The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is a list of 43 common life events that have been shown to contribute to stress-related illnesses and mental health difficulties. At the top of the scale is the death of a spouse. The next two events listed are divorce and marital separation.
In this blog, we usually focus on the family law side of divorce, sharing legal tips and best practices for ensuring an equitable outcome to a separation. This week, we want to examine the human aspect of divorce; the toll it takes on us in stress, and how to cope with this often-traumatic event.
Stress – The Unspoken Aspect of a Separation
Whether a couple is married, or engaged in a common-law relationship, ending a years-long partnership is rife with stressful occurrences. There’s the need to start over fresh, questions about the dispersal of family property, the loss of a familiar lifestyle, and the impacts upon any children involved.
Any one of these scenarios in isolation can be hugely stressful. When combined, it amounts to the single most stressful life event many of us will go through. To anyone currently going through the separation process, it’s so important to take steps to look after yourself during this extremely challenging time. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, and it’s ok to put yourself first.
Below, we’ve listed five key tips and best practices to support your mental health during a divorce or separation.
Build a Support Network
During a long-term relationship, our focus is often directed mostly towards our partner. They are our trusted confidante, our best friend, and the person we spend the majority of our time with. When that relationship dissolves, there’s a vacuum to fill. If it isn’t filled, feelings of loneliness and despair can permeate, impacting upon our mental health and leaving us stressed. An incredibly effective way to counter this is to build a new support network, one featuring trusted friends and family who you can rely on to keep you feeling positive. These loved ones can answer questions, provide a shoulder to cry on, and show you the path back towards your old self.
Consider Professional Help
If you need help with legal issues, you speak to a lawyer. If you need help with balance sheets, you speak to an accountant. Mental health should be viewed in exactly the same manner. If stress is becoming a problem, it’s important to remember you aren’t alone. Therapists can help manage your emotions and mental health in a divorce, and many of these services are covered under typical employee extended benefits plans.
Develop a New Routine
Suddenly finding yourself without a partner in life is a radical change. For many people, it can feel like they’ve lost a part of their identity. When you feel ready, consider building a new routine featuring your favourite activities. This will help to develop a unique sense of who you are, and what you enjoy doing. Fitness is an incredible thing to work into this new routine, helping to build confidence and alleviate tension.
Work on Self-Compassion
A divorce or separation is a big change. Many of us rush to try to be our old selves too soon, without adequate time to mourn the loss of the relationship. Take adequate time to process the emotions, find new things that make you happy. Maybe it’s time to take that dream trip you’ve been planning, catch up with old friends. Above all else, cut yourself some slack. It’s ok not to be productive, or “switched on” for a while. Put yourself first, and find what feels right for you.
Seek Legal Advice
Divorce and separations are challenging in so many ways. Many of the stresses individuals feel can be traced back to worries about their legal situation, and where they stand going forward. Know that you have support in this endeavour and that you aren’t alone. Family lawyers, like the team at Westside Family Law, are trained to help, and possess years of experience in dealing compassionately with people in your position.
Talk to a Family Law Expert
If you’re going through a divorce, or have questions you would like to ask about the process, the expert team at Westside is standing by to help. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.