Once a person decides to divorce, prepare for an increase in stress level. Perhaps you have been stressed leading up to this decision, experiencing conflict with your spouse, while trying to make this all-important decision.
With collaborative divorce the hope is to ameliorate some of the stress by cutting down on the unknowns and decreasing some of the conflict. However, divorce is a major life change and there will be unknowns. There may be a move from one home to another. Big and little decisions will have to be made, i.e, where to move what furniture to take or buy, what about jobs, health insurance, cars, what to tell children and other family members. Emotions will come into play. One spouse may be sad or angry. The other may be relieved but feel guilt for the other spouse and family members.
It’s important to recognize this as a very challenging and stressful time, and to take some measures to reduce one’s stress level whenever possible. Stress can take a toll on our bodies, brains and emotions. Your brain begins to release a “fight, flight, freeze” chemical. This floats around in your brain and body likely to cause stress-related issues such as anxiety, depression, headaches, or stomach problems. You may notice more frequent colds or flu. This happens because the immune system is compromised by stress.
Here are some ideas to help reduce your stress levels:
1) Exercise, exercise, exercise! Take the time even a few minutes will help, walk down the stairs a few times, walk the dog.
2) Consider a meditation or yoga class.
3) Learn some simple deep breathing methods, something you can do in a few moments or longer. There are apps available for this as well as for calming music.
4) Most importantly, get adequate sleep, eat regularly, keep a routine if at all possible.
5) Rely on close friends and family for conversation as well as help with tasks. People are usually eager to help when they know what is needed.
6) Stay current with your physician to monitor any medical issues you may have.
7) Seek out a therapist to talk with regularly.
During the collaborative divorce process, you will see a divorce coach at least once. While this person is a trained mental health practitioner, they will not act as your therapist but will help you deal with the current emotions you may be experiencing. This person can also help you think of ways to decrease your stress level.
Finally, notice your thinking patterns. We can “think” ourselves into stress and anxiety with catastrophic thoughts. Remind yourself this will not be the end of the world. You can survive and have a life after divorce, just a different one. Change can bring new growth.
Scotti Thralls, LCSW, LIMHP