Who Am I Without All My Stuff?!

During divorce, we often lose many things, including our sense of who we are and our dreams for the future. We lose the path we have been on for so long and can begin to feel like we are wandering in a dark forest or floating alone in a vast ocean without an anchor or sense of direction.

Along with all these life changing loses, we also lose stuff. As shallow as this makes me sound, I do like stuff!

In my mind, there are two categories of stuff. The first category includes a roof over my head, a furnace, running water, a tooth brush, toilet paper, a refrigerator and all the other things we feel are necessities of life, that millions of others do not have.

The second category includes the cute pairs of shoes, a stylish outfit or two, a piece of nice furniture and an inspiring piece of artwork.

But I had a problem. I believed people would judge me by my choice of stuff, so I needed to have stuff they would like, too (I did my best to ignore all the things advertisers told me I needed in order to be happy, successful and loved; I was confused enough without input from them!).

I did not lose all my stuff during my divorce, but I lost enough to make me realize how much my life was defined by it and how much I defined myself by it.  At first I was frightened, then angry, then blaming and finally, embarrassed. Why do I feel I can’t recognize myself without stuff?

“Time to grow up sweetie!” I whispered to myself.

Stuff is fun and can bring joy and beauty into our lives, but it does not define us. We have the privilege of doing that ourselves. Stuff is not a substitute for meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. Stuff we do treasure can be found in unexpected places. I have a rock collection I love, simply from looking where I’m going.

Where are you going? What stuff will you leave behind? What will you treasure?

Relevant

The following is a guest post by Joan Steffend with an introduction written by our founder, Barb Greenberg.

Are there days you feel you don’t quite fit into your life, that you have lost your way or lost your footing? Are there times you feel you are trying so hard and nothing seems to work out? Do you sometimes doubt your value?

Please know you are not alone. Someone recently told me to consider these feelings as “growing pains.” They remind you to pause and to reevaluate. In doing so, you will “grow” into a new understanding and relationship with your life. Please be patient and remember you have more value, more relevance, than words can express. May these words from Joan Steffend comfort you:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word relevant. Was I? Am I? Could I be? Is it important?

Relevant.
What does it mean? That there’s a place for you.
What does that mean? That you fit in this world, perfectly, just as you are.
What does that mean? That you can let go of the struggle.
What does that mean? That life rises up to support you.
What does that mean? That you can relax.
Relax.
You are relevant, even if others don’t see it or know it.
That is enough.
You are enough.
Now.

Budgeting Do’s and Don’ts for the Newly Separated

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Beckman of Beckman, Steen & Lungstrom.

For many newly separated individuals, learning to develop a budget on a single income is one of the biggest challenges of moving forward with a new life. Your standard of living may need to decrease in order to meet your new financial position. In some cases, you may need to make significant changes to your lifestyle as you move forward. A basic understanding of the do’s and don’ts of budgeting for newly separated individuals, however, will help make that process easier.

Do:

As you develop a new budget for yourself, the first thing you should do is take a look at where you are. What are your fixed expenses: car payments, rent, utilities and other payments that you know that you’ll have to make each month? What does your income look like? Understanding how your expenses match up to your income will help you make smarter choices about your variable income.

Following your separation, you should make a serious effort to pay down debt. Divorce can create a hit to your credit score, especially as you close lines of credit that you and your spouse had opened together and have a change in major expenses. Make sure that you make payments on time every month.

Make sure that you update any important financial documents following your divorce. Close joint accounts that you had together. Write out a new will that explains how your assets will be distributed in the event of your death. These simple actions could save you or your dependents a lot of heartache down the road.

Don’t:

Try not to dive straight in with major expenses. What you think you can afford now may turn out to be very different from what you can live with for the next several years. Avoid a pricey new car, an expensive new residence or anything else that could cause you to sink into heavy debt immediately following your separation.

During this difficult period of your life, you should also be careful not to lose track of the distinction between wants and needs. Things that you have been accustomed to having may no longer be necessities. You may have to make some serious cuts to expenses in order to meet your new budget requirements. Dropping your phone plan to the minimum level, getting rid of cable and eating at home more often–even if you hate cooking for one–can all help reduce your expenses and make your budget easier to live with.

