Coming out of divorce feeling lost

Yes, you are divorced now. After going through the intensity of resolving your separation and starting the shared custody of kids you should feel great, right? Instead, you feel lost and are still in pain? Do you feel like a failure because your marriage ended? It’s normal. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to feel this way. You’ve been in a marriage for years and after divorcing you’re single again but everything is different. You have kids now, and an ex-husband and you just moved into your new house maybe and it’s all on you. It can feel overwhelming.

But let me tell you something, you are on top of the list of priorities, after your kids, nobody else. And there’s tons of accomplishments to build up your new self-confidence and self-esteem:

  1. Reconnect with yourself, as a woman, as a girlfriend, as a person: take this part as an adventure, find old picture of your younger self and connect with your energy and your capacity for dreaming big. You’re still the same girl, just more experienced. Which means you’ll make better decisions in the future.
  2. Friends and family are your support group, talk to them: this one can feel obvious but sometimes we forget that telling our story to someone that loves us is liberating and makes it easier to move on. Beware of the people in your life that won’t be ready to help you yet. Sometimes, people have weird reactions to a divorce, they feel it’s about them or that they can judge you. Stay away from them, at least for now.
  3. Take time to think, feel, enjoy, cry: a big part of being able to move on is to mourn the end of your marriage. It was a project you had in common with your ex and it didn’t work out. Feel sad about it, it’s ok. You can revisit why it didn’t work, how you felt when things were going down. But all in all, make it about scanning it to learn from it. We can choose to feel like a victim and be helpless or feel like we did our best and even if it didn’t work, it was worth it
  4. Find out what you love, wish, dream of, miss, will fight for: soon you’ll be ready to take on new challenges, have fun thinking about what excited you before getting married, what were your craziest dreams, what did you look forward during your marriage that didn’t work because of him. Again, take the time to think, really think about your likes, your wishes and have fun imagining the wildest possibilities.

What’s important at this point is for you to be patient with yourself and start finding the fun of reconnecting with yourself and discovering what will be your next steps. Eventually, you’ll start feeling amazing and even want to date again. But don’t rush into anything, taking the time to reconnect and feel good again will pay off big time!

Divorcing with kids: they come first

I know how hard it is to separate. Your whole world crumbles down and you’re left standing, bleeding over the ruins. Wow! That’s how bad I felt when I realized my marriage was over. You’re heartbroken, sad and lost, but you’re still a parent and, let me tell you, it’s even harder for your kids. They don’t understand how their parents don’t love each other anymore. And on top of that, they probably feel guilty and think the parents will stop loving them also. On top of this, they can’t really put in words what’s happening to them, so basically they need you both a lot. I’m not saying don’t take care of yourself, that’s coming next week btw, I’m saying pay attention to your kids and remember that they’re in pain also.

I have always been an advocate for many different types of families. There’s the family we’re born into, the family we choose with our friends, the family we marry into, or enter when we have very close friends, etc. There’s families with one parent, with two moms, two dads, and so on. The perfect family of four, is just a fiction. I know this to be true now. The problem is that the alternative families do not enjoy of the same status and privilege in our society. All this to say that you are now a new family of two parents living separate and providing for their kids that will probably live in two different houses every other week. Also, if you haven’t separated yet, be aware that there are many ways of doing this: maybe you keep one house and the parent come and go instead of the kids, or you and your ex decide to stay in the same house, with different rooms and have your romantic relationships outside. There’s not one solution, there are as many solutions as you can think of and if it works for your family, go right ahead. Don’t be afraid of what others might say or think.

