- 9 Tips for Dealing With a Stressful Divorce
- Dealing with a Breakup or Divorce – HelpGuide.org
- Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship
- Tips for grieving after a breakup or divorce:
- Helping your kids during a breakup or divorce
- Reach out to others for support
- Taking care of yourself after a breakup
- Self-care tips:
- Making healthy choices: Eat well, sleep well, and exercise
- Learning important lessons from a breakup or divorce
- Some questions to ask yourself:
- Reduce the Stress of a Divorce
- Coping with the Stress of Divorce
- Divorce and Money Issues
- Related Articles
- Where Are You on the Divorce Stress Scale?
- Coping with Stress in Your Divorce
- Why Worry About Stress Management?
- Bottled-Up Under Pressure
- Maintain Composure Despite Hurtful Testimony
- Prioritize Your Mental, Emotional, and Physical Health
- Have a Plan to Keep Your Family Safe
- Time Management Helps Minimize Stress
- Live the Healthy Lifestyle
- 5 Tips for Managing Stress in Divorce
- 1. Open Communications with Your Spiritual Advisor
- 2. Enlist Family Members, Friends and Neighbors to Lend a Hand
- 3. Budget Your Time
- 4. Create a Monthly Budget
- 5. Join a Support Group or Consider Counseling
- Practicing Self-Care During Divorce
- Coping With Separation And Divorce
9 Tips for Dealing With a Stressful Divorce
When bad things happen (and for most, divorce is a bad thing), it can trigger a number of emotions. Depending on how you process what is happening, your happiness can return, or your emotions can get away from you and you can find yourself feeling emotionally drained.
If you don’t properly deal with the divorce stress and negative emotions, the consequences can begin to slowly affect you in deeper ways. You may develop trust issues that make it harder for you to move on in a new relationship, your self-confidence could take a nose-dive, and emotional stagnation could cause extreme self-sabotage.
If you follow the advice and steps listed below, not only can you survive your divorce, but you can also thrive afterward.
Find a support group to participate in and/or a therapist to talk with. A little talk therapy can go a long way when you are feeling overwhelmed emotionally. It's important for you to take responsibility for your own emotional well-being at this time of adversity and make sure that you nurture yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Kris Ubach and Quim Roser/Getty Images
Stay as active as possible by keeping a regular exercise routine. Nothing helps our emotions bounce back better than physical activity. It will help in relieving tension, anger, and anxiety. Regular exercise is a great way to improve emotional well-being and elevate your mood, too.
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images
Read a good book, get plenty of rest, take a hot bath, develop a new hobby, eat healthy and nutritious foods, and surround yourself with positive people. Put effort into living a lifestyle that will promote feelings of good self-worth and esteem during this time of adversity.
Yusuke Nishizawa/Getty Images
If you are faced with an uncomfortable or painful situation, learn to let it go; take some time to figure out what is best for you, and then come back to it. Stay focused on what you have control over and let go of the rest.
Refuse to engage in conflict with your ex-spouse. If the two of you can't be around each other without arguing, there is no shame in walking away.
Emotions are normal, whether they are negative or positive. What we do with the emotions we are feeling plays a big role in the quality of life we experience. Avoid destructive activities such as drinking or drugs when trying to deal with your feelings.
Don't allow your feelings to cause you to seek revenge, play the victim, or become abusive toward your spouse. If you are hurt or angry, it is best to find someone safe to vent out to and get those feelings out.
No one has any control over the feelings and actions of another person. We might think that during our marriage we had some control, but we did not. Now that there is a divorce in process, we have even less control than before.
Let go of trying to control any aspect of what your spouse may feel or what actions they will take. Let go of what you feel the outcome should be and learn to accept whatever might happen.
When you are living in a highly stressful situation, any decisions or changes to your life should not be made until you have thought of all the consequences.
Take time to think things through and thoroughly weigh all your options. When making decisions, use logical thinking instead of emotional thinking to guide your decision making.
Give yourself time and be patient with the decision-making process.
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images
Remember to laugh and play. Schedule activities that bring you pleasure and participate in them regularly. Maintain a close circle of friends and socialize often. Do not isolate yourself from others. If getting out and enjoying life means forcing yourself to do so, then so be it. You'll find that once you are out engaging in fun activities, you'll feel less stressed.
Take the time needed to heal from the divorce and those feelings of loss. Try to look inward and own your responsibility in the problems that led to divorce. Forgive yourself and your spouse and don't allow the issues from this marriage to follow you into new relationships.
