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when you're treading water...float!


Whether the news of your pending divorce slammed into you like a tidal wave, or whether you knew the storm was inevitably approaching, going through the process of separation and divorce and suddenly having your entire world upended can cause a high degree of panic, fear, and uncertainty.  At times it can feel like you’re slowly drowning and you wonder how you’ll keep your head above water.  You start thrashing around in a panicked frenzy, flailing aimlessly about in search of a lifeline. Endless thoughts flood your mind...What will I do now?  Will the kids be okay?  How will I survive financially?  How could she do this to me?  What will all of our friends say?  Before long, it’s hard to breathe under the weight of anxiety, you’re overwhelmed and you’re tired.  It’s completely normal to feel this way, these are unchartered waters for you, and you have no compass to navigate this storm.  So what can you do?


    When you find yourself treading water, FLOAT!


What!?  I know, this seems simple and illogical, but take a moment to consider the concept.  When something unexpected happens and we are placed into a situation we know little or nothing about and everything we have previously known, loved, and created our life around is suddenly at risk; we have a tendency to freak out!  Our emotions kick into high gear and our logic tends to go out the window.  The reality is when we allow our emotions to get in the way we are more likely to make poor decisions, reacting instead of acting with intentionality and clarity.  We don’t intend to, it’s the fight or flight effect, but the reality is all that flailing and unmanaged action is only making things worse.  So, yes...FLOAT.  If we can stop for just a moment and think rationally, we can remember that we don’t have to tread water because we already have the built-in ability to float!  If we can stop the fruitless thrashing and settle down a bit, we can learn how to gain clarity, assess our situation, consider our options, and then take the appropriate course of action.  When you’re going through a separation and divorce, the ability to apply critical thinking skills and act wisely is absolutely essential.  I have broken the term FLOAT into an acronym to help you remember the benefits of slowing down and utilizing your own internal preservation device!  


F     Focus                   

The first thing you must do is to step back and focus in order to gain some clarity and situational awareness.  Find a quiet place to focus your thoughts where you are free from distraction and interruption. I had a favorite park I would go to and spent many days and hours walking those boardwalks and trails in order to help keep me centered and clear.  

L     Listen                    

Next, you must listen. Listening can come from many valuable sources such as your family, your friends, your attorney, but the most important voice to consider will be your own.  It is wise to take into consideration the advice and thoughts of others, but realize that in the end, you ultimately make the final decisions so you have to be at peace with the choices you make.  Be sure to listen intently and considerately to what your own spirit is telling you.  

O    Obtain/Observe   

You can’t make wise or informed decisions without having the appropriate facts at hand.  Obtaining pertinent information and gathering facts about where you are, what must be prioritized and acted upon first, and what the landscape looks like ahead of you is all-important.  The power of observation is also critical in this process as you have to be aware and alert as you fact-gather in order to discern what type of information is most relevant and why.

A    Assess:           

Once you have the necessary information at hand, you can then begin to assess what will be the best and most appropriate course of action.  Assessing your options also means considering the potential short and long-term consequences for each choice.  Using critical thinking to walk through a potential decision is paramount, as it allows you to consider multiple options and outcomes as opposed to making panicked and regrettable rush to judgment about something.  

T     Take Action:        

Once you have gained clarity, garnered advice, obtained and assessed the facts to determine your next step, it’s time to take intentional and determined action.  Because you have taken the time to carefully walk through and consider the alternatives and outcomes, you can move forward with confidence knowing you have made the best decision possible with the facts at hand.   

When we are in an emotionally fragile place, we can often second-guess ourselves as we wrestle with fear and uncertainty, so having a process in place to help with decision making will be extremely beneficial.  You will also find that as you take the time to process through decisions that your confidence will grow and you will begin to feel a sense of power and self-control return to you.  It takes time and it takes practice, but remembering to FLOAT can help bring stability and clarity to a painful and difficult process.

About the author, David

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