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Divorce and separation is never easy. As a matter of fact it is downright painful, difficult and incredibly stressful. When you’ve shared your life with someone for years, to have that relationship come to an end can be more than a little unsettling. You must deal with the pain, anger, frustration, uncertainty and guilt. Divorce is considered one of the most stressful events that a person can live through. Everything is changing, and that change creates massive amounts of stress, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Managing stress during this time if vital. It’s easy to lose your sense of self and your identity in the process. Having to readjust to living on your own, a change of finances, dividing property, child custody and support, and the idea of facing single life can make a person feel very overwhelmed and alone. And trust me, I know exactly what you are going through because I’m going through it myself.
Because of that, I know how important it is to manage your stress during this transition in your life. If you forget to nurture yourself, you are guaranteed to encounter greater periods of depression, anxiety and illness, which can prevent you from healing and learning how to really live again.
Here are a few tips to help you recover from divorce more smoothly.
1. Allow yourself to grieve. Grief is a natural part of life and a part of the healing process. When you stuff down the negative emotions, you will start to experience all kinds of health issues. Does it suck to have to experience grief? Absolutely. But I promise that if you allow yourself to recognize the emotions and accept them then you allow the emotions to begin gradually lessening in intensity. If you feel like crying? Have a great cry. Crying is extremely therapeutic and is such a great stress reliever. If you are feeling angry? Let it out….in a healthy way, of course. Punch your pillow, or scream out loud. It’s okay to feel that way. Grieving is natural and normal….even if you and your spouse are separating on good terms.
2. Surround yourself with a good support system. It is so important for you to talk about what you are going through. Talk with your family members (a parent or adult sibling) or a close, trusted friend. Please, do not talk about your feelings with your children. Young children are not equipped to deal with adult feelings and problems and unloading on them will create a tremendous amount of stress on them. Divorce support groups are great because everyone in the group has been or is going through exactly the same thing you are, and it helps to know that you are not alone. You might even get some valuable information or advice that can help you through the process a little more easily. Just find a group that works for you.
It’s okay to visit more than one group to find the right fit. One group that can be found throughout the US is DivorceCare. Last, but certainly not least, it is always a great idea to talk with a professional therapist. For some people there is a stigma about visiting a therapist, but let me tell you from personal experience, that licensed therapists have healing tools that can really help you through the grief and stress of divorce. I personally have been seeing a therapist since my husband and I separated in October an it really does help to talk with someone who has the tools to help you through such a difficult time.
3. Get involved in hobbies or activities that you enjoy. When you are ready, pick up an old hobby or discover a new hobby! If you love to garden, go and dig your hands down in the dirt. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a ballroom dance class. Go for it! Find something that you are interested in and follow your passion. This is a great time to take up something that you’ve always been interested in, but haven’t tried too!
4. Get plenty of exercise. Exercise is one of the the top ways to reduce stress quickly. Walking in the fresh air and sunshine can give your spirits a boost. Taking a yoga, pilates or tai chi class is soothing to the soul and these forms of exercise help you to focus on deep breathing with is another huge stress reliever. Taking a dance class can start helping you to begin having some fun again. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Any exercise that you do releases endorphins which are the “feel good” chemicals in your body, which will help to diffuse any depression that you may be experiencing.
5. Watch what you eat. Often when a person is stressed, they suddenly find that they may begin craving sugary foods or highly processed junk foods. These foods have little nutritional value, but when you eat them, they release a little burst of seratonin which temporarily makes you feel better. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last very long and you find that you need more and more junk food to feel better. Before you know it, you’ve gained weight and end up feeling even worse about yourself. Other people, when stressed out, don’t eat and lose weight. This can have serious health consequences. Eat regular, well balanced meals with plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and good quality lean protein. These foods will nourish your body, and help you to feel better.
6. Do some deep breathing. Deep breathing exercises are very good for helping to reduce stress quickly. 2-3 minutes of deep breathing several times a day can work wonders for helping to calm you and make you feel better quickly. One great way to do a longer period of deep breathing is by meditating. Meditating for 10-20 minutes a day is incredibly healing and a great way to reduce stress!
7. Journal your experiences and feelings. Writing down what you are going through can be a very powerful way to help you deal with the emotions that you will encounter as you are healing from divorce. A journal really allows you to get out everything that you are feeling. And you can use your journal to write “letters” to your ex-spouse or partner. Whether you mail them or not is up to you. Often just writing on paper the things that you would really like to say to them is a powerful healing tool.
8. Laugh, laugh, laugh. Okay, so right now you only feel like crying? Find something that makes you laugh. Whether it’s watching your favorite comedian, a great sitcom, funny videos on Youtube, or just watching the silly antics of your dog or cat, laughing is incredibly healing and a tremendous tool in the stress management arsenal. Better yet, see if there is a laughter yoga club in your area.
Laughter yoga is based on intentional laughter and you absolutely do not have to feel like laughing to participate. The laughter yoga crew have a motto “fake it till you make it” which relies on a hearty fake laughter. After 5-10 minutes of laughter yoga, you will be laughing for real. And the major reduction in stress that you will feel will absolutely amaze you. Laughter yoga is currently being used with cancer patients, in nursing homes and in prisons with great results!
9. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Often in times of stress, when our energy is low, we reach for a cup of coffee, a soda or an energy drink. Drinking water can make sure that you stay hydrated. When you become dehydrated, it zaps you of your energy and makes in more difficult to concentrate. Dehydration can also lead to other chronic health issues, so it’s good to get plenty of water each day. Add a pinch or two of salt to your water to help your body absorb the water more effectively.
10. Take a good multi-vitamin. Some vitamins and minerals actually help to reduce stress in the body, such as the b-complex of vitamins and magnesium. So a good multi-vitamin should be a daily part of your routine. A whole food multi-vitamin will be your best bet, because other multi-vitamins are filled with synthetic vitamins that the body doesn’t absorb well.
11. Get plenty of sleep! It is important to get plenty of rest, or you will actually end up dealing with more stress! If you are having problems with insomnia, good natural supplements such as melatonin or valerian can help you to sleep.
I hope these tips help to make this chapter of your life a little easier to go through. Just remember that this is only a temporary period of your life. Soon, you will be on the road to feeling better, experiencing peace and joy again.
Do what you can to nurture and support yourself and your healing while going through this! And DON’T let anyone try to rush you through your grieving process! We all grieve in our own time and in our own way. I do know that by caring for yourself and managing your stress daily, it will help you through the more stressful parts of dealing with your separation or divorce.