Alice Mcdonald is a Separation and Divorce Coach who helps women with older teens and adult children to navigate their break-up and create their new future. As you’d think that calm and joy are in short supply during the breakdown of a relationship it was really interesting to hear about Alice’s experience and advice.
In this episode we discuss:
Pressing Pause Episode 93 Navigating a break-up with Alice McDonald
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a mindset and positive psychology coach and writer, exploring how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
Welcome to episode 93. As I record this we’re about a week into December which means we have three weeks left of 2021. It has been quite the year, hasn’t it? And on top of 2020 too. Is it any wonder that many, if not all, of us are feeling pretty worn out by it all? What I know I need, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of other folk, perhaps you listening here need, is a little calm and comfort.
To take just a little time to hit the pause button, bring down the stress, the busyness, the noise of the world a few notches. And to give ourselves some care and attention.
Which is why I’m holding a Calm Comfort session. I’m calling it a free workshop but really it’s a gentle, soothing gathering online where we’ll look at why it’s a struggle to feel calm and comfort, how we can feel comforted, cared for and soothed, and how we can create more calm in our days, however hectic it gets.
We’ll gather online at 8pm UK time on Wednesday 15 October and please be assured that you won’t have your camera or microphone switched on so this will definitely not add to your Zoom fatigue!
You can join me wherever feels comfy for you as no-one will see you, wrapped up in a blanket or duvet, with a mug of something warm and tasty. And we’ll practice a little self-conservation together.
The session is completely free of charge, it will last probably about 45 minutes but definitely not longer than an hour. And the goal is for it to just be a lovely, nourishing, restorative time for you before Christmas.
So, if you’d like to join me, and you’ll get the recording to catch up with if you can’t join me live, go to gabrielletreanor.com/calmcomfort to sign up, I’ll put the link in the show notes too. We’ll gather online at 8pm UK time on Wednesday 15 October and as I said everyone who registers for the session will get the recording to watch in case you can’t join me live.
It will be a lovely, gentle, nourishing pause and I hope you can join me.
Now, in today’s episode I’m talking with Alice McDonald. Alice is a Separation and Divorce Coach helping women with older teens and adult children who are ready to find themselves again, confidently reclaim their independence and create futures filled with success, happiness and freedom on their own terms beyond divorce and motherhood. As you’d think that calm and joy are in short supply during the breakdown of a relationship I was really interested to hear what Alice had to say…
[00:00:00] Gabrielle: So, hi, Alice, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:00:04] Alice: Thank you so much, Gabrielle, you’re so welcome.
[00:00:07] Gabrielle: Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
[00:00:11] Alice: Sure. Well, my name’s Alice and I live in sunny Perth, Western Australia. I’ve got two older kids. My kids are now 21. That’s my son at university and my daughter is 17 and she’s just finishing school. And she’s partying with her mates at the moment and I’m crossing my fingers that goes okay. Um, what I do. So I’m a separation and divorce coach. I primarily work with women who’ve got older teens and adult children. And the reason I specifically work with them is they’re going through a double transition phase in their life. So maybe they’ve been together with their partner for 20 odd years. They’re now losing that identity of being a wife, but they’re also losing that identity of being a mother.
And so I work with them to get through all the practicalities of things, but then also to help them find themselves again and to reclaim their independence and then to create a life that they truly love, you know based on what they want to do, like, know what do they call success? What do they call independence? Beyond being a wife and a mom. So that’s what I do. It’s, it’s, um, both really challenging and also really lovely. Yeah,
[00:01:21] Gabrielle: the double whammy,
[00:01:22] Alice: yeah.
[00:01:23] Gabrielle: that’s a great way to describe it because absolutely, I mean, one of those things is a big thing to deal with, but both is an absolute double whammy, yeah.
[00:01:33] Alice: Yeah. It really is.
[00:01:35] Gabrielle: So going through something like the breakdown of a relationship, I think that anybody on the outside looking in would naturally make an assumption that it’s going to be really hard to find joy in the middle of such an upsetting difficult, heartbreaking time. Is that your experience of the women that you work with that it’s a just a big struggle and it’s very hard to find any joy within that time?
[00:02:01] Alice: Yeah, look, I definitely, when people first come to me, they’re usually, usually quite distraught and upset and just often very overwhelmed. There’s just so much stuff to deal with. But after working with me for a little bit, we do start to find those moments of joy and the reason that we do that, and it’s something that I concentrate on is that it’s absolutely imperative that people do look for those pockets of joy and look for what calms their soul to keep that anxiety down, to keep their spirits lifted, going through a phase it’s really challenging, but you have to be really deliberate about it. So yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s really challenging. And it can be hard to find those pockets of joy, but it’s really important, you know, it’s like, what’s really important to eat as well.