Taking time to identify what caused the divorce and to change what you need to change about the way you related to your ex will only help you move on after the divorce in a more productive manner.
Up next: A step-by-step guide for those thinking about divorce.
Dealing with a Breakup or Divorce – HelpGuide.org
A breakup or divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in life. Whatever the reason for the split—and whether you wanted it or not—the breakup of a relationship can turn your whole world upside down and trigger all sorts of painful and unsettling emotions.
Even when a relationship is no longer good, a divorce or breakup can be extremely painful because it represents the loss, not just of the partnership, but also of the dreams and commitments you shared. Romantic relationships begin on a high note of excitement and hopes for the future. When a relationship fails, we experience profound disappointment, stress, and grief.
A breakup or divorce launches you into uncharted territory. Everything is disrupted: your routine and responsibilities, your home, your relationships with extended family and friends, and even your identity.
A breakup also brings uncertainty about the future.
What will life be without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone? These unknowns can often seem worse than being in an unhappy relationship.
This pain, disruption, and uncertainty means that recovering from a breakup or divorce can be difficult and take time. However, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that you can and will get through this difficult experience and even move on with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship
Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and the breakup or divorce of a love relationship involves multiple losses:
- Loss of companionship and shared experiences (which may or may not have been consistently pleasurable)
- Loss of support, be it financial, intellectual, social, or emotional
- Loss of hopes, plans, and dreams (which can be even more painful than practical losses)
Allowing yourself to feel the pain of these losses may be scary. You may fear that your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that you’ll be stuck in a dark place forever. Just remember that grieving is essential to the healing process. The pain of grief is precisely what helps you let go of the old relationship and move on. And no matter how strong your grief, it won’t last forever.
Tips for grieving after a breakup or divorce:
Don’t fight your feelings – It’s normal to have lots of ups and downs, and feel many conflicting emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion. It’s important to identify and acknowledge these feelings. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only prolong the grieving process.
Talk about how you’re feeling – Even if it is difficult for you to talk about your feelings with other people, it is very important to find a way to do so when you are grieving. Knowing that others are aware of your feelings will make you feel less alone with your pain and will help you heal. Writing in a journal can also be a helpful outlet for your feelings.
Remember that moving on is the end goal – Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyze the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings blame, anger, and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward.
Remind yourself that you still have a future – When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams for a life together. After a breakup, it’s hard to let these aspirations go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones.
Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup and depression – Grief can be paralyzing after a breakup, but after a while, the sadness begins to lift. Day by day, and little by little, you start moving on. However, if you don’t feel any forward momentum, you may be suffering from depression.
Helping your kids during a breakup or divorce
When mom and dad split, a child can feel confused, angry, and uncertain as well as profoundly sad. As a parent, you can help your kids cope with the breakup by providing stability and attending to your child’s needs with a reassuring, positive attitude.
Reach out to others for support
Support from others is critical to healing after a breakup or divorce. You might feel being alone, but isolating yourself will only make this time more difficult. Don’t try to get through this on your own.
Connect face-to-face with trusted friends and family members. People who have been through painful breakups or divorces can be especially helpful. They know what it is and they can assure you that there is hope for healing and new relationships. Frequent face-to-face contact is also a great way to relieve the stress of a breakup and regain balance in your life.
Spend time with people who support, value, and energize you. As you consider who to reach out to, choose wisely. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who truly listen to you. It’s important that you feel free to be honest about what you’re going through, without worrying about being judged, criticized, or told what to do.
Get outside help if you need it. If reaching out to others doesn’t come naturally, consider seeing a counselor or joining a support group (see the Resources section below). The most important thing is that you have at least one place where you feel comfortable opening up.
Cultivate new friendships. If you feel you have lost your social network along with the divorce or breakup, make an effort to meet new people. Join a networking group or special interest club, take a class, get involved in community activities, or volunteer at a school, place of worship, or other community organization.
Taking care of yourself after a breakup
A divorce is a highly stressful, life-changing event. When you’re going through the emotional wringer and dealing with major life changes, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The strain and upset of a major breakup can leave you psychologically and physically vulnerable.
Treat yourself you’re getting over the flu. Get plenty of rest, minimize other sources of stress in your life, and reduce your workload if possible.
Learning to take care of yourself can be one of the most valuable lessons you learn following a breakup.
As you feel the emotions of your loss and begin learning from your experience, you can resolve to take better care of yourself and make positive choices going forward.
