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How to Deal with Post-Divorce Stress

Learn How to Tend to Your Own Well-Being


Updated July 26, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

A stressed-out mom.

Learn how to deal with post-divorce stress.

Photo © Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Stress doesn't just affect your mind. It impacts your whole body and extends to those around you. If not well managed, stress from your divorce can lead to prolonged physical symptoms like insomnia, heart palpitations, and more. In addition, what you experience can increase your kids' stress as well.

But the heightened level of stress in your home doesn't have to linger. Dealing with your own feelings will help your kids heal while also demonstrating real-life skills for coping with life's curve balls.

So how do you get started? Consider the following ways post-divorce stress can impact you, and what you can do about it.

Physical Stress - Stress is our response to a challenge that disrupts our equilibrium. It can manifest in a variety of physical ways. You may be experiencing insomnia, heart palpitations, or high blood pressure. Maybe you've put on a few pounds since the divorce. These are understandable responses to stress, and they're also indications that it's affecting you physically.

  • See your doctor. Schedule an appointment for a regular physical, and be open with her about your symptoms and about the life changes you're going through. Don't hold back or decide that you'll deal with this part of your well-being at some much-later time. You can't imagine how much better you're going to feel until you start to take steps in that direction. So don't put it off any longer. Trust that the time and money you invest in your physical health right now will be worth it.

  • Begin to exercise. With your doctor's permission and input, start an exercise routine. It can be as simple as walking 30 minutes a day five days a week. This won't just help you physically, it will also give you time to think and process the changes you've been going through. For help fitting exercise into your busy schedule, read Find Time to Exercise as a Single Parent.

  • Change your routines. Maybe you've started staying up until 2 a.m. or skipping breakfast or lunch more often than not. Take a look at your day-to-day routine, and ask yourself what's changed since the stress began. Then begin to make changes toward restoring routines that bring structure and predictability to your life as you heal. For help tweaking your routine, check out 5 Ways to Change Your Daily Routine.

Emotional Stress - Of course the divorce has had an emotional impact on your life. You wouldn't be human if it didn't! But if those emotions have become overwhelming to the point that you're not sure how to cope or it interferes with your ability to parent or do your job, you may need to reach out for help.

  • See a counselor. You may seek a referral to a counselor or therapist from your family physician. If possible, seek out someone who specializes in divorce and family change. And remember that it may take a few sessions for you to feel completely comfortable with a new counselor. Be sure to give yourself that time before you decide counseling isn't for you. For assistance getting started, read How to Seek Help from a Mental Health Professional.

  • Write in a journal. The simple act of writing down what you're feeling can be a powerful force in helping you process and move beyond the divorce. It doesn't have to be fancy, either. Just grab any old spiral notebook and start writing. Make time to do it every day -- even if it's just ten minutes before bed or when you first get up in the morning. And don't worry about what it looks like or whether it makes sense; just get your thoughts down on paper and out of your head. You'll be glad you did! For help getting started, sign up for Guided Journal Topics for Single Parents, a free 30-day email course.

  • Turn to people you trust. Another part of your emotional healing involves people. People who love you and want what's best for you. Life is busy, and if you're not intentional about making the time to get together, it just won't happen. So get on the phone right now and call that friend you've been meaning to reach out to. Let him know what's going on and schedule a time when you can get together. For tips on how to find the time for friendships, read "Me Time" for Single Parents.

Spiritual Stress - This is another area of your well-being that needs to be tended to during this period of healing. That doesn't mean that you have to attend religious services. It can also be as simple as recognizing that you're part of a larger whole, which can give you a sense of grounding and perspective during this time.

  • Cultivate spiritual disciplines. Pray. Meditate. Take a yoga class. Be intentional about choosing activities that nurture your spiritual well-being. For tips on how to get started, read 10 Ways to Relax Your Mind and Copy With Ongoing Stress.

  • Pay attention to what you put into your mind. There's an old saying, "Garbage in, garbage out." If you're choosing music or entertainment that fuels your anger, that may compromise your spiritual sense of well-being. So find a radio station that encourages you or pick up a book at the library that you find personally encouraging. Focus your attention on what makes you feel better, and you'll notice a difference in how you feel over time.

  • Find a mentor. Seek out someone you trust in your community who exemplifies the calm and inner strength you're seeking to develop and spend time with that person. It doesn't have to be a formal mentoring relationship to be beneficial. So go out for coffee or talk on the phone once a week. Being influenced by people who are well-grounded will help you be less influenced by the stress that surrounds you.

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