You know, it’s really important to look after your kids still, it’s actually really important that you do find the things that bring you those little moments of joy just to get you through it. Yeah.
[00:03:00] Gabrielle: Yeah. So what ways do you find that, that people in those situations are able to access the calm and joy amidst admits the practical difficulties amidst the, you know, the emotional turmoil.
[00:03:14] Alice: Yeah so one of the things that is a useful thing to do, and a lot of people do this for all sorts of reasons is just writing a small gratitude list, right? The things that you’re grateful for to focus on the things that are going well. The things that are lovely, so you could look at your life and go, well, all of that stuff is really not working and I feel really rubbish about it, but here are some other things that are actually really lovely.
And these are some beautiful people that I met today. And this is a great conversation that I had today and I’m really grateful for this person helping me out today. So gratefulness makes a Really big difference. But then finding those little things that pick you up and it’s different for everybody, right? So for me, I love fresh flowers and I used to think about, you know, well, what would I do for someone else going through this situation where I’d bring them things or do things for them that would make them feel better. So I’d make sure they had fresh flowers in the house. Cause every time I walked past them, I’d be like, oh, you know, they’re gorgeous I love them. But that’s different for everybody, right, you know, so yeah.
[00:04:19] Gabrielle: I’m imagining, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m imagining thatat least some of the women that you work with who have spent a lot of their time caring for and with their partner bringing up their children. Maybe they’ve got kind of out of practice of taking care of themselves and I’m thinking, well, actually, what is that that I like doing, because I’ve been putting a lot of energy and focus into what do my kids need, what do my kids want and how can I help my kids be happy? How can I make my life the best for my partner? How can I help them to be happy? And so do you find that they perhaps have lost touch with actually, what do they enjoy? What do they want? What makes them feel good?
[00:05:00] Alice: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, because you do spend many, many years worrying about exactly what you said. How can I make my partner happy? How can I look after the kids and make them happy? And usually as women, we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the pile and we’re running around and we have so many things to do that our needs are often met last and especially those needs that we see as unimportant.
And so we do spend a lot of time working with the women that I, that I work with, you know, looking at well, what do you like. Oh, I don’t know what I like. Okay. Well, let’s investigate that. Let’s come up with some lists of things that you might like, what did you like before you got married?
What did you like when you were a child? What do you walk past and it lifts your spirits? Um, so very much so we spent a lot of time investigating what that is and exploring different options for what you might enjoy or even trying new things, right? Because who you are now, as opposed to when before you got married or halfway through your marriage, like who you are now, is not that same person and you no longer have the responsibilities that you used to have, right? So you don’t have the responsibilities of looking after a family, or chasing kids around as much as you might have before. You’ve got these opportunity to go out and explore, try new things without, you know, other things, encumbrancing on that.
The best thing, and this sounds like a really, um, I don’t know, it’s kind of juxtaposed to what you might think about separation and divorce and when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t definitely don’t think this, but it’s such a great opportunity, right? If you get divorced at this particular time in life, that sounds awful and it is don’t get me wrong. It’s an awful, awful thing. But the beautiful opportunity that women get in this particular phase is they get given this beautiful, clean slate.
To start again, to have a look at again, what do you like, what do you enjoy? What makes you feel good? What do you want your life to look like going forward? And you get to use all the wisdom that you’ve gathered over the years to build that future for yourself.
[00:07:06] Gabrielle: I love that there’s an opportunity there for a clean slate and for them to, after all those years of giving, giving, giving to everyone else to then think, okay, what about me? What is it that I want? So how can they tap into what is calm for them? What is joyful for them? What is rewarding and nourishing and sustaining?
[00:07:31] Alice: What I usually start to get women to do in particular, in this phase where they’re like, I don’t even know what I like. Like, I don’t know, um, it’s to get them to start to tap into their feelings in their body. Because often when we’ve been running a household and it’s busy, busy, busy all the time, or we put ourselves at the bottom of the pile, we’re just thinking about the practical things and we forget that that women’s intuition is really, really strong, right? We know when something makes us feel good, but very often we go, oh, well, we can’t deal with that right now. I can’t have that right now because I’ve got to do all these other chores or other responsibilities, but we know when we walk past an amazing array or a big bunch of flowers, That just takes your breath away.
Like, oh, you know, you feel it in your body of mind. That makes me feel good. And then perhaps, you know, when you go out with a particular friend, you walk away from it like they make me feel good. But then on the other hand, we have things that, oh, when I hang out with that person, it doesn’t make me feel good.