I know there’s nothing simple about divorce but here are some tips to help you figure out your next steps with your kids:

  1. Keep it simple, and explain to them what happens, don’t hide it from them. It depends how old your kids are, but I still recommend that you explain to them what’s happening. Of course, do it at at their level: be age appropriate with your explanation.
  2. Extremely important: tell them it’s not them, it’s you and your spouse that have decide the marriage is over and you will have two houses, or whatever arrangement you’ll have from now on. One thing parents are good at saying but not doing is tell them it’s ok to be sad and then be sad with them. You’re all in pain and avoiding showing it is not going to make it go away. If anything, they’ll be wondering why you’re not sad.
  3. Pain is unavoidable, manage it by listening to them and being there for them. But also remember you can still have fun with them. I know this, because my kids were young and after explaining to them what was happening, they said can we go play now? And it was ok. And even when I was very sad and emotional, I would take some time to play and have fun with them because it wasn’t the end of the world, it was the end of our marriage and the beginning of a new family. So allow yourself to laugh also, even if inside you’re still sad.
  4. Your kids are not weapons, don’t use them against each other. Sadly, this one is very hard for some parents. They find that using the kids to hurt the other parent is acceptable and very often do it without realizing how bad it is. Even if I understand that the competition between parents is tough and we all fall into it sometimes, we have to keep reminding ourselves that they didn’t ask for this, they are along for the ride but are not responsible for what’s happening. As you start your new life and shared custody, avoid sending messages to the other parent through them or don’t grill them with questions about the other house just to know what is he’s doing or if he’s met someone new. They’re dealing with their own problems and challenges.
  5. Spend some time as a family at least for an afternoon from time to time, they need to know that you are parents together and you’re still a family, just different. I know this one can be very challenging and avoid it if you will end up fighting with the other parent in front of the kids. But eventually, when things get better and you’re in better terms it’s amazing to be able to still spend some time as the new family you are.

If you can follow these tips, trust me, you’ll be making big steps towards a new normal and getting out of the pain. It’s impossible to know how long it’ll take, but I can assure you it’ll be faster this way. Also, remember that a family is not a static entity that never changes. Even if you had stayed married, things would have changed at some point: it’s not the same to be parents of babies, than it is to have teenagers. So, don’t be hard on yourself and keep moving forward, the end of the tunnel is in front of you not behind. Keep doing your best all the time, and when you know better, do better.

Divorcing with kids: becoming separate parents

Divorcing is not easy and it’s painful. When you have kids you’ll always be in contact with the other parent, at least if you have shared custody of the kids, of any sort. It’s not easy to move from being a couple to being parents of the same kids. But there are ways to make through the end of the couple and becoming a team of parents. Think it his way: you both love your kids, you both decided to have and take care of them, you both want to be a part of their lives going forward. What better than to finish your couple issues once and for all and start getting ready to parent your kids. Here are some tips that you can use to transition from your couple to being parents after your divorce:

Step one: take care of unfinished issues by having the conversations about the issues that were the hardest. You’re already out of the marriage, and even if the other person won’t change the way you want them to, you’ll still have to be in contact to discuss many things regarding your kids. Clear the air as much as possible of old recriminations based on a life that is now over and move on. This is not easy, and you might need help from a therapist to go through it. Believe this is one of the best gift you can give to your family. Having a friendly relationship between parents will make the pain easier to carry, for everybody.

Step two: Find common ground for the future of your kids. You’ve been parenting together for so long, come up with the things you share regarding the kids: start small, you love them, education is important, and so on. As you start living separated, you’ll start seeing some things under a different light. Make sure you keep your conversations about the kids, just between the two of you. Don’t include the kids in the discussions, unless they’re older (like 18, I mean). Keep the adult matters between you two. Making the kids participate will get them confused and you might undermine the parental authority of the other parent. At the beginning, also, you might fight some and you don’t want your kids to suffer more.

Step three: Make sure you understand that having two houses, the kids will have different house rules, talk to the kids together and tell them what to expect. For me it was realizing I didn’t care much about rules regarding the house as my ex did, so in our new house, I was a lot more relaxed about it. The kids had to learn that we had different rules in different houses. Explain it to them: just tell them, this will not change, but these things might, and it’s all right. They’re smarter than you think and they’ll try to take advantage of the differences. Being a team with your ex will makes dealing with these situations a lot easier. Communication between the parents is so important.

