We are conditioned to respond to stress. When our mind perceives a threat, our body’s “fight-or-flight” response system will kick in. This is a built-in mechanism that we are born with. Our modern time constantly bombards us with stressors, and our body misinterprets them as threats. Consequently we may constantly feel on edge, causing our mind to release certain hormones to fight the feeling, which is how stress is formed. Divorce is perceived as one of these threats.
There are a few things you can do to reduce stress and bring more peace and harmony to your life while going through divorce. The tips below will help you soothe your nerves and put your mind at ease. Try them, they definitely work!
Your first step is to make sure you take time for yourself. It may sound simple, or like common sense, but sometimes it can be hard to implement. You have to make sure that you give yourself the gift of time to gather your thoughts and find balance in your life. It will improve your psychological and physical well-being. Taking time for you has many forms and can be implemented in various ways; it can include any, or all, of the following:
1. Taking time to identify your stress triggers
Stress has become part of our reality, but the positive note is that we can identify what triggers it, and take actions to eliminate its unhealthy side effects. Before you jump to take action, take time to identify the elements associated with the sources of stress. Are you stressed because you cannot bear the feeling of been alone? Is it due to the loss of a life? Is it your ex-spouse’s behavior that is causing you stress? Whatever it may be, first you have to recognize the specific causes of your stress. Once you have clearly identified the causes, you can take actions to eliminate them.
2. Taking time to cry
Do not hold back crying. There is no shame in it. It is the gift given to us by the creator and serves as a healing mechanism. It is a relief mechanism. When we cry, endorphins (feel-good hormones) are released in the brain and facilitate a decrease of tension. Studies show that crying (especially with the comfort of a friend/family) increases feeling of being supported. Go on and let it all out!
3. Taking time to drink water and eat healthy foods
Pretty simple: drink a lot of water! The general rule is 8×8 = eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day to stay hydrated. Reducing stress relies, in part, on staying hydrated. Hydration is important for combating fatigue (and yours stems mostly from your stressful situation) and staying healthy. After all, how much can you accomplish if you’re just feeling cranky and weary?
4. Taking time to forgive
Forgiving yourself and/or your spouse does not mean that all that has happened is okay, but means that you are willing to put it aside. Know that there is a reason, which we do not always understand, for everything. Release it to God, and your mind, your emotions and your tensed body, will be freed, giving you permission to heal and go on with your life. Forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself. It is allowing the release of resentments, anger, sadness or any negative thinking that may ‘poison’ YOUR body, mind and soul.
5. Taking time to meditate and spend time in nature
Go for long relaxing walks; stay by the ocean or near a lake, in a garden, a forest, etc. No matter where in nature, know that it has a way to soothe the mind and calm the feelings.
6. Taking time to see a professional
If you haven’t already done so, make an appointment for a consultation with a mental health professional. It might be an unpleasant task, but one that can lead to clarity, understanding, relief, and many positive learnings and results.
7. Taking time to write things down
Keeping a journal, where you can express how you feel and think, is tremendously helpful, particularly if you are open and honest with yourself, allowing yourself to freely associate in a stream of consciousness, without screening what goes through your mind. It will serve as a form of catharsis (release of trapped or blocked energy). More so, accumulating evidence suggests that journaling can help you sort through a scope of emotions. Dr James W. Pennebaker’s studies show that when people write about meaningful or traumatic events, they improve on 2 things: (a) their health (b) their biological indicators for stress. So, get yourself in the habit of writing down how you feel and what you
8. Taking time to do things that make you feel good!
Surround yourself with good friends and family that make you feel good about yourself and with whom you can laugh, despite the unpleasant situation you are facing. Make a conscious decision to do things that make you feel good – moment by moment.
9. Taking time to engage in physical activities
Physical activity reduces stress. Regular exercise boosts our mood, reduces weight, and ensures a healthy night’s sleep. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 2 1/2 hours of vigorous activity every week. If this too much for you at present, divide it into manageable, but still effective, workout sessions.
10. Taking time to set realistic expectations
Yes, it is healthy to set goals, but they should be realistic depending upon your life situation. There is no point in putting too much pressure on yourself during the divorce process to accomplish unrealistic expectations that will negatively affect your health. Everything you have to do may seem larger than it is. It is important to reevaluate your goals and the time-frame of achieving them. When you divide your goals/tasks into manageable steps, you can get them done in a shorter time period. Sometimes it is advisable to postpone goals or let go of the need to achieve them for the time being.
Remember, this may be a very difficult time for you, but it is temporary. Life is dynamic, nothing stays constant. Mindfully go with the flow and believe in a better future for you.
Dr. Lami is an internationally renowned psychologist with over 18 years of experience helping her clients effectively deal with challenges associated with the process of divorce. Her services include Psychotherapy, Coaching, Evaluation (including Affluenza), Expert Witness, Speaking and Consulting. She regularly writes on relationships and has been featured in the media. Visit the firm’s website at drlami.com or universalinsights.net.