The Do's and Don’ts of Managing Stress During Divorce
Posted on October 15, 2019 12:00 AM by Gina
We’ve all heard the horror stories. Spouses being antagonistic, fighting over the children, spending tens of thousands of dollars on attorney’s fees to argue over property, etc. It’s not surprising that these situations are extremely stressful. Yet, even relatively amicable divorces can cause levels of stress that negatively impact not only a person’s emotional health, but also the ability to make good choices in her divorce settlement. On the Holmes-Rahe Scale of stressful life experiences, divorce and marital separation rank second than third respectively, after the death of a spouse or child, and before incarceration and death of a close family member. As a result, those in marital transition are at relatively high risk for developing stress related illnesses. A combination of fear of both the known and the unknown are primary causes. With all of this in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine how a person’s elevated level of stress can also have a negative effect on her decision-making skills before during and after a divorce, resulting in repercussions that could be long lasting. In an effort to reduce the impact of stress, I recommend the following dos and don’ts to my clients in the midst of marital transition.
Learn as much as you can about the divorce process. Schedule a consultation with a CDFA and matrimonial Attorney or Mediator as soon as possible once you begin to seriously consider divorce. Understanding what is involved in the divorce process as well as your rights and responsibilities will empower your decision making from the start, and eliminate much of your “fear of the unknown.”
Put your health first
Marital transition is stressful for all family members, but if you don’t attend to your own needs first, you won’t be in a position to help anyone else.
It’s more important than ever to:
- Get enough sleep
- Maintain healthy eating habits
- Prioritize physical fitness
- Consume alcohol responsibly
Build a network
A major contributing factor to the stress of divorce is the impact it has on relationships outside of the marriage: in-laws, mutual friends, even your own family members. Any of these relationships can be strained or even lost as people feel the need to choose sides. However, having a strong support system is critical for your emotional well being during a divorce.
Strive for the following:
- Nurture your positive relationships and acknowledge that your divorce is also stressful for your family and mutual friends.
- Consider joining a support group for those experiencing a marital transition.
- Aim to expand your social circle by pursuing your hobbies and interests.
Seek professional help
It’s unreasonable to assume that you can manage all of the obstacles you will encounter during divorce on your own. In addition to retaining the services of a CDFA and Attorney or Mediator, depending on your circumstances, you may also want to consider seeking the services of a:
- Mental Health Counselor
- Life Coach
- Personal Trainer
In moments of high stress, your judgment can be flawed. Here are a few scenarios you should be cautious of.
Don’t put your children in the middle
Few topics of marital transition are more emotionally charged than children. During times of high stress and animosity, it can be tempting to use access to your children and/or child support as a means to punish your spouse. This can have a negative emotional impact on your children, put you in legal jeopardy, and prolong your settlement proceedings.
Don’t seek legal or financial advice from anyone who isn’t a professional
Divorce is one of those times in life when you’ll receive a lot of well-meaning, but inaccurate legal and financial advice. Everyone’s neighbor’s cousin’s best friend has a story of how they gamed the system or got the better of their spouse and it can be tempting to heed this misguided advice. However, while there are standard legal guidelines determined by your state, divorce settlements are ultimately subjective, based on the unique financial circumstances of your marriage.
Don’t make settlement decisions based on emotion
The road from marital transition though finalizing a divorce settlement can be exhausting, causing even those in relatively amicable splits make decisions based on emotion rather than logic. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to step back, regroup and be sure that you are agreeing to the terms that will be in your best interest for years to come.
Where to begin
With all of the emotional and practical issues needing to be addressed, you can easily become overwhelmed. Take control by getting organized. Download my
Marital Transition To-Do List to organize your priorities, set deadlines, and track your progress.