Going through separation and/or divorce is very complicated. There is a laundry list of people you need to work with that includes lawyers, real estate agents and mortgage and insurance brokers, among others. Then there are the kids and their needs, as well as work, friends and family. It’s difficult to keep on top of it all at the best of times.
Separation and divorce is extremely stressful, yet you are expected to make clear, level-headed decisions about your future. A tall order for anyone, and it brings up a lot of emotions.
Many people prefer to push their feelings away. It’s hard to acknowledge when stress has gotten so intense you can’t cope.
It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed
It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed, and even to flip your lid. It’s the way the human brain works.
When you flip your lid, your emotions take over. Emotions are an important part of decision-making, and they enable us to react very fast.
In the paleo days, for example, it was important for fear, when faced with a predator, to motivate you to either attack, run or play dead immediately.
But in the modern world, responding on emotions alone—metaphorically attacking, running or playing dead—leaves you vulnerable. This is not ideal, especially at a time when you must make many decisions that will dictate the shape of your future.
How do you know you’re stressed?
Asking for feedback from family and friends you trust (but not your whole Facebook network) can be helpful in helping you notice if your behaviours have changed. Maybe they notice that you are much more uptight than usual, or things that didn’t used to bother you do now. Significant changes in everyday behaviours like eating or sleeping can also let you know that stress is starting to affect you.
When you notice your stress level is reaching maximum, one of the things you can do is ask for support. It might be hard to talk to people you know because you might feel some shame about a “failed” relationship. In this case, you might want to connect with an un-biased mental health professional. They can give you emotional support, and teach you strategies to manage stress and emotions during this incredibly challenging time in your life.
Many people feel this way
Thousands of people go through divorce every year and most experience the same range of feelings. The breakdown of a relationship is stressful, not to mention painful.
The most important thing to remember is that how you are feeling is completely normal—not fun at all, but completely normal. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, mad, sad, ashamed and many other things when you’re separating or divorcing. It’s normal to experience physical symptoms like those listed above.
Empower yourself: seek support
If you cut yourself you would expect to bleed. In fact if you didn’t, you would think something was wrong. The same can be said for emotional pain in divorce. Divorce and separation change your life forever, and it would be strange if you did not have some emotional response to it. It is what you do with that response that will make you resilient and enable you to cope effectively, so that you can then go on to build a new life.
It is sometimes difficult to see know when your stress levels have gotten to high to cope. Here are some of the signs:
Emotional: short fuse; anxious feelings; a sense of being alone; feeling bad about yourself
Physical: low energy; headaches; muscle tension and aches; digestive problems; difficulty sleeping; loss of sexual desire/ability; frequent colds or infections
Cognitive: worrying; racing thoughts; problems with concentration or focus; negative thinking; forgetfulness; disorganization
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