They say that divorce, along with the death of a loved one and moving house, is one of the most stressful experiences. In this blog we discuss what stress is and why it is so prevalent amongst divorcees. We also look at some useful tips provided by the NHS to reduce the impact of divorce.
All of us strive to have orderly and routine driven lives – whether we are aware of this or not. This is because we instinctively want to feel safe and secure. As soon as something disrupts our routine, we feel stressed. As we get older and go through life, different incidents are thrown at us and we experience challenging situations. We learn that we can’t control everything and how to cope with breaks from our normal existence and everyday pressure.
When we feel that our world has been turned upside down by an even such as divorce, the stress that we can suffer can be overwhelming. As well as stress, divorce can cause anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Paula Hall, a relationship therapist at Relate explains, ‘”There’s a lot to think about during a divorce, particularly looking after children, telling your parents and dealing with their emotions, moving house, dividing possessions, setting up bank accounts, and continuing your job… This can affect sleep which can cause tiredness, exhaustion and a lack of focus and concentration.”
Paula has identified seven steps for coping which have been published on the NHS website at http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/healthydivorce.aspx.
- Accept the reality of your situation
Ask yourself questions about what happened and try to understand what went on beneath the surface. For example, if the other person had an affair, try to understand what led them to do that. Similarly, if you grew apart, think about how you’ve changed since you first met.
- Manage your emotions
The most common emotions people experience during a divorce are grief, fear, anger, resentment, doubt, regret and guilt. At this early stage in particular you need help and support from friends. You also need to give yourself time and space. Some techniques of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can really help, such as changing negative thoughts and learning how to be optimistic.
- Develop strategies for personal growth
Recognise your strengths and your weaknesses, and develop an action plan. The action plan involves setting goals. For example, if you know you’ll struggle with loneliness, decide how you will deal with this. This will build your self-esteem and help you manage your feelings, such as missing someone.
- Let friends and family help
Identify your support network. Think about the people who are already there for you. But also recognise that some relationships may be challenging, such as friends who will be hard to socialise with or a family member who might say, “I told you it’d never work”. Think about the relationships you want to strengthen. If you’re fairly good friends with someone you work with, see them more often. Or maybe you could renew contact with someone who has been through a divorce.
- Deal with money and practical matters
Think about your financial and practical resources and challenges. This might include how to release some of the equity in your house, or how you can make money during the free time you now have. It may also include things as simple as how to use a lawnmower or the washing machine, or how to cook for the children when they’re staying with you. It’s often these practical things that make people feel like they can’t cope.
- Communicate effectively with your ex
This is another area that can cause a huge amount of stress. If you have children, learning to communicate effectively is very important. This involves trying not to get angry, managing your emotions, and entering into conversations with a clear idea of what you want to achieve without getting drawn into old arguments.
- Set goals for the future
It’s important to adopt the belief that “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. This could mean being single, being satisfied, dating and finding love again, as well as realising your hopes, dreams and ambitions.
“Divorce can be devastating and painful, and there will be bad days,” says Paula. “But negative thinking leads to negative emotions, which lead to bad health, so it’s important to try to think positively.”
Paula is keen to stress the potential for a positive outcome. She says: “Divorce is an opportunity for change. There are lots of things you can’t do if you’re married. People compromise and put things to one side, such as hobbies or even careers. A divorce is an opportunity to think about the things you loved but might have let go of, while recognising that you can reshape your future.”
At Slater Heelis we recognise that it is important to be mindful of these issues and the difficulties that our clients face. We help our clients through this challenging time by encouraging them to think about and deal with the practical and financial matters that matter most. We will communicate with your ex or your ex’s solicitors in a conciliatory and sensitive manner. We will protect your best interests and guide you through the process of divorce as efficiently and effectively as we can. If you think we can help you, then please call 0161 969 3131 and arrange an appointment to speak to one of our divorce solicitors.