Step four: Do you best all the time, do not compare to one another, you’re different people that can’t be married, it doesn’t mean you can’t still work in the same team as parents. Something really funny happens after a divorce, and it’s that each parent wants to be the chosen one. I was there, and fought it consciously to avoid more pain for my family. You should do the same. There is no winning game to be played. This is your new life and your kids need both parents to grow and thrive. Keep it simple tell them you love as often as you can and never talk badly of the other parent in front of them. Remember they love you both!

Step five: Have some family days when you all get together, even if it’s a lunch or a walk in the park. The younger your kids, the better if you can spend an afternoon playing board games together and still have fun. I can’t stress enough that because you got divorced you didn’t stop being a family. It’s just a different type of family, not better, not worse. The more you tell yourself this, the more you’ll understand that the best you can do is keep a good relationship with your ex in everything related to your kids. Believe it pays off greatly.

Do not get stuck in the drama. It gets better with time. Divorce is painful for everybody, the sooner you get on with a new routine and new standards, the sooner everyone will come out of the pain. Time is a healer, but we need to do our best all the time. If you need extra support, you can contact me, or another counsellor, talk to friends, go to a support group for divorced parents. Do not isolate yourself thinking you’re the only one going through his painful time, reach out always.

What does success look like to you?

I was listening to an interview with two amazing women, Dr. Zelana and Lisa Bilyeu -if you don’t know them, check them out on IG- and they were talking about one of my passions: how do you make change happen and then last. You know when there’s something bothering you, either in a relationship, or in your job, and you feel paralyzed. You want to break free and make changes, but you can’t. There’s a pull towards keep doing the same things, even if you’re in pain. I find that many times, we stay there until the pain is to hard to stand or when we get a wake up call by getting sick or in an accident.

But in the interview, I love that Bilyeu mentioned two of the things I firmly believe are key to make changes in our lives and have them last. One, is your mindset. And the other is to be aware. Both depend on you being very purposeful when you do things. If you don’t want to change and you don’t want to get out of your comfort zone, that’s amazing, stay there and enjoy the life you’ve chosen. But there will not be another life, you can’t start with regrets or blaming the world for not letting you be more or better. It’s your choice, you accept it and life that life. When you want to grow, though, and change and keep getting better and challenge yourself to grow, then get out of your comfort zone and be all in. That’s when you have to work on your mindset and be aware of what you want and things will happen.

In the end, it comes to how you want to live your life. Like I was saying in the training to be aware of what triggers the anxious thoughts, the same goes with fear or stress. When you feel you are losing control and your stress or anxiety take over, you ask yourself: why am I feeling this way? what is causing me to feel this way? As you get clarity on the things that make you feel like that, you can control them. You can always decide how your are going to react to things that show up for you. Feelings are not different, you feel them, acknowledge them and do something to be aware of what causes them. Then you move on. You are in control of your reaction and you can take action to be better at it. If it doesn’t work at first, you keep trying and you’ll get better.

Later, in the interview they talked about what would you say to your younger self? And Bilyeu said that she wouldn’t tell her that things would be fine, because she felt she needed to go through the tough times to be who she is today. I sort of agree with this, the hard times really shape who we become, but I also disagree. Because we will always find a hard time at some point when we keep moving on and trying new things, things that scare us, meet new people that can open doors or throw us back to old patterns, so that’s not the most important thing to avoid or to know from the beginning. What I would totally tell my younger self is to trust my gut, to believe in myself like nobody else believes. I would tell myself to keep writing and keep nourishing my soul and spirituality. And to keep being brave and not settle for a life that was never what I was dreaming of, but what others were expecting of me. Others that were completely irrelevant and didn’t love me. That’s what I would tell myself if I could go back. And you know what, it’s exactly what I tell myself now. Because younger or older, the only moment we own is NOW. Our dreams of the future help us motivate us to move forward, our past taught us lessons, but the only time we can actually DO and BE is NOW.

So to answer the question of the title, success looks like anything you want. For me it’s become the author I dreamt of when I was younger and connecting to others and helping as many people as I can everyday. What does success look like to you?

