Personal, financial and social issues result from separation and divorce, but another area of a divorcing person’s life that can be highly impacted is health.
Even when the decision to divorce is mutual, even amicable, divorce almost always impacts health and wellness in various ways depending on the person.
When a divorce is contentious and the experience is brutal, the effects on health can be compounded.
“Stress” is the central component divorcing individuals feel to some varying degrees causing enhanced emotions including sadness, anxiety, worry, and overwhelm. According to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a Chicago-based psychologist, and physical therapist, stress can affect every organ and system of the body causing a negative impact on both mental and physical well-being.
In a February 8, 2015, Prevention.com article, Jane Bianchi, a writer whose work has appeared in publications including, Family Circle, Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Esquire, names “8 Surprising Ways Divorce Affects Your Health” which include:
Ways Divorce Affects Health and Wellness
- Anxiety (due to change and uncertainty)
- Weight Change (gain or loss)
- Metabolic Syndrome (experiencing several dangerous health conditions at one time which can include high blood pressure, blood sugar issues, weight concerns including excessive belly fat, and high cholesterol which increases the chance of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
- Depression due to issues such as feeling like a failure and loss of self-confidence
- Cardiovascular Disease (primarily triggered by stress)
- Substance Abuse (brought on by loneliness, anxiety, and depression)
- Insomnia (Sleeping problems are also due to anxiety and depression.)
- Other chronic health issues including mobility (Divorcing and divorced people often find it hard to eat well, exercise and maintain a well-balanced life which highly affects their health.)
Divorced individuals join those who are widowed experiencing a 20% increase in issues including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer as well as a 23% increase in mobility issues (walking, climbing, standing) over those who are married. (Study published by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, date.)
While stress, anxiety and depression impact divorcing and divorced individuals to varying degrees, the answer to preventing these inevitable feelings from running rampant and destroying health is in self-care.
Major self-care practices include:
- Consulting with health care professionals who can provide monitoring, guidance, and treatment. These professionals include family doctors, nutritionists, and chiropractors. In addition therapists, counselors, divorce coaches, and pastors can provide emotional support and guidance in a time of need.)
- Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. Taking vitamin and mineral supplements can also be important. (A dietician or nutritionist can be a major support in this area.) Avoid excess (eating too much or too little).
- Establishing regular sleep hours ensuring adequate sleep. If problems exist, look for natural remedies to help with relaxation including meditation, recordings of nature sounds, and exercises that are conducive to relieving stress. (Look for these online using “natural sleep aids” for your search.) There are also natural supplements that encourage sleep. Try to avoid powerful sleep aids unless a physician recommends them.
- Taking time to relax and enjoy. Find new activities and social events where new friends are possible.
- Pampering yourself. Get a massage, a facial, a manicure-pedicure, a new hairstyle or haircut, a makeover. It makes a person simply feel good.
- Staying in the present. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future although planning for the future is important.
- Taking a class or, if in the market, exploring careers at a local college or community center. Talking to a career counselor can prove invaluable.
- Establishing a routine. Routines help normalize life and help a person gain control of daily life.
- Avoiding a rush into a new relationship. Take time to rediscover the person within.
- Communicating honestly with children about separation and divorce, avoiding negativity. Support them as divorce is difficult for them as well.
- Establishing a network of friends, family and even finding a support group in the community. Online groups like Meetup.com can be a great resource for both support and personal interest groups.
- Staying active. Don’t isolate. Get out there. Nothing is worse than being alone too much of the time.
As a divorce coach, I work to help my clients know that divorce is more than working through the details and coming to a settlement. The accompanying stress can play havoc on a person’s health. Divorce’s silent impact on well-being cannot be ignored.
In essence, health should be a major concern throughout the divorce experience (pre-divorce, divorce, and post-divorce) and should not be neglected. Self-care is the answer.