When it comes to separation or divorce, we can often be our own worst enemy. We may obsess over what we did, or didn’t do. What we said, or didn’t say. We ask ourselves, how did we get here? At what point did we go from loving one another “till death do us part,” to being this angry couple who can barely sit in the same room together?

Emotions can take over and run our hearts through with what feels like a double-edged sword, with thoughts about good and bad haunting us relentlessly. It is nearly impossible to imagine a happy ending when the future looks like a black hole that prompts fear and apprehension.

You can find lots of help with how to deal with divorce and the associated emotional upheaval and grief. But there are also things you can do for yourself in a time of crisis to help you cope and move forward as a healthy, happy single person.

Be kind to yourself.

This is a good time to give yourself a break. Accept that you cannot go back and change the past. What you have control of at this point is how you develop your future. In her article, 3 Ways to Take Care of Yourself After a Breakup for Psychology Today, Erica B. Slotter Ph.D. says, “…divorcees who expressed higher levels of self-compassion when talking about the end of their marriage also reported fewer intrusive negative thoughts and feelings about their divorce than those who were less self-compassionate.”

Slotter also discusses redemptive narrative, the ability to look for positives in a negative situation. So looking for the silver lining can help alleviate emotional distress.

Divorce is definitely something you shouldn’t tackle alone. You will develop a tight-knit circle of family and friends who can be there to help you. They are important. But you also need to know that it’s okay to say no to a social or family obligation that you are not ready to face. As you grieve the loss of your marriage, you will experience ups and downs competing with the wildest roller-coaster rides in the nation. Sometimes dealing with such difficult emotions requires solitude — and that’s OK. While it can be unhealthy to hide from the world, neither do you need to force yourself into social situations for which you aren’t prepared or ready.

Get out and be active.

Exercise is a vital ingredient in recovery, with a number of mental benefits that include easing symptoms of depression and anxiety. But it is also difficult to prioritize on days when you only want to be in a dark room. So start small. Try taking a walk around the block or going on a mellow nature hike. Or go to the gym and take a class. Dust off the bike and take a ride — just do something to move your body. You may want to lie in bed and cry for days, but by getting up, getting out, and refusing to hide away, you are taking healthy, positive steps in the right direction. If not, perhaps a good friend will come to your rescue and insist you get up and take a shower!

Rediscover your self.

It may also help to see this time as one of personal exploration. Make a commitment to rediscover who you are, and to get reacquainted with your likes and dislikes. You now have free reign over your life. Was there something you’ve always wanted to do but wasn’t partner-centric? Now is the time to sleep in the middle of the bed rather than stick to your side. By spreading out, you give yourself permission to spread your wings. Allow yourself to refocus on new ideas, thought patterns, and emotions. Lingering on the old can keep the pain and hurt alive and fresh, so look ahead. Be adventurous. Find new interests; take on a new hobby or a new career. Volunteer. Nothing can take your mind off your own woes faster than working with others who might be struggling with their own challenges and heartbreaks.

Make plans with old friends, and look for opportunities to make new ones. Learn to laugh again. Go to places where a plus one isn’t required. Take your time in a museum to digest the history, linger at a local art gallery, hit a movie matinee, browse through the bookstore to your heart’s delight, or indulge on an extra-large macchiato latte with extra whipped cream and caramel drizzle — and enjoy your solitude. This is your time!

Put your thoughts and fears into a journal.

Lisa Arends article, Facing Divorce? How to Build the Support System You Need, says it best: “The headspace during divorce can get downright ugly. You may have thoughts and fears that don’t feel safe to disclose even to your closest friends or your caring therapist. This is where the journal comes in. It can take any form – written or recorded, paper or digital, neat or messy. Allow it to absorb your tears and your fears. This is your uncensored space. Where you can let it all out without worries of being judged or facing repercussions for your outbursts.”

Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP, explores further the benefits of journaling in her article, The Health Benefits of Journaling for Psychcentral. Purcell describes the five specific benefits you can experience:

  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings.
  • Know yourself better.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Solve problems more effectively.
  • Resolve disagreements with others.

Build a safe space all your own.

As vital as friends and family are, you will need a sanctuary, a place all your own where you can go to hide away for a little bit of relief when everything and everyone becomes too much. It can be any place where you can go to carve out time for yourself. Sometimes, even when you’ve come to the decision to divorce, separating physically is impossible right away. This may be due to budget constraints, timing, or many other reasons that you and your spouse may need to remain in the same home during a divorce.

If this is the case, a sanctuary all your own — a place designated out-of-bounds to your partner — is more important than ever. It needs to be a welcoming place that makes you feel safe and gets you out of the “danger zone,” leaving the upheaval and emotions at the door (which could be as simple as a car door). But, be reasonable and don’t stay too long or it can easily turn into a place to hide away rather than get away, a prison of your own making.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.

We live such busy lives today, we often forget to indulge ourselves. A little pampering can go a long way in helping us forget how lonely we are. Like movies, for example. Why not sign up for Netflix and binge on a series your spouse never liked. Eat the comfort foods you loved as a kid: mac and cheese, mint chocolate chip ice cream, red velvet cake. Take a long, hot bath by candlelight, with wine and chocolates at your fingertips. Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Make being alone a treat, not a sentence of hardship.

In long-term relationships, we sometimes lose the person we were before marriage. We become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and we work hard to keep our families happy and strong. Divorce can create an emptiness inside, where a part of your life feels like it has gone missing, and sometimes, you don’t know who to be in this new role. It is a frightening time, yes, but it can be exhilarating as well. Create new rituals that are yours alone. Rather than allow yourself to cling to the past and what can’t be changed, embrace the future and move toward a new beginning. It’s there for the taking, and it’s all yours.