Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. What tops the list of most stressful life events for most people is moving, break ups, divorce—the latter of which involves dealing with the first two. So if you’re getting divorced and feeling stressed out about it, go easy on yourself. You’re not alone in this — no matter how isolated everything you’re dealing with is making you feel.
How you react to divorce stress is what matters. People cope with stress in a lot of ways—and not all of them are healthy.
So without further ado, here are some positive ways to handle divorce stress:
1. Learn how to enjoy your own company
Yes, we know we just told you you’re not alone in this. And we meant it. Your friends and family members are there for you. There’s an entire world out there filled with other divorced women who understand exactly what you’re going through. We should know because we work with some of those women every single day.
Even so, we know that a person can understand that she has a support network and still feel utterly alone. And yet, it’s important to learn how to be alone. Sometimes there’s a reason we don’t enjoy our own company, a reason why we don’t want to be left to our own devices, to mull in our thoughts. Instead of avoiding that, confront it.
Staying active is about more than simply losing or maintaining your weight. Studies have proven that exercise gives people more energy and improves their focus. You need both of those things if you are deciding or navigating your divorce. You need both of those things afterward, too, on your divorce recovery journey. You don’t have to get a gym membership to stay fit either. You could take up tennis if you prefer to make a game of exercise, or you can go hiking if exploring nature is more your thing.
3. Unclench your muscles
Have you ever been “relaxing” only to suddenly notice your shoulders are all the way up by your ears? When we feel stressed out, our muscles tense up, like our bodies are physically trying to keep it all together when our minds feel too strained to do much of anything. You can help your muscles truly relax with a little self-care—meditate, take a hot bath, try to get more sleep, or if possible, treat yourself to a massage.
4. Spend time in nature
So many of us wake up indoors, drive our cars to the office, and spend our days sitting beneath fluorescent lighting until we rinse and repeat. On a day-to-day basis, how much time are we actually spending outside? And yet, for centuries, humans lived their lives surrounded by the great outdoors, tuning into mother nature’s clock because their very lives depended on it.
Sure, our lifestyles have changed, but the research demonstrates that our minds and bodies still crave nature and greatly benefit from time away from city life. In nature, we can slow down. A 90-minute walk in nature reduces your brain’s efforts to dwell on the negative. And spending multiple days in nature can improve problem-solving skills by 50 percent. That’s proof that sometimes we have to step away from a problem, from ourselves, to see things more clearly.
5. Find a hobby that you can throw yourself into
Don’t be afraid to get creative. You can take up knitting or join a book club. You can reignite your love of reading—audiobooks are especially great to put on while taking care of domestic duties or slogging through your daily commute.
Anything that requires an intense level of focus is perfect because your mind won’t have the opportunity to be sidetracked by whatever’s bothering you at that moment. Try out things like painting, solving puzzles, climbing, cooking, kickboxing, yoga, archery, or even learning a new language. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then stop and pivot to another activity. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nourishing your divorce recovery.
6. Take a break from activities that trigger you
Social media, for one, puts people in an endless loop of comparing themselves to others. Life looks so much better through a filter. It’s so easy to convince yourself that the version of people you see online matches the reality. But do yourself a favor: don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides. What’s more, social media is how many of us keep up with breaking news. And let’s face it, most of what’s on the news is triggering these days.
Being an informed citizen is a worthy goal, but the truth is that all this information doesn’t really serve most of us in our daily lives. While it can feel like everybody spends more time interacting with people online than they do in their “real” lives, social media is a choice. And it’s one that you can opt out of for however long you need, along with any other triggering activities in your life.
7. Talk it out
Keeping your feelings bottled up inside is a recipe for disaster. At some point, they’ll come pouring out of you whether you’re ready or not. Instead, find someone who you feel comfortable talking to about whatever’s vexing you openly. That might mean finding a therapist, divorce coach, or joining a smart, facilitated support group, or making a point to meet up regularly with close friends or family members. It’s not so much about leaving these conversations with solutions to all your problems, but the mere act of speaking your truth can work wonders on your mental health.
Ultimately, there isn’t any one way to handle divorce stress. Often times it’s about finding a routine. Find a group of people or activities that make you feel grounded, and then lean into that newfound sense of calm.
Visualize what your next chapter really looks like—what do you need from life, whom are you with, what does a typical day look like? Take a deep breath, then set about making it happen. Good things don’t always happen in one fell swoop. Appreciate the process. You’ll get there, step by step.
This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, helping you move forward the healthiest way possible, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process
*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.