Or when I feel, you know, when I’m doing this activity, it doesn’t make me feel good. So I really get women to start tapping into what are the feelings that you have? I really want you to pay attention to what makes you feel good at what lifts you up versus what brings you down and then to start to monitor that and then go, okay, well maybe I should do more of that thing.
Or maybe I should bring more of that into my life and get rid of this other stuff. So yeah, that’s the best way to start, right? And the more that women get in tune with that, and the more they start to trust themselves again. And I think that’s, there’s a lot to be said for trusting that intuition because we stop a lot of the time.
And sometimes it’s for being with a partner that’s going to, don’t be silly. And a lot of that happens over time. And you know, if you’ve been with someone for a really long time, it’s really hard to undo that extra voice in your head that says that’s not a good idea. Why would you want to do that? It sounds stupid.
Well it makes me feel good. I know what feels good for me. Really tapping into that intuition and then practicing that over and over and over again. And then beginning to trust that feeling that you know what’s right for you.
[00:09:48] Gabrielle: Yeah, I can absolutely see how I think many, many of us women learn to squash down our intuition and to not listen to it because we are taught to listen to the external voices and other people know better than us, what we should be doing and what we need to be doing, because actually that’s what suits the external world rather than us listening to ourselves.
And there’s a permission piece there as well, isn’t there? So it isn’t just being able to hear your intuition, but also then allowing yourself to act upon it. So saying, okay, there’s a voice in my head going. Yeah. But now you shouldn’t be doing this and you can’t be doing that because you haven’t done that before, or you weren’t any good at that, or you’re not supposed to do that and saying, actually I am going to do this and I’m allowed to, I’m allowed to listen to my needs and that’s back into double whammy land again, that’s hard to do, isn’t it? Both of those.
[00:10:40] Alice: Yeah, absolutely, it is hard to do all that sort of thing. And the other thing that comes to mind is often people get stopped by money, you know? Well, why would I spend my money on that? It doesn’t provide me any value in the future. You’re buying flowers, they die, you know?
Um, why would you do that course on, in pottery? Yeah, it doesn’t add anything. Are you going to start a pottery business? What if you enjoy it? What if it lifts your spirit? And I think the other thing that, that women come to re own again and, or have to re own and really, you know, if they’re going to go forward in a positive sort of way, is that they’re worth it.
I find it and I’m definitely guilty of this as well. You know, raising my kids, like if there was something I thought would benefit my children or make them happy. Then I would find the finances to make it work, or I would find another way to make it work, but we often don’t do the same for ourselves.
And it’s actually really, really important that in this particular phase, like it’s such a, it can be a really traumatic experience to go through a separation and divorce, especially after you’ve been with someone for a really, really long time. You just need so much support around you, right? And if you, if there’s ever a time to invest in yourself and looking after yourself and picking yourself up and keeping yourself joyful, this is the time to do it, you know, going and doing those yoga classes, going, doing some meditation classes or breathing exercises, go to, uh, you know, a laughter class or pottery class.
You know, those things that keep you doing other things. That are not all of the hard stuff that you also have to do anyway, because you’re worth it, right? And going forward with that essence of, okay, there’s some practical stuff for me to deal with. There’s a lot of emotional stuff for me to deal with.
And for me to be the best that I can be going forward. I also need to look after this other side of myself, which is this beautiful soul, this beautiful being this future that I’m looking into. And I often ask my clients, you know, what would your 80 year old self say here? Looking back, what would she tell you to do?
And again, going back to what we were talking before about women and intuition, Women know what their 80 year old self would tell them. And they would tell themselves, you know, how to look after themselves and how to care for themselves and, to nurture themselves. So women are incredibly wise and we just have to remember that we’re worth it.
[00:13:19] Gabrielle: Yeah. Yeah. And that is such a good point about how, if it’s going to make your kids, somebody you love happy, you will move heaven and earth to make it happen. But for yourself, not so much. But actually, and this is something that I would rather this was not the reason for us as women to take care of ourselves.
But if it means that we take care of ourselves, I’m all for it. And that’s thinking that actually. Your kids are going to gain, the people around you, the people that you love, whether it be your kids, your friends, your work colleagues, your neighbours, are going to gain from you taking care of you because a rested, well cared for, nourished you know, more joyful, calm you, t hat ripples out to everybody around you.