Make time each day to nurture yourself. Help yourself heal by scheduling daily time for activities you find calming and soothing. Spend time with good friends, go for a walk in nature, listen to music, enjoy a hot bath, get a massage, read a favorite book, take a yoga class, or savor a warm cup of tea.
Pay attention to what you need in any given moment and speak up to express your needs. Honor what you believe to be right and best for you even though it may be different from what your ex or others want. Say “no” without guilt or angst as a way of honoring what is right for you.
Stick to a routine. A divorce or relationship breakup can disrupt almost every area of your life, amplifying feelings of stress, uncertainty, and chaos. Getting back to a regular routine can provide a comforting sense of structure and normalcy.
Take a time out. Try not to make any major decisions in the first few months after a separation or divorce, such as starting a new job or moving to a new city. If you can, wait until you’re feeling less emotional so that you can make decisions with a clearer head.
Avoid using alcohol, drugs, or food to cope. When you’re in the middle of a breakup, you may be tempted to do anything to relieve your feelings of pain and loneliness.
But using alcohol, drugs, or food as an escape is unhealthy and destructive in the long run. It’s essential to find healthier ways of coping with painful feelings.
HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help.
Explore new interests. A divorce or breakup is a beginning as well as an end. Take the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. Pursuing fun, new activities gives you a chance to enjoy life in the here-and-now, rather than dwelling on the past.
Making healthy choices: Eat well, sleep well, and exercise
When you’re going through the stress of a divorce or breakup, healthy habits easily fall by the wayside. You might find yourself not eating at all or overeating your favorite junk foods.
Exercise might be harder to fit in because of the added pressures at home and sleep might be elusive. But all of the work you are doing to move forward in a positive way will be pointless if you don’t make long-term healthy lifestyle choices.
See: Healthy Eating, How to Sleep Better, and How to Start Exercising and Stick to It
Learning important lessons from a breakup or divorce
It can be difficult to see it when you’re going through a painful breakup, but in times of emotional crisis, there are opportunities to grow and learn.
You may be feeling nothing but emptiness and sadness in your life right now, but that doesn’t mean that things will never change. Try to consider this period in your life a time-out, a time for sowing the seeds for new growth.
You can emerge from this experience knowing yourself better and feeling stronger and wiser.
In order to fully accept a breakup and move on, you need to understand what happened and acknowledge the part you played. The more you understand how the choices you made affected the relationship, the better you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes—and avoid repeating them in the future.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Step back and look at the big picture. How did you contribute to the problems of the relationship?
- Do you tend to repeat the same mistakes or choose the wrong person in relationship after relationship?
- Think about how you react to stress and deal with conflict and insecurities.
Could you act in a more constructive way?
- Consider whether or not you accept other people the way they are, not the way they could or “should” be.
- Examine your negative feelings as a starting point for change.
Are you in control of your feelings, or are they in control of you?
You’ll need to be honest with yourself during this part of the healing process. Try not to dwell on who is to blame or beat yourself up over your mistakes.
As you look back on the relationship, you have an opportunity to learn more about yourself, how you relate to others, and the problems you need to work on. If you are able to objectively examine your own choices and behavior, including the reasons why you chose your former partner, you’ll be able to see where you went wrong and make better choices next time.
Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Gina Kemp, M.A., and Melinda Smith, M.A. Last updated: June 2019.
Reduce the Stress of a Divorce
No matter how frustrated you may have become with your partner, the decision to divorce never is an easy one. Strong emotions often arise on both sides. But there are healthy ways to cope.
The decision legally to end a relationship sets off a long and difficult process. Even without complicated legal and financial issues, the upheaval is often enormous, affecting children, grandparents, friends and the extended family. The chances are that some of the family members involved will experience a drop in their standard of living. All will face an emotional challenge.
So before deciding to divorce, make sure you have done all you can to improve your relationship.
Are you certain that there is no alternative, such as separation? Think about talking it over with a marriage and family therapist or getting other expert advice and help. A consultation with a lawyer can provide an idea of the ly legal and financial outcomes.
Often lawyers will provide free initial consultations. Look in the Yellow Pages under “attorneys” for those who specifically handle divorces, as lawyers often specialize.
Coping with the Stress of Divorce
Separation and divorce are two of the most painful life events there are. They can lead you to question everything in your life, including your own identity and your ability to cope by yourself. Divorce highlights your fears and sensitivities, so old wounds from the past might resurface. You will need to recover your self-esteem, which will take time.
Below are some coping techniques to help you take care of yourself and others.
