Self Care During Divorce
The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, sometimes known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, ranks Divorce as the second highest life stressor preceded only by the death of a spouse. When you factor in some additional events on this scale (changes in residence, financial state, social activities, living conditions, eating habits, sleep habits, number of family get-togethers, recreation, children not living at home, and business readjustment) the strain on the human body can be quite significant. In reacting to challenges, the sympathetic nervous system is activated resulting in the “fight or flight” response. The nervous, endocrine, and immune systems can be taxed, resulting in illness.
So, how can we manage our stress levels during this challenging time and learn to cope in a way that protects us from further mental and physical health issues? Self care!
Good physical care includes adequate rest, healthy eating, and exercise. Planning with grocery lists helps with nutritious food on hand. Scheduling time for exercise is important since we know that healthy movement reduces the risk of health problems. Yoga, in particular, is wonderful for physical and emotional health. For those who have difficulty sleeping, which is not uncommon during divorce, maintain nightly routines that are relaxing. Baths, meditation, and refraining from “blue light” use including computers can help.
Mental and emotional self-care begins with positive thinking. You CAN redirect your thinking from negative, self-defeating messages to hopeful thinking. For example, when you find that you are feeling defeated or hopeless, make a list of your positive qualities, accomplishments, and blessings. List the compliments you receive from others. (And please be careful not to buy into your ex-spouse’s opinion of you if it is critical). Be gentle and reassuring to yourself. Give yourself the compassion and love you deserve. It can be empowering to make a list of short-term goals as a guide. You WILL create an authentic and happy life for yourself. It is so important to develop and utilize a support system, to talk with others in similar situations, and to seek professional help if your emotions are overwhelming or effecting your ability to function.
Spiritual growth is often an important part of divorce recovery. Whether through organized religion or examining the greater purpose of your life by other means, it will be crucial to have quiet time to reflect and clear your mind. Prayer and meditation will ease your sorrows, help you to release anger, and guide you to greater knowledge of yourself and your life lessons.
Another area of self-care is getting a handle on your new financial situation. Fiscal planning and responsibility is empowering. Accept the reality that, with divorce, your lifestyle will most likely be altered. Professional guidance through financial planners, investors, and accountants is a great idea. Be conservative for future planning while using some creativity to identify low cost ideas for fun-filled recreation.
There are times in our lives when we are busy; when we do, do, do and run, run, run. There are times in our lives when we stand still to weather a storm. There are times in our lives when we sit and need to rest to restore ourselves. Divorce can include all three of these stances. Be mindful of when you need to alter your expectations because taking good care of yourself really is your most important job.
By Deirdre Shaffer