And so if that’s the reasoning that’s going to work for you to start taking care of you let’s go with that. It would be marvelous if we were able to say, you know what? It doesn’t matter whether it affects anybody else, I’m going to take care of me because I’m worth it on my own, but that can be really hard, can’t it, to actually make that leap. Whereas if we think, okay, well, it’s not just me who benefits from me deciding to do a pottery class purely because I fancy doing it with no real productive reason. But actually, if everyone else is going to benefit from me being happy, then that’s a reason for me to do it, that at least it gets us going in the right direction, right?
[00:14:45] Alice: Yeah, I think that’s a great impetus for some people, you know, if you don’t have that yet for yourself and it takes time, right? To build that confidence, especially, if you’ve ended a marriage or come out of a marriage, that’s been ended, you don’t feel great about yourself. You don’t, you know, you feel worthless, you feel useless.
Who’s going to want me. That kind of thing. Well, they didn’t want me that sort of thing. So using, especially if you’ve got children or other family members, to see that you want to see happy and to see thrive, if that’s what helps you take that first step. Absolutely.
[00:15:16] Gabrielle: I imagine, again, I’m imagining I may be wrong. That part of what could be taking away. I mean, obviously there’s lots of things that’s going to be taking away your calm when you’re going through a separation and divorce, but I would imagine having to suddenly deal with all on your own, handle everything on your own, juggle, all the responsibilities. Do you find that women that you work with struggle to accept help from other people? Because like you said, there are other people around you who want you to be okay. Want you to be happy, want you to be cared for. And they might want to do something to help you.
Do you find that there’s a struggle to accept that help because those women have just got on with it. They’ve just taken care of stuff and they’re not used to being the person on the receiving end.
[00:16:05] Alice: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. So often people do have trouble accepting help from other people. And again, I’ll often talk about, okay, well, if someone else you knew was going through this situation and they asked you for help, would you help them? And oh, absolutely. I’d help them. You know, I do whatever I could, you know, cause that would be awful.
And I think that’s what as women we have to remember. And the other thing too we jump at the chance to help other people. And so, you know, it’s an opportunity for people to feel like they’ve got something to do because often people will know you’re going through a separation or divorce,right, it’s not usually super private.
And people are often going, oh, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I hope they’re okay. But they don’t really want to set up a conversation. And actually it’s really, really valuable theme to get clear on what areas you could accept, help in.
Because often we’re just overwhelmed by everything and the day-to-day running of everything takes up most of our time anyway. And then you’re probably having to deal with a bunch of legal stuff, a bunch of house stuff, potentially kid stuff as well. There’s a lot of things to manage and as you say, you’re now on your own, you don’t have a partner to support you with that.
And so it’s really helpful, you know, in terms of asking for support and help, you absolutely must to look after yourself during this time. You absolutely must ask for help, but to start to get really clear on what things do you need to do to keep the household running or your everyday stuff running, or, perhaps you need help with some paperwork.
Okay. Let’s get clear on all the things that you need to get done. And of course there are going to be days where you don’t feel great about yourself, or you just don’t have the energy. So to be clear, all the things that you need help with and then to start going, okay, well, who could help me with that?
Write a list of the people that might be able to help, and then letting people know how they can help. When people say, oh, look, do you need anything? Cause people do they ask. Well you can say actually, do you know what to make a really big difference to me, I’m really having trouble feeding myself properly at the most.
Do you think you could cook some nutritious meals I can just chuck in the fridge, or look, could you run my kids to netball practice or the weekend? And all of those little things make a difference. Yeah. So absolutely asking for help is, is really important. And it’s also really important to remember that people are wanting you to tell them how they can help you.
[00:18:31] Gabrielle: Yeah. And it’s funny that actually, allowing somebody to help us is kind of giving them a gift, because like you said, you know, people want to help. They feel good when they help, because they see their friend going through an awful time and struggling and they want to do something. And so being able to then do something that they know is of use as opposed to, they’re just sort of guessing.
But actually that person has said what’s really going to help me is if you could do this not very exciting, practical, super helpful thing. That then gives that person. Who’s helping this lovely feeling because then they are assisting in some way. So it’s actually a gift sometimes to accept help from the other person.
[00:19:12] Alice: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of the things I did one day was I called my neighbor and said, I sent her a text message because I had these piles of dishes in my house that were piling up. And I knew if I let them get any further, I was just going to feel even more miserable about myself. T hey were probably only going to take me about 10 minutes to do, but I just had no motivation whatsoever.