Webinar: Master your anxious thoughts

I’m so happy to announce that today, December 19, at 2 pm ET, I’m going live in Instagram with a repeat of my webinar to help you master your anxious thoughts. I’ll also talk a little on how to apply the same techniques with your kids. I will announce after the webinar the launch of my mini-course to train yourself to use tools to master your anxious mind. As we master our mind we gain control over emotions like fear and anxiety.

I’m very excited about this because it’s part of my main theme to set up healthy habits to have a more balanced and happy life. All parents can benefit from tools that will help them identify the moment the anxious thoughts arise, but also set in place coping strategies that will be ready to use in any of these moments.

The mini-course will be affordable to all because I want to help as many families as possible, especially in times like these when we are all feeling uncertain and fearful. And the reason why I’ll charge for the mini-course is because I want people to commit to the tools and get all the benefits by working towards having healthy habits.

Challenge yourself to grow

Last week was a first for me in my business and it got me thinking how we can grow by challenging ourselves. As I often say, we are comfort creatures. We easily fall into routines that maintain us in a high level of comfort.

As we grow up, we like routines because they’re predictable. And there’s nothing wrong with this. We need predictable to feel safe, to create a sense of belonging, a sense of control over our lives. The problem is when we get so comfortable that we can’t see a way forward. Or when we see a way to grow and get to better standards, but we are too lazy to actually do what it takes. So, for me doing a whole week of lives is out there, out of my comfort zone. I decided it was time to do it because I enjoy so much talking and connecting with others. I know it’s not the same as being in front of a room full of people, but it’s pretty close.

By the end of the week, I was so happy that I had done it! I enjoyed so much having the experience of showing up every day of the week and delivering a presentation to help people struggling with anxious thoughts. Seeing how well it went, my goal now is to create an ebook that people can download and keep practicing the tools to train their anxious mind to become calm and focused when they want. Also, I’ll include the videos of the lives as a mini course for everybody that couldn’t be there last week and would love to try some of the tools I talked about in the training. This week of being vulnerable and pushing myself to do something uncomfortable has taught me that I can do anything I dream of. And this feeling is amazing because it’s proof that I’m progressing in my business and as a person, and progress equal happiness!

How do you challenge yourself? How do you get out of your comfort zone and go forward with your dreams? Remember, being comfortable is great and serves a need for certainty and belonging, but we also need a level of uncertainty and adventure in our lives. Stay strong and dream big!

Webinar Master your anxious thoughts – Video Replay

The webinar replay is ready!

In this webinar I will give you tools for mastering the anxious thoughts. Why the thoughts? Well, the truth is that our anxiety can be created by external and internal factors. The external one are easy to identify: anything that might put us in danger in our future or makes us feel uncertain about our safety in the future. An example would be, if you’re in the woods and you hear a noise behind you you’ll be anxious because it could be a bear. So this is an external cause of anxiety, and we can identify it easily and as soon as we see there’s no bear, the anxiety goes away. We deal with it externally. The internal causes are mainly our thoughts when they focus on something in the future without real facts to support it. This type of anxiety causing thoughts are the ones we want to keep on check and master to minimize the triggering without a real cause. Because these thoughts are not based on facts that we can check, it’s harder to calm down the anxiety cause by them, since we’re left to our own imagination.

Just a quick list of the emotions that can arise under stress: anxiety, panic, terror, fear, confusion, irritation, anger. These are some of the emotions that cause the fight or flight reaction in our body. Just to give you a quick definition of what an emotion is, I took this one from the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski: Involuntary neurological (it involves the whole nervous system) response that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. They have a cycle that takes place in your body. So the emotion that we can be rationalized, is not just in our head, it’s also affecting and involving our whole body. Some body reactions are crying, shivering, feeling a hot wave in your gut, etc. But the key idea in this definition is the idea of the cycle. The Nagoski sisters say that once the cycle starts, you need to let it complete the cycle till the end. They describe emotions as going through a tunnel, you need to go through the emotion to come out of it. And in my course I will include some of the ways to complete the cycle for some emotions.

