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3 Steps for Beating Your Divorce Fears

3 Steps for Beating Your Divorce Fears

One of the reasons that divorce is such a nightmare is because it makes you feel petrified–sometimes unable to move, to think, to function. You don’t know what’s going to happen to you, the kids, and your way of life. It’s completely normal to feel like this. How could you not?

But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you feel like you’re going off the deep-end with fear of not knowing, do the following.

1. Write down all of the things you’re feeling afraid of–the sources of your fear-based stress.

Do this wherever you want–in a journal, on your laptop, on your smart phone or iPad. It doesn’t matter where, just someplace where you have easy access.

2. Be completely honest with yourself! No fear or concern is ever irrational, stupid, or unreasonable.

Some of my own fears included…

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  • I will have to move out of the marital home—the only one I’ve known for years.
  • I won’t be able to afford a long and drawn out divorce.
  • I will have to put the lawyer fees on my credit card.
  • My savings will be wiped out and I’ll have to cash out my 401k to pay for all of this.
  • My family will judge me.
  • My friends will shun me.
  • I will be alone and not know what to do.
  • I am afraid to start over.
  • I am afraid of never being happy again.

Your fears may be similar, or you may have additional fears, such as:

  • I won’t get to see my children.
  • The kids are going to have a hard time adjusting.
  • He/She will bleed me dry and I’ll lose everything.

List everything that you are afraid of–but don’t worry if you missed anything. You can always come back and add to your list. There is no limit here.

3. Now comes the part that takes some work, but it’s the best part. Under each fear, write down a solution.

This step shows you the truth–that you have the power to beat those fears and calm down that stress you feel. I’ve provided a few examples so you get the gist of it before you write your own solutions.

–I will have to move out of the marital home–the only one I’ve known for years.

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If I want to stay here, I am going to speak with my attorney to see what my options are to remain. I will look at the budget to see if this is possible, but if it is not, I know I have plenty of options for other housing. I also know that I am the one who has the memories in my heart, and that I, along with my children, are still a home and can create our own memories, wherever we are.

–I won’t be able to afford a long and drawn out divorce.

I do not want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a divorce. If my spouse and I are on speaking terms, I will examine options for using divorce mediation, which could help prevent long expensive court battles. I will also research my options and ask around to find a good divorce attorney that uses a conciliatory problem-solving approach, instead of a belligerent gladiator one. I may also speak with a financial advisor to help with the financial side, and I could talk to a divorce coach, who could possibly help with money-saving ideas.

–My savings will be wiped out and that I’ll have to cash out my 401k to pay for all of this.

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If I am working with an attorney, I will ask about possible payment plans. I may also seek pro-bono help or find divorce legal clinics that can help minimize costs. I will focus on the big picture. If I don’t want to wipe out my savings fighting in court, I will learn how to choose my battles so I can move on with my life.

–My family will judge me.

I will be honest and ask for their support, but I do not have to surround myself with people who will make me feel worse about the situation. If I am afraid of this, I will work with a therapist who can help me create boundaries with my family and help me grieve in a healthy way.

–I will be alone and not know what to do.

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I may feel alone because I’m no longer with my spouse, but I will find a great support system–there are support groups, online groups, friends who care about me. I will not be afraid to ask for help. I will be kind to myself, patient with myself, and realize I don’t have to do everything at once.

As you can see, once you start doing this exercise for yourself, you will notice that neutralizing your fears goes beyond just giving yourself a pep-talk. This exercise can help you start taking action. And when you take action against those fears, they no longer become the things that will keep you up at night; instead, they become the logical courses of action–merely things on a to-do list–that you will accomplish. Because despite your panic and fear right now, you are a hell of a lot stronger than you realize.

Facing and beating your divorce fears and learning how to counter them may not be fun or easy. But in the end, learning those strategies will help diminish your stress so you can think clearly, move on with your life, and get back to being happy.

Featured photo credit: They’re Coming to Get You/martinak15 via flickr.com

More by this author

Martha Bodyfelt

Certified Divorce and Recovery Coach

How To Kick Your Divorce Anxiety In The Ass 5 Divorce Screw-Ups to Avoid 3 Steps for Beating Your Divorce Fears 10 Things to Know Before You Decide to Divorce 9 Ways to Pick Your Divorce Battles

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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