To move past those feelings of guilt and shame around divorce, I first had to…
The stress of divorce is up there with the most difficult of life experiences. It’s frequently quoted that the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale indicates that divorce is the second highest life stressor, second only to the death of a spouse.
Most likely we all know what stress feels like. It’s uncomfortable at best, heading rapidly towards panic at its worst. But do we know what stress actually is?
Tough love alert!
(I know – its early in the post to have one of these, but bear with me 😉 )
I have a question for you. Is stress something that is done to us? Or is it something we do to ourselves? Ok, that’s two questions.
Put another way. Is stress something we can blame others for, or is it something we can take control of and master?
So let’s unpick that a little.
Originally, (which apparently was when we lived in caves) stress was a response to a life-threatening situation. Often the example is given of being threatened by a sabre-toothed tiger. The body’s response is to provide energy in the limbs to either run away or to fight the threat. So fight or flight was the stress response of the body then, and still is today. The idea is that once the threat is gone the body can go back to balance.
Good decisions are hard when in high stress
The difficulty arises because, over time, we’ve developed a stress response pattern to pretty much any type of perceived problematic situation or pressure. It doesn’t just apply to a physically life-threatening occasion.
From there a stress response can become a habitual one rather than a response to genuine danger. It can even be triggered if somebody says something we don’t like or don’t agree with. So an event like divorce, a genuinely life changing circumstance that feels as though it is threatening our security, is going to trigger stress.
The problem here is the body doesn’t know the difference between a genuine life-threatening situation and one that is more of an emotional response. If we send the stress signals, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. If the stress response stays high over a period of time the body never has a chance to go back to its balanced state. As a result the internal organs get depleted and ill health can follow. It also means that mental responses are very much on a black or white line of thinking. It’s hard to make good, balanced decisions when the body is in high stress or panic mode.
What can we do for ourselves to ease the stress of divorce?
Stress also happens when there is a gap between where you are and where you want to be. If you feel you have no control over getting where you want to be then obviously the stress is exacerbated.
That is when it’s really important to come back to asking what we can do for ourselves.
In the video above, and the two others that go with it (see the links below) I go into several techniques to help you get unstuck from the repeating tape loop of stress.
Don’t forget to breathe
The first thing to do is pause and do some gentle deep breathing. That may sound too simple, but don’t underestimate how profound it can be. If you practice so it’s second nature it will make a big difference. It helps quieten the mind, gives you space to respond rather than jumping straight in, and is often the space where a solution to the issue will appear.
Breathe down into the abdomen just below the navel and by breathing and focusing there the thoughts quieten, and you stop that shallow breathing which feeds those busy thoughts.
If you’ve started to deep breathe whilst reading this it’s likely you can feel a calmness approaching already. Just by that simple action. Try stay in that place until that calmness comes through. It can be really helpful habit to get into.
By quietening the mind you are bringing the energy back into balance. From here you are going to be in a healthier place. You’re also going to be able to make better decisions because you will feel less scattered.
There are two more tips to help you reduce your stress and come back to a place where you are more comfortable in the video above.
There’s also even more about mastering stress during and after divorce on these additional two links below, so check them out and let me know how you get on.
Cheering you on in your new life,
Have you checked out my book ‘Rise Again After Divorce’ yet?
It’s available as an eBook, paperback and on audio and you can find it on Amazon here