Going through a divorce or separation is a challenge. By avoiding new debt and learning to manage your new financial situation appropriately, you can help reduce your stress levels and make your situation more bearable.

How to Help Kids Manage the Stress of Divorce

The following is a guest post by Erin Kassenbaum.

If stress burned calories, many of us would weigh 90 pounds, right? Work, family and the never-ending “to-do” list all create significant stress on our lives. Most of us adults can effectively manage our stress. But what about children, especially kids whose parents are going through a divorce?

Understandably, divorce causes a great deal of stress for children. They are full of fear over the changes they are experiencing, and often worry they are the reason their parents are getting divorced. One of my main goals when working with clients is helping them help their kids manage stress during and after divorce. Children generally respond to stress in one of the following three ways: positive, tolerable, or toxic.

Positive stress response is a healthy part of development where kids learn to cope. Children experience positive stress when getting a shot or starting school after summer vacation. Tolerable stress is more serious and longer lasting, but manageable. This is often the type of stress children experience when their parents get divorced. The good news is both types of stress can be negated by positive, loving relationships with parents and other caregivers who can help them adapt and cope with stress.

However, if parents are so high-conflict they are not able to develop a cooperative co-parenting or parallel-parenting relationship, kids are at risk for developing a toxic stress response. Toxic stress puts children in a constant state of fight-or-flight mode, affecting their brain development, suppressing their immune system and causing learning and memory problems. As adults, children who experience toxic stress are at risk of developing heart disease, substance abuse problems and depression. Obviously, we need to help kids manage stress so that it doesn’t become toxic.

This is one reason it’s so important for parents to focus on developing a manageable co-parenting or parallel-parenting relationship with one another. In addition, parents can help their kids manage stress by:

  • Understanding it’s normal for kids to be stressed during the divorce process. Don’t get stressed because the kids are stressed!
  • Validating the kids’ feelings about the divorce. Using phrases such as “I know you feel sad,” or, “I understand you miss seeing your mom everyday like you used to.” Kids need to hear that it’s okay to feel how they feel.
  • Encouraging honesty. It’s important kids know they can always be honest with both parents.
  • Asking the kids what they think would make them feel better. Sometimes the only answer may be that mom and dad get back together and that’s okay. Try to offer simple ideas like taking a walk, watching a movie together or calling the other parent.
  • Keeping a regular routine, especially for younger children. Routine and consistency give kids tremendous security and comfort.
  • Repeatedly reassuring them they are not the cause of the divorce and that both parents will always love them, no matter what.

Finding the Balance With Stress


The following is a guest post by Mary Battista of Prairie Health Companion.

When you hear the word stress, most people automatically think of a negative outcome: disease, discomfort or distress! Stress is “the response of the human organism to any change or demand”. But is the outcome from a demand put on the body necessarily always bad?

Most people are well aware of what stress means to them. When people are under pressure to achieve, or have constant demands that exceed what they feel they are capable of handling, they feel the negative effects of stress. Physically, they may experience chest pain, a racing heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, trouble sleeping, digestive dysfunction, muscle tension and headaches, to name a few. To soothe this state of “distress,” some may engage unhealthy practices such as overeating or drinking, which starts another set of stressors that comes from being overweight or side effects of too much alcohol. The body, feeling under threat, is sending distress signals by secreting the hormones cortisol and adrenaline as it prepares for the flight or fight response designed to help the body evade danger. The problem is that if stress is not well managed or is excessive, this response can cause or exacerbate disease.

Alternately, eustress is defined as “good stress”. In this state, you find yourself feeling engaged, inspired and excited about what lies ahead. This is the “sweet spot” that, as a coach, I am helping the client find so they feel challenged about the goals that lie ahead, rather than overwhelmed or out of control. Too little of the good stress and the client feels uninspired and finds it hard to move forward toward healthier habits.

Divorce can certainly be a stressor.

Taking small steps and experimenting with self-care, women can start to flourish in ways that bring good health and happiness back into their lives. Stress need not be all bad, but careful management is necessary so that you can live a life that feels exciting but allows the body to maintain optimal health.