- Consider joining a support group, and going through mediation. It can lead to better communication and fewer confrontations with your ex-partner.
- Rather than withdrawing socially, surround yourself with friends. Remember how important they are in providing support, perspective and practical help.
- Learn how to balance giving and receiving. You don’t have to be perfect.
- Don’t beat yourself up over what you should have done. Stop the negative self-talk and guilt. You can’t change the past, so try to learn the lessons the present offers, then focus on a positive future.
- Set aside time just for yourself to help you find balance.
- Don’t worry about what other people might think.
- Declutter your environment. If something is too painful to look at or is useless to you now that you’re alone, throw it out.
- Determine what most needs doing and in what order. Then break up the tasks into smaller steps that can be done in several shorter periods of time. That way larger tasks seem more manageable and you are more ly to get them done.
- If you have been a stay-at-home mom and the workforce for some time, you probably will need to go back to school for training in a marketable skill. Bringing home your own money is satisfying and creates independence. It also sets a positive example for your children.
- Work toward forgiveness and moving on. Don’t deny your anger, but don’t let it drain your energy by getting stuck in resentment.
- Don’t be scared of going out on your own and opening up to new people.
Divorce and Money Issues
In addition to the difficulties of ending a relationship, you also will have to deal with finances. This can be particularly tricky if there is an atmosphere of mistrust because of the break-up. Many divorces actually are caused my money issues.
If your partner used to deal with all the financial matters, make it a priority to learn how to budget and manage your finances. Get advice on the financial decisions you need to make, especially if you are selling your house. Ask for help from your lawyer or an organization which supports those going through a divorce.
Most couples agree on a financial settlement without going to court, but even so, a typical divorce settlement can take over a year to finalize. Deciding on child maintenance payments can be especially difficult. Make a list of all your assets and debts, close joint accounts as soon as possible, and get advice on how your pension, savings and investments will be affected.
Reduce the Stress of a Divorce
Where Are You on the Divorce Stress Scale?
I think it’s fair to say that divorce is a stressful event in one’s life. For some, it is the most stressful event they will ever experience.
Dozens of studies show that stress compromises the immune system. Therefore, it stands to reason that divorce puts anyone dissolving a marriage at some risk of disease. The more stressful the divorce, the more ly it is that illness will follow.
Stress was first studied formally in 1935.
While introducing certain stimuli to lab mice, endocrinologist Hans Selye saw that there was a whole set of physiological responses the mice had in response to these stimuli: Breathing gets shallow, digestion stops, blood flow is diverted from skin and organs to the adrenal glands, for example. It turns out that all mammals have a very similar reaction when stress is brought into their environment.
While humans are no exception, our response differs in important ways. Perhaps the greatest factor distinguishing the human stress response is that we experience chronic stress — stress that lingers for much longer periods of time — rather than the acute stress that happens when one is in momentary danger.
Many people are subjected to stressors every day — ranging from being in rush-hour traffic, working a high-stress job, or living in a dangerous neighborhood. When we don’t get a break from stress, our bodies begin to break down.
The second way the stress systems of the human body are different from animals is our higher cerebral functioning: We have the ability to make up stories.
Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky writes in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, that the stress response in us was actually designed to be triggered in the face of real danger — when we were being chased by a leopard out in the wild. This kind of event is usually intense (since it’s life-threatening) but short-lived.
Mammals are wired for acute stress in response to real danger — not the chronic stress we endure deadlines, the stock market, or the amount of money in the bank.
With all the pressures and worries we have in our lives today, living with chronic stress is the norm, not the exception. Now, add divorce to that mix.
There are two types of chronic stressors with marital dissolution. There are the “known” stressors: having to start over; making the decision to keep the house or move; the loss of the familiar life and lifestyle; paying high attorney bills; having less money to live on; holding your kid’s reaction to the divorce and not being able to tuck them in on a nightly basis.
Then there are the stressors caused by the “unknowns,” wondering if the settlement will be fair; who will get what assets (and debts); wondering if you’ll be able to find a job after being a stay-at-home-parent for the past 10 years; not knowing how to make ends meet on less money; wondering how the kids will fare; fearing the familial, social, and emotional ramifications, and so on.
When it comes to divorce, what people don’t know can cause much greater fear and stress than what they do know. It’s a scary time indeed and the outcome is in the hands of the professionals you hire, how cooperative your someday-ex will be, as well as how the laws are interpreted and how well the courts view your position.
One of the skills that has helped our species survive is being prepared for the worst-case scenarios. We try to map out how to deal with the challenges so we are prepared for whatever may come our way.
