Dealing with Stress During a Divorce or Separation

Going through a divorce or separation are two of the most stressful things you can do. On the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory produced by the American Institute of Stress of the 43 most stressful life events, divorce and separation are right at the top, #2 and #3. The one event that ranked higher is the death of a spouse.

We know that a high level of stress can lead to sickness and put you at higher risk of developing the disease. Excess stress can cause heart-related problems and can be a trigger for stroke.

In an article on, Dr. Steven Tovian, Ph.D., director of health psychology at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, is quoted as saying stress also directly affects a part of the nervous system that controls the glands, heart, digestive system, respiratory system, and skin. Any pre-existing conditions you have can become exacerbated by stress.

If you go through a divorce or separation, it’s inevitable you will deal with stress. It’s critical for your health that you deal with it in a productive way to protect your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Best Way to Deal with Stress

My number one suggestion for dealing with stress is to exercise. And I don’t say this just because I am a marathon runner, although I can vouch personally for the power of exercise.

Exercise helps increase the production of endorphins, which make you feel better. It can relax you and improve your sleep. If regular exercise has never been a part of your routine, now is a good time to find something you love to do, whether it’s running, bicycling, dancing, or just walking. Try to engage in some physical activity you enjoy 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week.

Here are some other ways to deal with stress.

  • Try to stay positive. Try not to dwell on the negative or focus on your problems too much.
  • Engage in activities you enjoy, like reading, cooking, yoga or going out to dinner.
  • Try to maintain a regular schedule. You will feel more in control and able to handle stress better if you have a routine and are sleeping at regular hours.
  • See a therapist or counselor if you feel you are unable to cope or feeling overwhelmed.
  • Get massages. In addition to its many other benefits, massage can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Be sure to eat right. A healthy, balanced diet is also a key to optimizing your health during times of stress.
  • Drink in moderation. If you find yourself overindulging, think of other ways to deal with your elevated levels of stress.
  • Get some sunshine every day, which boosts the brain’s serotonin supply.
  • Listen to music. Listening to music you enjoy can improve your mood and help you deal with negative thoughts.

For more information on stress and how it affects you, check out this Fact Sheet on Stress from the National Institute of Mental Health.