How to Cope With Divorce Stress Effectively
Divorce is a well-recognized cause of stress that can affect some or all of those involved, including both partners (the initiator and non-initiator), children in their care, and sometimes other family members.
It can be hard to comprehend how stressful divorce can be until you actually experience one. The symptoms of divorce stress can be both mental and physical and can sometimes lead to more serious mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, complicated grief, or PTSD.
However, most people who go through a divorce eventually come out of it healthy and well. It just takes some time to heal and adjust, and it also helps if you take steps to manage and reduce your stress.
In this article we’ll cover how to deal with divorce stress. We’ll provide 15 top tips you can follow for managing stress effectively and coping with divorce.
Coping With Separation and Divorce
First, let’s look at the emotional aspects of dealing with divorce, tips for grieving, and how to process your thoughts and emotions healthily. And then, later, we’ll look at some self-care tips that can significantly help with stress.
1. Give Yourself Time to Grieve
As divorce can cause multiple losses, including loss of support, companionship, lifestyle changes, and more, it’s natural to experience grief. Recognizing this and giving yourself time to grieve is critical. There will likely be some pain and unpleasant feelings involved, but try to trust the natural healing process rather than fight it. Not letting yourself grieve could prolong the experience and worsen stress. Men are more likely to try and skip the grieving process than women and are less likely to seek emotional support, which often results in complications later.
2. Accept Your Feelings
The shock of divorce can evoke some pretty intense, unpleasant feelings at times. However, when they arise, try to acknowledge and accept rather than suppress them. First, ask yourself what emotions you are experiencing? What was the trigger? Identify it, accept it, and let it go. Don’t feel bad for having these emotions. If you can do this, you should find it passes sooner. Suppression will only lead to a greater build-up of tension within.
3. Be Careful Not to Dwell or Ruminate
While we just highlighted the importance of accepting challenging emotions, that doesn’t mean you should deliberately encourage them. Dwelling on what went wrong in your marriage, blaming yourself or others, and other negative thinking habits will only sap your energy, put you in a bad mood, and knock your self-esteem. Remember, you have control over your thoughts, so try to use them to your advantage. The next time you catch yourself ruminating, remind yourself that it’s probably not helpful and move on to something more constructive.
4. Don’t Engage in Heated Arguments
It’s normal for there to be some disagreements between you and your ex during a divorce. However, if differences begin to escalate into fierce arguments, it’s better to walk away and let any anger subside before trying to resolve them again later. It’s going to be nearly impossible to reach a peaceful resolution if you and your ex are lashing out at each other, and it will probably just worsen the situation and elevate stress levels. So instead, try to keep conversations calm, rational, and constructive.
5. Spend Time with Close Friends or Family
While divorce can bring about feelings of loneliness, it’s important not to try and deal with everything alone. You would be there to support close friends and family during difficult times, and they are there for you too. Reach out to those you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with and arrange for a meet-up in person or chat over the phone. Simply hanging out with people whose company you enjoy is a great way to take your mind off things, have some fun, and relieve stress.
6. Build New Positive Connections
While a divorce signifies the end of your marriage, it can also lead to losing parts of your social life. Your ex-spouse’s friends and family, who you may have socialized with before, may no longer be a significant part of your life. That’s why it’s a good idea to be open to building new positive connections. You can meet new people and form new friendships through shared interests like hobbies, sports, work, or volunteering in the community and using friendship apps. Increasing your social network helps you begin to move on and be optimistic about the future.
7. Seek Professional Help if You Need It
If the stress or grief you are experiencing is severely interfering with your life and not improving with time, scheduling a meeting with a therapist is definitely worth considering. Sometimes, more serious conditions can develop following a divorce, like depression or complicated grief, so getting an accurate diagnosis is essential if you’ve had prolonged trouble coping. Likewise, if you feel more comfortable talking to someone outside your social circle and want some impartial, expert advice, online therapy is a great option.
The Importance of Self-Care
It’s critical that you take care of yourself and not neglect self-care while going through a divorce. Certain self-care activities are proven to reduce stress, while it’s also well-documented that divorce increases stress, so it’s about seeking balance. You’ll probably find that unhealthy coping strategies seem appealing during this time, but do your best to avoid them as much as you can. Here’s how to cope with divorce stress through self-care:
8. Exercise to Relax
Exercise is a scientifically proven way to relieve stress. And it’s even more effective if you pick a physical activity you find engaging, fun, or relaxing. You can exercise alone or while socializing with others, whichever you prefer. Whether it’s a gentle walk in nature, playing a competitive sport, or anything in between, any form of exercise is enough to get those feel-good endorphins flowing.
9. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Some may find it harder to get to sleep during a divorce, especially if their mind is busy with stressful thoughts. Likewise, feeling overwhelmed could also lead to oversleeping and difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help in either case. For those struggling to sleep, give yourself some time to unwind in the evenings by avoiding screens, listening to relaxing music, or meditating. In the mornings, avoid using your phone right away, get outside in the sunlight for 10 minutes if you can, eat a nutritious breakfast, or do some light exercise to feel more positive and awake.
10. Eat Well to Stay Healthy
Eating well is not about going on some new healthy fad diet. It’s more about being aware of what you’re eating and making sure that you’re not binge-eating junk food as a way to cope or undereating due to a loss of appetite. Try to follow a regular balanced diet with lots of natural foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, eggs, and avoid ultra-processed foods as much as you can. This will help to give you the energy you need as you go through your divorce.
11. Try New Interesting Things
While divorce signifies the end of a relationship, it is also the beginning of a new phase of your life. Divorce provides an opportunity to restructure your life and pursue new interests that bring satisfaction and enjoyment. Perhaps, you’d like to have a more vibrant social life, explore work opportunities, travel, start a new hobby, or anything else that interests you. Take advantage of this opportunity to redefine your goals and lay the foundations for a future that excites you.
12. Follow a Routine
While a divorce can be a significant source of disruption and chaos, having a routine in place can help bring a sense of order and balance. In addition, being organized and knowing what you’re doing is an excellent way to manage stress while also increasing motivation, productivity, and focus. Your routine doesn’t have to be super strict, nor do you have to plan out every hour of every day. Just try to plan times out for your main weekly activities like work, exercise, hobbies, shopping for groceries, meals, sleep, or self-care.
13. Don’t Consume Too Much News
Sure, it’s good to be informed. But that doesn’t mean you need to consume news on a daily basis. Once per week is probably more than enough. Constantly watching or reading about negative news stories and emotionally charged events is draining. You’ll just end up feeling angry, frustrated, stressed, or upset. It’s not what you need right now while going through a divorce. You have enough to deal with without also internalizing the troubles of the world. By the way, avoiding news also means no scrolling through political and news-based content on social media!
14. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Having the occasional glass of wine over dinner or while chatting with a close friend is fine, but try to avoid excessively drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a way to cope. These things may make you feel better temporarily but leave you feeling much worse off in the long run. The adverse effects of drugs and alcohol last longer than the hangover the next day, and they may also lead you to miss work, neglect self-care, and do other unhelpful things.
15. Try Mindfulness Meditation
During stressful periods of our lives, such as a divorce, it’s easy for our minds to become extremely busy and overwhelmed. It may seem necessary to have all these thoughts, as, after all, there is much to sort out, but actually, they make us less productive. Studies show that meditation can help reduce stress and improve mood; it also helps quieten the mind so you can properly focus on what needs to be done, one thing at a time.
Helping Your Children Cope During a Divorce
If you’re a parent, your divorce is probably going to affect your children as well. They may feel sad or confused and pick up on any stress or tension in the family. So it’s essential to spend quality time with them and provide emotional support during this time. Here are some tips for helping kids cope during a divorce or breakup:
- Remind them that both parents love them.
- Keep up the regular routines they’re familiar with.
- Spend some time doing fun things together.
- Try to be uplifting, optimistic, and reassuring.
- Shield them from arguments and conflict.
- Let them know they can talk to you about their feelings.
- Listen to their concerns.
- Ensure they’re eating and sleeping well and regularly do some physical activities they enjoy.
While divorce can cause considerable stress and disruption, there are some things you can do to help you and your children get through it as smoothly as possible. If you implement some of the 15 ways to cope with divorce we’ve listed above, you’ll be more resilient and well-positioned to deal with stress. In addition, improving your stress management and coping skills can help you in many other areas of your life, so it’s well worth it.
Remember, you don’t have to try and get through a divorce alone. Talking to friends and family is a great way to get emotional support, but professional help is also available if you need it. Our online therapists here at Calmerry are ready to hear your concerns and can provide professional advice on coping, stress management, mental health issues, and more.
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Kate has an MD in Health and Medical Psychology. She has worked in the healthcare industry since 2017, helping people with depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief as well as identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Kate tries to make the world a better place by fighting stigma and discrimination and advocating for equality and equity for all people. And what she loves most about her work at Calmerry is the possibility to make quality mental health care even more accessible to everyone – one step at a time.Read more