But since our brains don’t know the difference between a story we’ve invented or a real event, we can actually trigger the adrenal glands just by imagining being a bag lady on the street, or by fearing we’ll be alone forever, or by thinking about all the ways to get revenge and all the reasons he or she deserves to be punished.
In fact, pretty much everything about divorce is stressful — even if it’s your choice or mutually agreed upon.
How to Measure Stress
In 1967, two psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe wanted to find out if there was a connection between stress and illness. They examined the records of 5,000 people and saw that indeed, a life stressor of some kind was present in all cases. They then asked patients to rate, on a scale of 0 to 100, how stressful the event was that they were experiencing.
The end product was a scale, known as the Holmes-Rahe Scale, and it is designed to measure how ly it is that you will become ill. Anyone scoring 150 or less only has a slight risk of illness, 150 to 300 is at moderate risk of being ill, and those with a score over 300 face a significant risk of becoming ill.
I think this scale is useful as a guide. However, there are many life stressors that are not on the scale that I believe should be. Living with pain is one example.
Pain is a stressor and it makes everything else we do harder.
I also think that it’s interesting to see that there are some positive life events on the scale that show up as stressful such as having an outstanding personal achievement (score of 28) or vacation (13).
While the death of a spouse shows up on the scale as 100, divorce only presents as 73.
With all due respect to Holmes and Rahe, I believe there are many people who would say that the death of a spouse might be closer to a score of 73 and a divorce more 100 – in particular, those didn’t want to get divorced, didn’t see it coming, and were financially dependent on their spouse.
I thought it might be useful to create a Divorce-Stress Scale with some of the circumstances I have seen over the years. the Holmes-Rahe Scale, this Divorce-Stress Scale will be somewhat subjective and, no doubt, incomplete. I’ve divided it up into segments to make it easier to identify your issues.
The Divorce-Stress Scale
Check all factors that apply to your situation for the past 24 months. Circle the score of that factor. If you have experienced one of these events two times, multiply that number by 2 (or three or however many times you’ve experienced it). Once you’ve circled all the numbers that apply, add them up and use the scale below to determine how ly you are to get sick.
Below 300 – moderate chance of sickness
Between 301 and 600 – high lihood of illness
601 – 999 – extremely high risk of illness
1000 or more – get to your doctor now
- You begin to consider divorce as a real option to your marital troubles 70
- Your spouse announces s/he is unhappy in the marriage 80
- Your spouse asks to have an open marriage 100
- You decide today is the day to tell your spouse of your desire to get divorced 125
- You have a same-sex marriage in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage (or divorce) 150
- Your spouse is leaving you for someone of your opposite gender 170
- Your spouse announces s/he is ending the marriage with no notice 280
- You find out your spouse is having an affair 285
- You find out your spouse is having an affair with someone close to you 290
- You come home from a trip away and your spouse has moved out with no notice that anything was wrong 300
- You come home and find all your belongings in the driveway with no notice that anything was wrong 350
- You have no children (so divorce means you lose your nuclear family) 80
- You have three or less children 100
- You have between four and eight children 125
- You have over eight children 175
- Your kids are the house 60
- Some of your kids are teenagers 90
- You have one or more special needs children 100
- All are over 5 years old 100
- Your kids are teenagers 120
- Some are under 5 years old, some over 125
- Your kids are all under 5 years old 150
- You’re independently wealthy 0
- You are nesting (you each move in and the house) 75
- Your spouse doesn’t work (but needs to) 85
- You don’t work (but you need to) 85
- Your spouse owns his or her own business 95
- You own your own business 125
- You or your spouse just started a new job 125
- You or your spouse has been fired recently 150
- You know nothing about the finances 150
- You’re sharing a home but there is a great deal of tension 150
- You don’t trust that your spouse is or will be honest about the finances 180
- You are homeless 180
- You and your spouse work together 185
- Your house is in foreclosure or some type of distress 200
- You and your spouse own a company together 225
- Your attorney doesn’t return your calls 80
- You don’t feel your attorney is really working on your behalf 80
- You don’t your attorney 100
- Your spouse hired the meanest attorney in town 120
How to Cope With Stress
Here are some tips that I recommend as a way to minimize the stress you feel:
- Ask for and accept help. You don’t have to do everything alone.
- Get as much information as you can about the divorce process. Information makes people feel more empowered.
- Face each obstacle as it arises. Letting things build up may allow you avoid stress in the moment, but you will eventually have to deal with it. If you put too much off, you may be completely overwhelmed and become immobilized.
