Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Divorce can take a heavy toll on your finances and your family life, but an often overlooked aspect is the negative effect that divorce can have on your health. This affects both your psychological and physical health, sometimes to the point where you are unable to function at work, effectively parent your children, or make decisions because of a constant sense of panic.While some amount of stress is normal, when your symptoms reach this level, you should seek professional help. These are some of the most common ways that divorce can impact your health.
Anxiety and Stress
Divorce is a significantly traumatic experience, especially when it’s fresh and we’re still processing all the emotions. It’s common to find ourselves with distressing thoughts because the family unit and relationship that had become a safe space is now crumbling. That can trigger a fear response and anxiety because it feels like everything we know is changing. Stress can also be brought on by financial worries, concerns for our children and fear of loneliness. All these emotions can lead to distress and worry, which is entirely normal.
Divorce is like going through a grieving process. In fact you’re grieving the end of a relationship that you thought would last forever. This is a natural part of the grieving process and that means you can expect to have feelings associated with depression. This includes loss of motivation to do anything you love, worthlessness, withdrawing from our social circles, loss of appetite or sleeping too much or not sleeping at all.
When we go through a divorce, we often question whether we’ll be able to find love again. That can trigger a lot of self-doubt and low self-esteem because we feel knocked down by the end of our relationship that we can’t see any hope of what life will be like in the near future. It’s natural to feel like the marriage we were in is our last chance at happiness but it isn’t. You will bounce back and start feeling good about yourself and feel attractive again.
Divorce can leave us feeling battered and emotionally exhausted. We’re dealing with a multitude of emotions all at once, while also maintaining our jobs and family responsibilities at the same time. You might be feeling more tired than usual, even if you think you’re getting enough sleep. This is also a natural mental health side effect of divorce and it’s important to recharge ourselves so that we can start to recover.
Not all feelings from divorce are going to be bad though, you might also experience a boost to your mental health, including;
A greater sense of peace, calm and serenity in our lives if you’ve left a toxic marriage.
Increased confidence because you’re reconnecting with yourself
More mental clarity and even creative inspiration.
A reestablishment of your own personal identity
The bottom line is divorce changes us and even if it’s just temporary, we won’t feel quite like ourselves as we go through it. It’s so important for us to be extremely compassionate with ourselves during this time and not to put too much pressure to feel normal again.
There’s no simple solution for the grief and sadness you may be experiencing. But there are ways to prioritize your mental health during your divorce to help you feel better.
Here are 10 tips to help you manage your mental health during divorce:
1. Do Not Think of Divorce as Failure
It’s easy to get caught up into thinking of divorce as a “failure”. Although your marriage ended, you did not fail. You came to a decision that is the best possible outcome for the situation. You are transitioning into a new phase of your life and have many new doors to open.
2. Grieve What You’ve Lost
Take the time you need to grieve the loss of your partnership – there were good and bad times that you may reflect on and grieve. Allow yourself to let go of these thoughts and free yourself to make room for new opportunities in your life.
3. Be Prepared For Stress
Divorce can be a long, painful process, even if you and your spouse are ending your marriage amicably. Make sure you're prepared to deal with the stress by taking time for self-care- including keeping up with an exercise routine, making time to relax and maintaining a healthy diet
4. Create Your Own Support Network
Having a support network of friends and family is extremely important for helping you through a divorce. However, be aware that any mutual friends you have with your spouse may take sides or choose to maintain their friendship with both of you. Depending on the circumstances either situation could make things awkward for you and cause unnecessary stress, so choose your support network carefully.
5. Be Ready For Change
A divorce will change practically everything about your life, so you must prepare for that first and foremost. It's about more than your spouse no longer living with you- your entire life will be different going forward, just as getting married changed your life.
6. Don't Allow Others To Hurt You
Whether they’re mutual friends or former in-laws, there might be people still in your life after the divorce who may become negative presences. Don't let them become toxic influences, and don’t be afraid to cut those people out of your life if they're making things difficult or painful.
7. Take Your Time
Adjusting to life after divorce is a gradual process, one that's different for every individual. There's no set timetable for when you should feel ready to get back into a relationship again, so don't allow yourself to feel anxious about dating if you don’t feel entirely ready. It's also important to remind yourself that you may be uncomfortable in your home or with friends and family for a while, and that is normal.
8. Stick To A Routine
A daily routine can be a powerful tool for helping you adjust to your life post-divorce. When uncertainty and unfamiliar situations create anxiety, and kind of predictability- even if it's just your morning coffee run- can help center you and give you something positive to anticipate.
9. Don't Suppress Your Feelings
As you adjust to life after divorce, it's important to remember that your emotions are real and you should acknowledge them. You may want to act as if your divorce was a clean break that you're totally over, but the truth likely is more complicated than that. It's normal to go from despondent to hopeful to angry all in the course of one day. However, with time you'll gain perspective and even out again, as long as you recognize your feelings and don't try to ignore them.
10. Get Professional Counselling
Counselling provides a unique and wonderful opportunity to share how you are feeling with a total stranger. You can walk into a neutral environment and be brutally honest about how you are feeling and what you are processing.
Seeing a therapist after a divorce or separation or during the process of ending a relationship, can offer you a safe and non-judgmental space to think at depth about your relationship, discuss the wide range of feelings and emotions you are experiencing, and gain some clarity of thought.