Like I mentioned above it’s harder to deal with the stressors created by our own thoughts. And that’s why I want to give you today some tools to calm down those stressors that are ‘created’ by your thoughts and are internal and not external. The anxious thoughts that I’ll be talking about in this webinar are:

  • Obsessive thinking: how is it possible? I always do the same!
  • Catastrophizing: we think the worst right away, if she didn’t call me back it’s because she died!
  • Shaming: blaming who you are instead not blaming something you did
  • Self-criticism: attacking yourself and your choices harshly, you’re the worst friend ever!

You can watch the video below and start using the tools right away.

I hope this helps you control the anxious thoughts and keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming Live course with more tips to master your anxious mind. Registration will begin on Monday, November 9.

Have a great day!

Webinar: Master your anxious thoughts

I’m so happy to announce that next Monday, November 2, at 1 pm ET, I’m going live with a brand new webinar to help you master your anxious thoughts. I’ll also talk a little on how to apply the same techniques with your kids. Right after the webinar, you’ll have the chance to get my brand new mini course with tools to apply in your life: as we master our mind we gain control over emotions like fear and anxiety.

I’m very excited about this because it’s part of my main theme to set up healthy habits to have a more balanced and happy life. All parents can benefit from tools that will help them identify the moment the anxious thoughts arise, but also set in place coping strategies that will be ready to use in any of these moments.

The mini course that I’ll launch in mid November will be affordable to all because I want to help as many families as possible, especially in times like these when we are all feeling uncertain and fearful. And the reason why I’ll charge for the mini course is because I want people to commit to the techniques and get all the benefits.

Click here to register and get the notebook for the webinar. I can’t wait to see you there!

Drop everything and go play, mom!

Play is essential for kids growing up to learn skills and socialize. Another important aspect of play is that it helps us learn to cope in different situations and teaches us to laugh about ourselves. How come as we grow older we forget to play? Or maybe we stop playing, thinking that it’s too silly or a waste of our time. Let me tell you right now that this is not true!

It comes more natural to some people and that’s great. Being playful and goofy is not for everybody, you could say. But many studies (you can Google this) have found that people that are playful and love to play are better at coping with stress, anxiety and depression.

Let’s separate the two things that I’ve mentioned above. One of them is to be playful and goofy: this is the ability to laugh at situations that other people might find ridiculous, but when you laugh they become light hearted and funny. If someone takes them seriously instead of laughing then they become a serious situation that needs to be untangled. A simple example would be if you drop accidentally a spoon full of tomato sauce and it splashes your pants and everything around you: you can choose to swear and clean it up getting more and more mad because on top of it the stain in your pants will be hard to get off. Instead, you can choose to start laughing and clean up with a smile, saying, darn! it had to be tomato sauce! and then put your pants in the washer and let it take care of the stains. That split second when you decide how you’ll react to an accidental mess, decides what energy you will bring to the table during dinner. So in this type of situation, being able to laugh and take things as they are makes you more resilient to real messes in your life because you can put in perspective when it’s really serious and when it’s just inconvenient and it’s easy to fix if you keep a lighthearted attitude.

The second play that I was talking about is to actually take time to play. It could be a game on your phone, computer, Xbox, switch, etc; or it could be playing cards with your kids, or sitting after dinner to play a board game with your family. These moments that you take to play, as if you were a kid, are fundamental to put the rest of your life in perspective. You know when your game doesn’t go the way you wanted, it’s ok. When you loose at the cards game with your kids, but you have all been laughing and being having fun for an hour or so, that’s a great feeling. Being able to keep playing as adults serves many purposes: creating a distraction, sharing fun moments with your family, being more resilient when you face a tough level in a game and you will have to redo it several times before moving to the next level, finding entertainment that engages you instead of sitting passively in front of the TV set or your computer.

I guess my post today is about the many ways that we can disconnect from the drama of life, the deadlines at work that stress us, the pandemic, and news all over the world that make us cringe. But with that disconnect also comes perspective and entertainment that recharges you and serves the purpose of refocusing you and connecting with a side of yourself that finds enjoyment in the simple and lighthearted moments of life. So, repeating myself here, drop everything at least one time this week and go play! If you can insert these play time every week, the better!