- Talk about your grief with others and allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. People often add a layer of shame and stress by telling themselves they “shouldn’t feel this way,” or “should be over it by now.”
- Integrate regular exercise into your day — especially cardiovascular workouts. There is a great deal of evidence proving that exercise can help you feel better physically, emotionally and mentally.
- Find a creative outlet. Singing, drawing, writing, dancing, photography, etc. can be tremendous stress relievers.
- Be willing to make mistakes (mistakes are going to happen no matter how well prepared you are — it's just part of the process).
- Accept your new reality and move on when it's appropriate to move on (this doesn't mean you have to it!).
- Have trust/faith that things will work out. Trusting that there is a benevolent force working on your behalf will ly make you feel better than if you believe the world is out to get you.
- Picture your ideal outcome and keep that idea in your head. You are far more ly to improve your outcome by preparing your mind for positive events than by thinking you are doomed to live out the rest of your life depressed and unhappy.
Coping with Stress in Your Divorce
Among the most stressful life experiences, divorce and family law cases can be profoundly emotional. They represent a turbulent period for both spouses and can affect the children for years to come.
The divorce, legal separation, or child custody dispute may challenge your resolve initially.
But once you have acquired certain coping skills, you’ll be confident with your role in the court proceedings and with managing your stress level.
Why Worry About Stress Management?
Productively managing the stress of divorce not only improves one’s sense of well-being when much needed, it can also impact the outcome of the case.
Take your frustrations out on the racquetball court. Start training for the next 5K run. Hike the White Tank Mountain trail. Develop a routine of releasing stress through activity.
Keep yourself centered and in control of negative thoughts and emotions.
Stay on top of your game throughout the divorce process, which could take six months, 18 months, two years or longer if there is an appeal. That’s a long time. Have a plan to manage the emotional highs and lows along the way.
Understanding why certain court proceedings, such as mediation, are part of your case also reduces stress. Call 602-548-3400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request attorney Scott David Stewart’s book, The Arizona Divorce Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Navigate Arizona Divorce.
Divorce can wear you down. After the death of a spouse, divorce ranks second on the list of most stressful life events. There’s even talk among some mental health professionals of “divorce stress syndrome.” Here’s our point. The emotional impact of ending a marriage is a real phenomenon and should be taken seriously. Have a plan to deal with it in a responsible way.
Bottled-Up Under Pressure
Not everyone’s reaction to stressful situations is directed outwardly. Many people keep emotions bottled-up inside, yet they manifest nonetheless.
Individuals do react differently, but anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness and mild depression are not uncommon.
As a parent under the stress of child custody proceedings, managing emotional and mental health to maintain all appearances of stability could be the determining factor in obtaining a desirable parenting time schedule.
Maintain Composure Despite Hurtful Testimony
Understandably, it may be difficult to restrain yourself when your spouse seems spiteful, for example, or disparages your parenting abilities from the witness stand.
An uncontrolled outburst in response looks bad to the judge, casting a poor light, even when the other parent’s sworn testimony directly attacks your parenting. Any such outburst could undermine your custody strategy for legal decision-making authority and equal parenting time.
Violations of courtroom decorum do not go unnoticed. Leave it to your attorney to draw out the facts during cross-examination and on direct when it’s your turn to testify.
Prioritize Your Mental, Emotional, and Physical Health
To be at your best, the challenge is to prioritize mental, emotional, and physical well-being. You need to be cool and level-headed under pressure. Be ready to decide what is in the best interests of the children. Be prepared to strategize your financial future. This means learning proper coping skills.
Avoid falling into the feel-good trap of substance abuse. Self-medicating might offer momentary relief from anxiety, but it quickly drags people down. Anyone with a weakness for drugs or alcohol should seek appropriate support. Why face this lifestyle upheaval alone? Contact your AA or NA sponsor. Do yourself and your case a favor and seek help early on, before things get more stressful.
Have a Plan to Keep Your Family Safe
Of course, parental emotions often run high regarding custody of the children. Any possibility of domestic violence is worrisome. Your safety and your children’s safety should be your first priority.
If there is a threat of domestic violence, then take precautionary measures. Know when to call 911 for law enforcement and when to move into an emergency family shelter.
Take a moment to read about Orders of Protection in domestic violence cases.
