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January 26, 20232 min read

In the first few years following your separation, you’re going to come up against many challenging situations that will likely cause your anxiety to spike. From difficult negotiations with your former partner to navigating family events as a single parent, the best way to reduce your stress is to plan ahead and think through potential scenarios — this will make it easier to pivot and adapt, no matter what happens.

Before you start panicking about an upcoming stressful event, grab a pen and paper and try working through these seven steps to calm your nerves and prepare for success:

The situation: Think through all the details of the situation you’re planning for, including the who, what, when, where, and why.

The feelings: Write out any and all feelings that come up for you when you think about this situation.

The desired outcome: What is your personal vision of how you want the situation to unfold? Remember that you can only control your own actions, so this should be focused only on what you want and what you will do to achieve this.

The activators: List all of the things that could cause you to become activated and might detract from your desired outcome. This can include things that others might say or do — awareness of what activates you is key!

The back-pocket statements and actions: Think about what you will do and say when you’re feeling activated, that will allow you to stay focused and in control. Create a list of statements that you can use to exit an uncomfortable conversation, plus a list of things you will do to keep calm.

The self-care recovery plan: If you’re entering into a situation that creates stress and anxiety, having a self-care plan in place for after the event is key in setting yourself up for success. Make a list ahead of time of some things you can do for self-care and recovery afterwards.

Reflection: Take a moment to think about how things went. What are you proud of? What would you like to do differently in the future? What worked really well? What types of feelings came up for you? This kind of reflection will help prepare you better for next time.

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