How to avoid making the same mistakes

This is a question that I always keep in mind since my divorce. My experience was that when I got separated I realized I had changed so much without even seeing it. Little by little as things happened -I enrolled for graduate school, had two beautiful babies, moved far from the city, started teaching and doing research-, I got lost and became someone else. I can’t really put my finger on the exact moment I realized this, but it was clear that I needed to spend some time reconnecting with who I used to be to understand where I wanted to go. So, with the help of my good friends and a lot of determination, I started asking myself: what did I like? How did I use to feel when I felt happy? and more questions like these to find myself again.

The result was an amazing journey! I realized that there were so many things I loved and I had completely abandoned, like taking care of myself, calling my friends and having long conversations, going out for dinner with friends and co-workers, reading, travelling and more. So little by little I got myself back on track with my feelings and thoughts and promised myself to never again become anybody else but my true self.

Has this happened to you? I know, you might not even know how to answer that. That’s how I used to feel. I remember one fall my brother visited us and after spending a week together, he commented that I had changed so much. In my mind I thought, of course I changed, I have two babies now and I live in a different country and many other reasons to justify it. But he was right, and that comment stayed with me and it reappeared after my separation with renewed force. Who had I become? How had I lost myself so much? Who was I anymore?

So, thinking that this is a process that takes place internally and many times we are not even aware that we have become a different person than we once were, I am going to give you a guide that maybe can help you measure how much you have deviated from your own true self. This list is not in any particular order, except for the waking up portion, because if you’re still deep in your slumber you won’t be making any real changes. But after that moment of realization, the rest of the points need to happen in no particular order.

First, you need to wake up! Awareness is key to start any change in ourselves. Like my mentor, Tony Robbins says, there are two things that can wake us up: the first one is having so much pain that we can’t take it anymore, and we realize we need to change; the second one is when something traumatic happens to us and shakes us to our core, like separating in my case. I believe that there’s a third one: being still and going deep inside ourselves to find answers. For this last one to work we have to want to do it and being consistent with whatever method we choose: meditation, support group, prayer, mantras, yoga. Any spiritual practice that you have or would like to pick up will nudge you to take a look inside and evaluate if you’re in the wrong path.

Second, after you realize you need to course correct and commit to develop your potential awesomeness I think being accountable for your choices keeps you in shape. What I mean by this is that you need to tell someone about what is happening to you and share with them the changes you are making to go back to your true self. That way, your friend, partner, sibling, whoever you choose, will be able to cheer you and remind you to keep it up along the way. We are better together, there’s no doubt about it.

The third important aspect is to be honest with yourself. If you hide things from yourself, none of this will take you closer to your true self. Honesty is looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself what you need to hear. From ‘I love, and I have your back’, to ‘that was a massive mistake and you need to own it’ or ‘stop whining and move on’. No matter how hard this sounds, honesty with your inner self is the best way to not repeat the old mistakes. In my case, I constantly catch myself falling back into old comfortable habits and looking the other way. But, not for long. As soon as I realize this is happening, I jump to my feet and declare, ‘No more!’ I’m not this person and I don’t want to be this person, raising your standards will keep you on your toes and that’s where you want to be to grow.

Finally, the fourth, that is connected to the previous one, is be uncomfortable. We all tend to fall back into easy, and comfortable habits. That’s a trap! It means you’re letting yourself slip into your old self that is no longer who you want to be. Feeling uncomfortable with aspects of our life means we are pushing ourselves to grow by facing new challenges. Of course, not everybody feels this way and you don’t have to. Of course, you know when being uncomfortable is too much and it might also be a sign that you’re doing something that is not aligned with your inner self. But when you want to better yourself, some level of uncomfortable action is necessary.

I think this topic can be expanded further and I’ll post another article about it soon. Hoping that this will help you get closer to your true inner self and back to your path if you have lost it.