Time Management Helps Minimize Stress
First, specifically allocate time to work on your family law case when you won’t be interrupted. For the best possible outcome in the case, you need to be thoroughly prepared for every meeting with your divorce attorney. Stewart Law Group has office locations throughout the Valley to make attorney consultations easier and less stressful for you.
Second, schedule your time to keep career goals and educational objectives on track.
The lifestyle you enjoy after the divorce, along with child support obligations and spousal maintenance awards, depends upon income and resources. When at work, focus on those responsibilities so your job performance does not suffer.
Schedule time for coursework if enrolled in college at ASU or elsewhere. Don’t let distress over your divorce derail career objectives.
Third, with everything that’s going on with the divorce, your energy may be tapped at times. Do you have the children with you? Knowing you are under stress, in your everyday parenting be mindful of where your children are and what they are doing at all times. If your children are swimming in the pool, then be there and watch them.
Live the Healthy Lifestyle
Strive daily to achieve good health. Eating well (not binging on junk food), getting regular exercise, sleeping eight hours a night, and dedicating spiritual time will help you manage stress. But if your mental health is declining, then consider professional counseling or therapy.
Are you suffering too much with grief? Do you sleep all the time or have insomnia? Are feelings of guilt, despair, fear, depression, anger, anxiety, or loneliness taking their toll? Take notice of your condition. Listen when friends and family, including your children, tell you that “you’re just not yourself these days.” If close relationships are falling to the wayside, then something is wrong.
5 Tips for Managing Stress in Divorce
Here are five tips to help you cope with the stress of divorce and child custody matters:
1. Open Communications with Your Spiritual Advisor
Open up frequent communications with someone experienced in helping others through these kinds of life challenges. Someone who will listen without being judgmental and can offer mature advice. Talk to a trusted pastor, priest, church elder, or other spiritual advisor trained in assisting families through similar struggles.
2. Enlist Family Members, Friends and Neighbors to Lend a Hand
Pragmatically speaking, separation cuts a family’s domestic labor force by about half. Yet there is still home maintenance, grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, housecleaning, doctor visits, after-school activities, and much more to do. (In households where one spouse handled most domestic duties anyway, separation may be a relief.)
Even when the other spouse promises to continue helping, that would be the exception. The spouse who left the marital home has a whole new set of domestic and financial responsibilities – his or her priorities have changed.
More ly, the spouse who stays in the marital home will find himself or herself standing in the back yard, coffee mug in hand, wondering how to finish the kitchen remodel, request a raise at work, continue college classes at NAU, and raise three children under the age of 12.
A partial solution? Ask for help from people you know. This won’t make up entirely for the other spouse’s sweat-equity, but most people want to help out where they can (no strings attached). Let them.
Reach out to family, co-workers, friends, your church community, and next-door neighbors. Ask for a helping hand with minor home repairs and maintenance, or with picking up the kids from soccer practice while you’re at work. Adjusting to new living arrangements and creating new routines takes time.
Accept outstretched helping-hands so your living situation remains stable.
3. Budget Your Time
Become a scheduling guru. Time management is an essential skill, especially when trying to integrate divorce deadlines and court proceedings into an already busy work week. Manage time well so things get done.
During almost every family law case, there are periods of intense activity involving near-daily discussions with your family lawyer. Then there are periods when nothing seems to be happening. Hot and cold, both bring their own special kind of pressure. Budgeting time reduces the stress associated with both busy and slow periods.
If there is little to be done, then prepare for future proceedings. Do not procrastinate. As emotionally draining as it can sometimes be, put time into your case every day. Stay on top of things. Take an hour each day to organize records into files so you can retrieve documents quickly as your attorney requests them.
Calendar upcoming events. Prepare for each phase of the divorce well in advance. Instead of worrying for two months about an upcoming custody hearing, write down your thoughts and concerns. Outline your parenting plan. Think about witness testimony and jot down notes. Prepare. Budget your time. Stay in control. Keep stress levels in check.
4. Create a Monthly Budget
Where there was once a single household budget, separation means there are now two households being maintained on the same income. Money may be tight.
There will be legal expenses to pay to attorneys, child custody evaluators, forensic accountants, private mediators, and any other professionals involved in the case. Additionally, the judge may issue interim orders for temporary child support and spousal maintenance.
The court may order one spouse (or both) to pay the mortgage, electric bill, and similar debts while divorce is pending, too.
Develop a budget and stick to it. Include all basic living expenses: food, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, telephone, vehicle expenses, insurance, cable or internet service, and so on.
Create your budget now to get a fix on current domestic overhead. Be conservative with your funds and resist frivolous spending.