I’m like, this is really embarrassing, but I need help. And I sent my message, a text message to my neighbour. I’m like, Helen, are you home? Would you mind just coming and sitting with me in my kitchen while I do my dishes? I just don’t have any motivation. I don’t need you to do the dishes. I just need you to come and sit with me so that I do the dishes. And. it’s a really small thing, no effort really for her to pop next door and come and sit on the couch and have a chat with me while I took my 10 minutes to do the dishes. And then my kitchen felt so much cleaner and tidy and there was a calm in my house again, right. So for me, keeping my house relatively tidy, it’s a calming thing for me.
And I was so grateful that I did that because later that night I received an email from my ex saying that he wanted to change the way the finances were moving about and had I not had asked for help for Helen to come and, help me to just be there while I tidy my kitchen, it probably would have felt like the world was imploding.
And so it really is those little things and keeping on top of those little things that asking for help when you’re getting stuck, it makes such a difference.
[00:20:44] Gabrielle: That’s really powerful. Cause such a little thing actually provided you with so much more than you could have imagined. When you said to your friend, please, can you just come over while I’m washing up? Yeah.
[00:20:56] Alice: And it’s kind of embarrassing because you come over and there’s this massive pile of dishes I probably, should have cleaned two days before!
[00:21:04] Gabrielle: But I bet she felt great that she could do something that was dead easy for her. And it really, really was helpful to you. Yeah, So if somebody is listening to us having this conversation who is right in the thick of it, you know, right in the thick of a breakdown of their relationship, and perhaps they’re just feeling like calm and joy are things that are so far away from them, they just have no idea when they’re ever going to feel that again.
What would you say to them?
[00:21:33] Alice: The first thing I would say is, I want you to know that you’re going to be okay. It might not feel like it right now, but you will be okay. And what there is to do right now is to look after yourself, whatever that looks like. And I would say, when things get a little bit too much, find something that’ll just take you out of the space.
Like for me, taking a book and going and reading it at the coffee shop. 15 minutes out, just something to give you a breather. Something like journaling is really good. Again, it’s stepping out of that overload space, just writing some thoughts down, slowing down that thinking, do something for yourself that is kind and loving. Again, look at if this was happening to, you know, your child in the future or a friend of yours, how would you help them?
And start doing those little things for yourself. It’s really hard when you’re in the thick of it to think anything outside of what you’re dealing with right now. And, to some extent you really can’t think, you know, you’re operating on autopilot. But just keep going one foot in front of the other, looking after yourself, the best that you can, just knowing that it will be okay.
And the other thing is to ask for help if you need it, if you find yourself getting a little bit too overwhelmed, feeling like you’re not coping, reach out to a friend, reach out to a health professional, any of those. Yeah.
[00:22:51] Gabrielle: That’s fantastic, Alice, I’m sure that’s going to be a huge help. I have one question left for you, which is what are you going to do today to give yourself a moment of calm and joy?
[00:23:01] Alice: I’m actually going to go for a walk because the weather here is really lovely and warm outside today. And I’ve been spending most of the day inside. So I’m going to go for a walk outside. Just get some fresh air.
[00:23:12] Gabrielle: That sounds lovely. I’ve got two degree freezing cold weather here, so completely different on the other side of the world from you!
[00:23:20] Alice: Yes.
[00:23:22] Gabrielle: Can you tell us where listeners can find and connect with you, please, Alice?
[00:23:27] Alice: Yeah, sure. The easiest way to find more about me is via my website, which is www.AliceMcDonald.com. It’s M C D O N A L D.com. And that’s got links to my Facebook page where you can find me also my Instagram as well. Yeah, those are the, those are the best places to find me. Yeah.
[00:23:45] Gabrielle: Brilliant. Thank you so much for talking with me today, Alice.
[00:23:49] Alice: You’re super welcome!
I really enjoyed talking with Alice, there was a lot of comfort and hope in what she shared. I hope that you found our conversation interesting. If you did and if you enjoy Pressing Pause can I ask you to leave a rating or a review on iTunes please? I do a little happy dance every time I get a new review and it helps other people to find the podcast too.
As I mentioned at the start, I’m holding a free Calm Comfort online workshop where we will bring down the stress, the busyness, the noise of the world a few notches, and instead give ourselves some care and attention. It’s going to be a gentle, soothing, nourishing pause taking place online at 8pm UK time on Wednesday 15 October and lasting about 45-60 minutes. You can register to join me at gabrielletreanor.com/calmcomfort and even if you can’t join me live as long as you’re signed up you’ll get the recording to catch up with.
I’ll also put the link in the show notes for this episode 93 which you can find at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. And if there’s anyone you think would benefit from a little self-conversation please let them know they can find out about the Calm Comfort workshop at gabrielletreanor.com/calmcomfort.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
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