Facing change. No one ever expects or plans to get divorced, so when faced with a dissolving marriage, it can feel devastating. So many changes, and life as you know it, is gone. The ground is shifting and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where are you going to live? If you have children, how will they be affected? Assets must be divided. You’re faced with a situation that is charged with difficult emotions. At a time when you are most vulnerable, you need a cool head and a steady approach. How can you find your way through this in the best possible way?
Equanimity. Understanding the Mindfulness concept of equanimity can be very useful to help you cope with change. Equanimity can be defined as a presence of mind that comes with understanding and letting go of things that are out of your control, and cannot be changed, while acting on things in your control that need to be changed. As situations arise, it is useful to stop, reflect, and ask the simple question: is this in or out of my control? From this guiding principle, you can identify aspects of your life that you may be trying to change, but are unable to, such as people’s thoughts, values or actions. Trying to control what cannot be controlled can zap your energy, and you may be continually tripping over yourself by trying to affect people or events.
Letting go. Letting go comes from achieving equanimity, it does not imply not caring, it just means you have the insight to know where your energies need to be directed. Letting go is very helpful in relieving stress because it allows you to save your emotional resources for things that matter. Usually, those things involve being in control of your actions and making the right choices, for example, how to respond to others, to your own thoughts and feelings, and knowing the direction you want to take in your life. Sometimes, it may not feel like you have much control over anything, but you do have control over how you are going to move forward.
A new story. As you find your way, equanimity will help you foster resilience, and as you recover, you have an opportunity to write a new chapter of your story and begin to grow again. As David Brooks writes, “growth comes not from the event but from the struggle afterward to write a new story that imagines a life better than before. Researchers have found that people who thrive after a shock are able to tell clear, forward-looking stories about themselves, while those who don’t thrive get stuck ruminating darkly about the past.” As a first step, strive for equanimity…