Being hounded by creditors and bill collectors, or having to file for bankruptcy after divorce, is certain to increase anxiety. Divorce is stressful enough!
5. Join a Support Group or Consider Counseling
Consider participating in an adult divorce support group. Typically, this is a small group of people who meet regularly in a confidential setting to talk about what “going through divorce” is for them.
People share their day-to-day experiences. They talk about dealing with legal challenges, about parenting time, coping with stress, handling budget constraints, and managing changing circumstances.
Knowing you are not alone can be cathartic and therapeutic.
Some level of emotional distress is expected with divorce. But when strong feelings affect your work and your ability to care for your children, then it’s time to reach out for professional help.
When you need more than a sympathetic listener, when your feelings are intensely raw and uncontrollable, consider seeking therapy and treatment from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional.
There are several types of counseling in divorce and family law. Depending upon where things have been and where they are headed, consider family counseling, marriage counseling, and individual divorce counseling.
Divorce counselors, specifically, are mental health professionals who teach coping techniques for managing stress in divorce, helping clients work through the emotional break-up of a marriage.
Experienced divorce counselors are knowledgeable of each legal phase of divorce, too, and can advise how legal proceedings will be conducted and how they may impact clients.
(For instance, explaining the purpose of a child custody evaluation, why the forensic evaluator interviews both parents, the importance of child development in the evaluator’s analysis, and how to prepare emotionally.)
Practicing Self-Care During Divorce
There is a great deal of decision-making in divorce. Decisions that will affect your financial future and new life as a single person.
Determinations must be made for custody and child support, property division, responsibility for debts, payment of spousal support, and so much more.
One of many advantages to participating in divorce counseling is being in better emotional shape to make such decisions. Instead of being reactionary, you learn to manage emotions and employ proper coping techniques.
This allows you to concentrate and analyze core issues.
Divorce is more than a legal process, it is a time of personal transformation. Be kind to yourself. Eat well and get enough sleep. Exercise to release tension. Have fun. Nurture your emotional and physical self.
Some change will come easily, finding an alternate route to the office from a new apartment. Some change will come only with great effort, working through a parenting plan or giving up the marital home.
In every divorce there are things that must be let go.
Talking to a close friend or spiritual advisor, participating in professional counseling, joining a support group, and practicing wellness each and every day will help you manage stress and prepare for life after divorce.
Coping With Separation And Divorce
Going through a separation or divorce can be very difficult, no matter the reason for it. It can turn your world upside down and make it hard to get through the work day and stay productive. But there are things you can do to get through this difficult adjustment.
Recognize that it’s OK to have different feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You also may feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions these will lessen over time. Even if the marriage was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.
Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman; take time to heal, regroup and re-energize.
Don’t go through this alone. Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period.
Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations.
Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it.
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Be good to yourself and to your body. Take time out to exercise, eat well and relax. Keep to your normal routines as much as possible. Try to avoid making major decisions or changes in life plans. Don’t use alcohol, drugs or cigarettes as a way to cope; they only lead to more problems.
Avoid power struggles and arguments with your spouse or former spouse. If a discussion begins to turn into a fight, calmly suggest that you both try talking again later and either walk away or hang up the phone.
Take time to explore your interests. Reconnect with things you enjoy doing apart from your spouse. Have you always wanted to take up painting or play on an intramural softball team? Sign up for a class, invest time in your hobbies, volunteer, and take time to enjoy life and make new friends.
Think positively. Easier said than done, right? Things may not be the same, but finding new activities and friends, and moving forward with reasonable expectations will make this transition easier. Be flexible. If you have children, family traditions will still be important but some of them may need to be adjusted. Help create new family activities.
Life will get back to normal, although “normal” may be different from what you had originally hoped.
Tips for talking to kids …
If you have children, here’s a short list of tips that can help your young children and teens cope.
Reassure and listen. Make sure your kids know that your divorce is not their fault. Listen to and ease their concerns, and be compassionate but direct in your responses.
Maintain stability and routines. Try to keep your kids’ daily and weekly routines as familiar and stable as possible.
Offer consistent discipline. Now that your kids may share time with both parents separately, make sure to agree in advance on bedtimes, curfews and other everyday decisions, as well as any punishments.
Let your children know they can rely on you. Make and keep realistic promises. And don’t overly confide in them about your feelings about the divorce.
Don’t involve your children in the conflict. Avoid arguing with or talking negatively about the other parent in front of your kids. Don’t use them as spies or messengers, or make them take sides.