A high-conflict divorce unfolds over time. You have to plan for the long game, and manage all your resources—energy, emotions, time and money—to achieve your divorce goals with the least amount of stress.
You don’t have infinite resources for the divorce, so playing the long game means you need to conserve those resources, build them, and target them at getting the results you want. That’s what I mean by budgeting. In this newsletter, I want to focus on how to budget your energy and especially your physical energy. Next time we’ll look at how to budget your mental energy. Followed by newsletters on other parts of The Budget: Emotion, Time and Money.
Creating a basic energy budget
The big idea of the energy budget is that you need to maintain a positive balance of physical and mental energy to sustain you through the divorce.
To make that happen, you’ll need to do three things:
Spend your energy wisely in the moment, staying focused on your divorce goals in the present.
Build your energy reserves.
Think in advance about the twists, turns and challenges that you will face in your divorce journey. Thinking only about where you want to end up without understanding the challenges you are going to face will only make the divorce that much more difficult.
How much energy do you need?
You can monitor the status of your energy budget by using the Energy Scale which ranges from Hopeful and Optimistic to Anxious, Afraid and Isolated.
If you are anxious, afraid and feeling isolated, you’ll know you are over budget, which means you’re likely to think poorly and make decisions that work against you. Being on the edge in your divorce is risky since so many things can go wrong.
To keep yourself hopeful and optimistic, you need to boost your physical and mental energy. So let’s focus on things in your control that can give you the most energy for tackling the challenges that lie ahead.
Building physical energy
I stress physical self-care to all my clients. The reason is simple: our physical condition has a powerful effect on how we feel, and you’ll need to feel as good as you can to make smart decisions. Day in and day out, be sure you pay attention to:
Sleep (Resetting): Our bodies need to reset at the end of the day, and stress skyrockets when that doesn’t happen. Get the rest and reset you need by:
Going to bed at the same time each night.
Getting more than 7 hours of sleep on most nights.
Putting away smartphones and tablets at least 45 minutes before going to bed, if not longer.
Exercise: Cardio and yoga are good for stress, a major energy drain in a high-conflict divorce. At minimum:
Commit to at least three days a week of exercising during stressful times.
Aim for 30 minutes. If you cannot do 30 minutes, can you do 15 minutes? If you cannot do 20 minutes, can you do 10 minutes? Something consistent like 15 minutes a day is much better for your body then doing one hourlong class per week.
Food: Bad nutrition wears us down. Aside from cheat meals, consider a healthy menu every day. I really cannot add anything more to this subject than Mark Hyman, but here’s my short answer to “What is good nutrition?”:
Reduce protein, increase good fats (like those in salmon, grass-fed beef, avocados), increase veggies.
Decrease sugars and chemicals or ingredients that you cannot pronounce.
Caffeine and Alcohol: Being buzzed isn’t good for decision making and impulse control. So limit yourself to a few cups and glasses a week at most. Caffeine from tea is better than coffee if you need to switch out. Try using these as a weekend treat rather than letting them become your master.
When you feel better physically, you can give your best to the divorce. And don’t worry. While it may unfold over a long period of time, a divorce isn’t really a marathon, it is more like a series of sprints with a lot of rest in between “events” (court conferences, depositions, settlement discussions, etc.)