Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events. In fact, research shows that ending a marriage is second only to the death of a spouse as a predictor of illness. So in order to stay healthy, it makes sense to incorporate stress-reduction techniques early and often throughout the process. Here are three suggestions:
  1. Find an emotional outlet. It is common to focus on the loss you feel at the end of a relationship. While you may be tempted to suppress these unpleasant feelings, doing so will prevent you from moving past them. Make an effort to confront your negative emotions by talking them out with supportive friends or a therapist. It is normal to want to isolate yourself, but relationships are important. The end of your marriage does not mean that you must go through life alone. Putting your thoughts and fears on paper can also help you articulate your feelings and gain some clarity about your past, present and future.
  2. Practice self-care. Stressful times require that you become more intentional about taking care of yourself. Eating nourishing, nutrient-rich foods will give your body the fuel it needs to maintain your energy levels. Regular exercise can lower your stress levels and provide a healthy distraction from your worries. Treating yourself to something you love, such as a round of golf or massage, can alleviate stress.  Creating space for relaxation is essential also, whether it’s reading a good book, doing yoga or mediation, or taking a nap. Self-care is essential to the healing process.
  3. Feel gratitude. A breakup is painful and can make it difficult to look past your immediate feelings of pain and loss. Taking the time at the beginning and end of each day to recognize the many gifts you have been given can increase your sense of well-being. Try pausing at various times during the day to remind yourself, “I am grateful.” Some people find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal. Consciously choosing to be grateful on a regular basis can brighten your outlook on life.
Establishing these three healthy habits can help anyone reduce stress. They can be particularly helpful if you are experiencing the disruption of divorce.
All of us want to be the best parents we can be. We want our children to feel loved and supported. We want to share with them their disappointments as well as their successes. When parents divorce, the family faces new challenges. Parents can feel overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable emotional and financial issues needing resolution. However, divorce does not excuse you from performing the most important job of your life: parenting your children. Much of the advice about co-parenting deals with your relationship with your former spouse. However, you alone can powerfully influence your children’s divorce experience. Here are three important actions you can take to help your children adjust to the transition from one household to two:
  1. Realize that it’s not about you. This is so critical that it bears repeating … it’s not about you! Your children need your love and support, especially during times of change. It’s your job to provide that love and support. If possible, choose a divorce process that keeps your children out of the middle. Do whatever is necessary to get over the reasons for the divorce. You will be a healthier person if you can find a way to let go of past resentments. If you need help doing so, find a good therapist and do the work. If you’re reluctant to do it for yourself, do it for your kids!
  2. Set a positive tone. Your attitude toward life is contagious and your children will “catch it.” Tune out our culture’s message that divorce is always bad for kids. Tune out the negativity expressed by well-meaning friends and family, who may be more than eager to share their stories. Work on reducing your reactivity to everyday situations through relaxation, mediation or yoga. Your kids are watching you to gauge how things are going. Show them that you’re all right. This doesn’t mean pretending that all is perfect. Life presents many challenges. Divorce can be an opportunity for you to model resiliency.
  3. Listen. Make time each day to be fully available to each of your children. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of normal, everyday life. This is especially true when you’re in the process of redefining “normal.” Turn off the TV and cellphones for a few minutes each day so that you have each other’s undivided attention. Encourage your child to share her feelings and experiences. Ask open-ended questions, which invite sharing without pressuring them. Regular check-ins will make it more natural for your children to express themselves when they experience problems.
Try to be mindful of these three suggestions. Remind yourself that how you accept situations in your life will influence your children’s resiliency in theirs.