Meditate away your stress

The practice of meditation offers peace, serenity, and calm — a welcome respite from the turbulent emotions of divorce.
By Diana Shepherd

Posted by Michelle May O’Neil on June 6, 2011

How do you beat divorce-related-stress? Many people try "treat" behaviors: smoking, drinking, taking drugs (prescription or "recreational"), eating a carton of chocolate ice-cream — whatever gives them feelings of pleasure and well-being. Unfortunately, all of these are band-aid solutions: they temporarily ameliorate some of the symptoms without addressing the root of the problem.

Here’s a better solution: consider practicing meditation on a regular basis (daily is best). Anyone can practice meditation; you don’t have to be on a path to spiritual enlightenment or have any religious beliefs. "Thinking you’re unable to meditate is a little like thinking you are unable to breathe, or to concentrate or relax," notes scientist, writer, and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. in Everywhere You Go, There You Are. "Pretty much everybody can breathe easily. And under the right circumstances, pretty much anybody can concentrate, anybody can relax."

There are as many types of meditation as there are colors in a rainbow. You can meditate while seated, standing, lying down, dancing, singing, eyes open or shut, listening to music, brushing your teeth, eating — the list goes on.

Mindfulness Meditation

"Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck, back in touch with our own wisdom and vitality," claims Kabat-Zinn. "The key to this path…is an appreciation for the present moment." Too often, we ignore our present: immersing ourselves in regrets about the past or fears about the future. This is never more true than while going through a life-changing experience such as divorce. So now more than ever, you need to learn to bring yourself back into the present, to quiet and unclutter your mind.

The following meditation can help you to maintain your balance, offering a calm clarity even in very stressful situations. At first, you’ll need a quiet space free from distraction to practice mindfulness meditation. Eventually, as you build these mental muscles, you’ll be able to bring yourself back into the present moment and quiet your mind anywhere, anytime.

Sit comfortably, your spine reasonably straight but not ramrod stiff, and close your eyes.

Focus your attention on your breathing.

From time to time, you’ll become aware of emotions, thoughts, sounds, smells, or physical sensations that break your concentration. Acknowledge they are there, then let them drift past like a cloud — without passing judgment or getting emotionally or mentally involved with them. Bring your attention back to your breathing and continue the meditation.

If you’re struggling with intrusive thoughts, try counting your breaths. Think: "One inhale, one exhale. Two inhale, two exhale," and so on up to 10 or 20. Then start again at one.

Here’s another exercise that can help you beat stress. Dirgha Pranayama is called the "three-part breath" because you’re actively breathing into three parts of your abdomen. The first position is the lower belly (between the pubic bone and the belly button), the second is the upper belly (between the belly button and the bottom of the ribcage), and the third is the chest (the ribcage). Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit with a straight back, consciously relax your body, and let go of thoughts and worries by focussing on your breathing.
  • Breathe slowly and steadily, in and out through the nose and into the belly.
  • Inhale slowly into the first position, then into the second, then into the third; then exhale in reverse: third, second, first positions. Rest your hands on the first two positions to feel your belly rising and falling.

Guided meditation can also be very helpful, especially when you’re just starting out. Consider taking a regular class, or listening to a tape or CD at home. Try Susie Mantell’s award-winning relaxation audio, Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace or one of Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s "Mindfulness Meditation Practice" CDs.

For more articles on meditation, visit

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW for multiple years. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.