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Self-Care and Divorce

Keeping It Together when Your World is Falling Apart


A divorce is one of the most stressful, life-changing events you can suffer. In fact, it is second only to experiencing the death of a spouse. In many ways, it can feel the same as you watch your marriage die.


Girl upset
Stressed girl

The Pain and Stress


Divorce is devastating emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. The process is exhausting, whether you wanted it or not. It's the loss of a partnership, dreams, and goals you shared with someone you loved. You're in uncharted waters and everything, your routine, responsibilities, and your home, is in chaos.


Not only is your life a mess, your future is a huge question mark, too. As your life is ripped apart, piece by piece, it may seem you'll never feel whole again. There is stress, stress, and more stress. And this stress creates long-term effects which can be destructive to your health.


The Stress Response


Stress is defined as the natural way the body responds to challenges. For instance, you're kids aren’t cooperating as you try to get them ready for school. Missing the bus is a real possibility. So, this pressure connects with your brain and it sends out a ‘911’ call for stress hormones to respond. These activate your "fight or flight" response (adrenaline). Your heart races and your muscles tense, ready for action. You hit warp speed as you get the kids out the door, just in time.


That quick hit of adrenaline was the rapid response you needed. That's not a bad thing. But when you're in a difficult situation like divorce, this response fires continuously. And your health will suffer. It’s just like a flashlight. When the light is needed, you turn it on. When you're finished, you switch it off. However, if that flashlight is never turned off, the batteries will eventually die.


This is the same for your body. It's been specially designed by God to handle small doses of adrenaline. The rush is there when we need to cope with a challenge. But your body was not designed to take the long-term effects of chronic stress without adverse consequences.


Stress and Your Body


This chronic stress can cause numerous health issues. The extreme stress causes adrenaline to constantly course through your body. This is not a normal stress situation. Consequently, your body remains in the "fight or flight" mode and this is when the damage is done.

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, moody;

  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or at the end of your rope;

  • Difficulty relaxing or calming your mind;

  • Feeling guilty;

  • Experiencing low self-esteem;

  • Loneliness; and

  • Isolating yourself from others.


Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Low energy and fatigue;

  • Headaches;

  • Stomach issues including diarrheaconstipation, and nausea;

  • Changes in appetite - overeating or not eating enough;

  • Aches, pains and tense muscles;

  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat;

  • Insomnia;

  • Frequent colds and infections; and

  • Nervousness.

Mental symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worry and racing thoughts;

  • Forgetfulness and disorganization;

  • Inability to focus;

  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities;

  • Poor judgment.


Divorce is an extremely demanding situation. But are you putting on a brave face and disregarding the warning signs? Are you angry all the time? Is fatigue making it difficult to meet your responsibilities? Do you constantly forget things? Your body is trying to get your attention. Ignoring the messages might work for a while, but just like the flashlight, it will catch up with you.


Constant stress is a real threat to your health and following are just some of the results: 

  • Depression, anxiety and personality disorders;

  • Cardiovascular issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms;

  • Eating disorders;

  • Menstrual problems;

  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss;

  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as acid reflux, gastritis, and irritable colon; and

  • Weakened immune system leading to viral illnesses.


Maybe you believe it's not that serious. Or, maybe you have no strength to stop the train wreck. There are still small steps you can take to lessen the physical impact. The very first one is to practice self-care.


What is Self-care? 

Self-care has become a buzz word and can be confusing. Basically, however, it means finding ways to refresh yourself emotionally and spiritually, replenish yourself physically, and renew yourself mentally, so you can better cope with what is happening in your life.


In case you have some misperceptions in your mind, here is a list of what self-care is not:

  • Escape from your emotions

  • Wine time

  • Whine time

  • Facebook time

  • Merely self-improvement

  • Addictive behaviors (drinking, drugs, shopping)

  • A waste of time or a luxury


There are more things which could be added to the list of what self-care isn't, but hopefully you get the picture.


Understanding the meaning, however, still may not be motivating. Going through the divorce process makes you feel out-of-control in so many ways. And it is normal to try to use all your strength to just hang by a thread. But that's the very reason you need to try. Taking the first step may be difficult, but once you do, you'll see why you need it.


The First Step


As you know, going through a divorce is like trying to keep a thousand plates spinning at the same time. And you are always last on the list. But, knowing what you need is a fundamental aspect of caring for yourself.  And there’s only one way to do it.


You must take the time to acknowledge where you are emotionally. Be honest. Don't pretend things are fine when they aren't. Playing this game with yourself does no good. When you admit your feelings, even just to yourself, it will help you gain some control over the roller coaster ride.


To get started, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you in denial? You may be acting like it's not happening. Fighting the inevitable is exhausting, while accepting the circumstances will help you start focusing on things you can control.


  • Are you angry all the time? Anger is normal in this situation. And, when managed correctly can be a positive thing. However, when it consumes you, this powerful emotion can lead to bad decisions and bad behavior.


  • Are you depressed? Feeling down is typical when going through a divorce. However, you could be on the verge of depression. Being caught up in the chaos of this situation makes it easy to miss the signs. Examining your emotions lets you know if you can address them personally or need a medical professional. 


These can get you started on the journey to your emotional intelligence. Having feelings come fast and furiously is daunting. So, it may take some time to sort through them. Don't let this stop you. There is great benefit in getting to know and understand yourself. This website has some easy information to help you dial down on your frame of mind. You want to thrive, not just survive. 

Tips for Taking Care of You


Improving your welfare doesn't need to be just one more burden on your "do" list. The following tips will give you some suggested places to start.


  1. Take care of yourself physically. Your physical health encompasses more than making sure you don't get sick or taking your vitamins. Focus on simple goals and changes. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

  2. Take care of yourself emotionally. Take the time to sort through the emotions you're experiencing. They will continue to happen, but there are things you can do to manage them so they don't control everything you do.  Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.  

  3. Take care of yourself mentally. The way you think and the things that fill your mind greatly influence your psychological well-being. Just as it's important to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, your mental health is vital as well. Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

  4. Take care of yourself spiritually. Jesus was an excellent model of self-care. People desperately wanted to be near him. So, hundreds of people would gather when he came to town. And even though he loved them, he didn't allow others to control him. Mark 6:31 is just one example. Jesus practiced self-care throughout his ministry by eating healthy, getting enough rest, exercising, and taking time to be alone. Jesus set limits so you can acknowledge and attend to yours.


Successful Self-Care 

Thinking through this information and deciding where to begin may be intimidating. Try to remember the journey is just as important as the end result. Divorce is awful, but it's also an opportunity to become a new and better you. Be patient with yourself and don't give up. Persevere but give yourself permission to take this slowly. Remember, self-care will help you lessen the impact and stress of your divorce, and will enable you to move on and enjoy the next season of your life.




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