news and whether their relationship with them will change.
Finally, there are those who are still in grief, dealing with the loss and questioning whether the pain, stress, frustration, guilt, sadness or resentment will ever pass.
The common theme among them is the desire to know if they will be happy again. Some anxiety over an uncertain future is natural. But constantly thinking about it is draining and damaging..
Concerns are often based on “mights” — things which might or might not happen.
Left alone with your thoughts, you can feel exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed. Recognize that you don’t have to make all the decisions now. One by one you can address those decisions as they impact the uncertain future.
Before we enter into embracing the uncertain future, letting go of relationship baggage is an essential first step. Only after you free yourself from past bitterness, anger, and sadness can true peace of mind and happiness be achieved. After divorce, many still suffer unresolved frustration, disappointment and guilt with the way their marriage ended.
These thoughts can consume you. The stress, anxiety and tension you still feel can take a toll on your health, sleep patterns, and feelings of being constantly on edge. Divorce Coaching is one way of helping you to let go of the past so that you can move forward to deal with future uncertainty, enabling you to feel stronger, happier and more confident.
5 Steps to Embracing the Uncertain Future
- Let go of expectations
When you expect things, you set yourself up for disappointment. You can take actions to influence your future, but you cannot control outcomes or others. If you expect the worst, then you can get trapped into a negative closed minded outlook that will prevent you from seeing and seizing opportunities. If you expect the best, and things don’t go exactly the way you wanted, you have to deal with this disappointment.
Instead of expecting the future to give or not give you something specific, focus on what you’ll do to create what you want to experience.
- Create options for different possible outcomes
The hardest part of dealing with uncertainty, at least for me, is the inability to plan and feel in control. This is how many clients feel. Until they know what the outcome of their divorce will be, such as their financial situation or even how they will feel living alone, they can’t makes plans about until they have more clarity. But they can create and plan for possible outcomes.
Try to make lists of options and their possible outcomes. For example, what would you do if you get more or less money than expected? Explore different housing options, and consider different parenting arrangements for your children.
To achieve peace of mind, it can be useful to list plans for different outcomes. Making rough plans can be reassuring and lessen anxiety. Many also find after talking it through with someone, uncertainty no longer played on their mind. So get together with a friend, family member or coach and talk through your options and outcomes.
- Grow confident in your ability to handle any situation
Start by reminding yourself of difficult times in your life you survived and got through: a difficult childhood, bullying, a previous break up, challenging work situation or perhaps another major loss. The chances are at the time it seemed unbearable, but looking back you coped and got through it.
Another method to help with managing anxiety is to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Whatever that worst is, then ask yourself, “What could I do to cope if the worse did happen?” Or “How would I handle it?”
- Become an observer and advisor
It is not the unknown that bothers some people. Everything in life is unknown, we all know this. But what bothers some folks most is finding themselves getting lost in a repetitive cycle of thoughts: about what may and may not happen in the future, rather than being able to just deal with it when it comes and not think about it all the time.
Try sharing every single thought with yourself. Then ask yourself what advice you would give a friend, family member or colleague who had the same thought. You may find yourself telling him or her not to be “ridiculous,” a pointless exercise or a waste of time thinking that way. Examining each and every minute detail of life can be exhausting! You gain perspective by becoming an observer and advisor to yourself. You can now use this to prevent getting wrapped up in your own thoughts.
Try this suggestion: write down, share, and where possible find humor in any escalating thoughts. Ask yourself. “If a friend or family member were facing this situation or having these thoughts, what advice would I give them?”
- Manage and reduce stress effectively
Built up stress and anxiety affects breathing rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, muscle tension and every organ in our bodies.
Finding a way to reduce stress, as well as letting go of that stress, is essential to maintaining a healthy life. When we go through a painful break up and divorce, this is particularly true. Different strategies work for different people. It could be a relaxing bath or massage, physical exercise, deep breathing, simple laughing or meditation.
One activity which helps some people de-stress is cooking. You may love creating and trying new dishes, as you find yourself switching off from everything else. Don’t buy into the lame excuse “It is pointless cooking for one.” It’s great fun experimenting! You can freeze almost anything. Cooking and giving food to others can be really rewarding. Plus, it’s an excuse to invite others over.
Find a healthy way of de-stressing, that works for you and do it regularly.
Let me close with words from a special prayer. Many people regardless of religious or cultural background and beliefs find them helpful in difficult times.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change , the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.