Divorce is one of the most emotionally demanding life transitions you'll ever encounter. One big pitfall is what I call "going for the martyr medal." You get so preoccupied and consumed with making sure everyone else is taken care of first, that your own needs fall by the wayside. Single parents are often strong contenders for the martyr medal, but divorcees without children can also fall prey to this common mistake.

You'll know you're stuck in this pitfall if you find it difficult to delegate or ask for help from others. You believe you must keep a stiff upper lip. Keeping up a strong, brave front at all times for the sake of your children or family is your priority, even if you're feeling emotionally overwhelmed or unsettled. You feel unappreciated and that people take you for granted. You think that if you do it all yourself and don't complain, one day somebody will notice your efforts and thank you.

Some single parents and divorcees adopt a martyr role as they navigate their life after divorce. Self-care may seem like a theoretical luxury. You've got to handle the kids, the ex, the finances, the lawyers, setting up mom's house and dad's house, the family repercussions of your split, and the impact of your divorce on your friends and social network. You can feel like you don't have time to breathe, let alone deal with any anger or grief you're feeling because a major relationship has ended.

If you are trying to capture a medal for being a self-sacrificing martyr, I have some news for you. There are no medals for martyrs. The International Olympic Committee is not adding it to their event list anytime soon. Nobody, particularly your children, will come to you at some point in the future and say, "I appreciate how much you sacrificed your own health and well-being for us - and how you let us know about it all along the way!" Divorce summons all of your internal resources, and at this point in time, your commitment to self-care will never be more tested or more needed.

Think about the safety announcements you hear in airplanes, advising adults to put the oxygen masks on themselves first and then assist their children. If you have passed out from a lack of oxygen at 30,000 feet, what good will you be to your children in that state? The same principle applies in divorce. You must be aware of your own needs and take responsibility for taking care of yourself. Your commitment to self-care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself - and your children. Here are some strategies to get you started.

1. Give Yourself Five Minutes a Day.

Self-care doesn't have to be big, fancy, expensive or time-consuming. Carve out at least 5 minutes a day to breathe, become still, let yourself daydream or sing along to your favorite tune. Imagine that each breath you take is refueling and grounding you.

2. Find Emotional Support

Find appropriate emotional support as you go on this journey. Perhaps there's a close friend who is also divorced who can act as your "divorce buddy." You may want to work with a divorce coach, therapist, counselor or social worker. Look for support groups in your community that address the needs of divorced individuals. Getting strong emotional support structures in place upfront will save you time and heartache in your healing journey.

3. Delegate as Much as Possible

Are there any responsibilities you have now that you can delegate or defer to someone else so you can give yourself some time off? Bulk up your babysitter and repair person lists. Realize that you'll need to divert some of your energy and focus into your emotional journey, so this is not the best time to try and become the next Martha Stewart. Make progress, not perfection, your goal.

4. Appreciate Yourself

A big reason people become self-sacrificing martyrs is because they are really seeking acknowledgement and appreciation. There is a much more reliable way to get that 24/7 which is by acknowledging yourself. Celebrate each and every accomplishment, new insight and decision you make. Writing them down in a self-appreciation journal will help make your progress more tangible and clear.

5. Be a Role Model for Your Children

Parents are powerful role models for their children. They will do what you do, not what you say. Help build some healthy habits by teaching your children how to manage their own stress. You can start by naming the feelings you're having. Share that "Mommy is feeling overloaded right now." Next, ask yourself what you need to do in that moment to take care of yourself. Demonstrate this with your children by saying "Daddy needs to take a five minute break to collect my thoughts." Taking responsibility for your feelings and your self-care is a powerful legacy to leave your children.

Author's Bio: 

Author and spiritual divorce coach, Carolyn B. Ellis, founded Thrive After Divorce, Inc. to help separated and divorced individuals improve relationships, increase self-confidence and save time and heartache. She is the award-winning author of the best-selling The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive After Divorce. If you want simple life-changing tips for single parenting, visit http://www.thriveafterdivorce.com now to receive a FREE report.

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