Divorce and Lifestyle: Safeguarding your health during and after your divorce
Research indicates that married people live longer than single people and that divorce can broaden that divide even more. It is decidedly easier for single people to slip into a lifestyle of poor diet, lack of exercise or sleep, and drug and alcohol abuse. When the loneliness and trauma of a divorce is added to the equation, self destructive behavior becomes much more common - and much more dangerous. The stress and grief of a divorce can be as devastating as that of losing a loved one or family member, and self care becomes critically important in terms of protecting one's physical and emotional well being.
Emotional maturity and resilience are vital components of surviving and thriving after a relationship ends. It is reasonable to assume that people who are healthy and happy before their marriage falters stand a greater chance of bouncing back from a divorce. Conversely, people who were depressed before the dissolution of their marriage will continue to be so afterward. Further, not only will the depressed partner continue to be depressive, it is likely that divorce will exacerbate the issue as they lose whatever buffer companionship had provided. In fact, research suggests people who divorce and stay single can face greater mortality rates than those who remarry.
The mechanics of maintaining one's mental and physical health after the failure of one's marriage is more or less the same as it would be for anyone else. It is an active decision and subject to the same rules as would apply to anyone else.
Exercise – What's left to say about the positive, stress reducing effects of regular physical activity? It doesn't have to be grueling cross-training or endless weight lifting sessions; take a walk every day, or swim, or dance. Find something you enjoy, and that raises your heart rate moderately, then do that a few times a week. Climb a rock, learn to fence…there's something out there for everyone, and you'll enjoy less anxiety and depression and more self confidence as a result.
Diet – Even more important than exercise is what we put in our bodies. Divorce can magnify any bad dietary habits to the point where they can seriously threaten one's health. Sadness affects different people different ways; some people may binge or overeat while others might stop eating entirely. Extremes in either direction can be dangerous and for some, deadly. Maintaining a healthy diet and eating routine can not only extend health and relieve stress, but will also positively affect mood and energy levels. Snack on nuts, fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water to reduce appetite. In the case of emotion driven lack of appetite, protein shakes and green drinks can help you feed your body even when you have no desire for food.
Maintain a regular routine – Get up, get out of bed. Get to work on time, and go to sleep when you would usually go to sleep. Consistency can be important in coping with the emotional turmoil of a divorce. Deviating from your regular schedule can open the doors to other, more self-destructive behaviors.
Breathe – Actively focus on your breathing, and the world around you. Be in the moment; be in the now. Mindfulness can have an uplifting effect on anxiety and depression levels. Focus on your children, and when you're with them, actually be with them. Take time to appreciate and connect with the many beautiful things that touch your life every day. You will find that it is the simple things that have the greatest impact.
Sunlight – Even if you're a natural night person - perhaps especially if you're a night person - get some sunshine every day. Along with vitamin D, sunlight triggers serotonin production, and helps regulate a normal sleep cycle.
Look After Your Health – The trauma and stress of divorce can lead to higher instance of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and high cholesterol levels. Divorce can also lead to an apathy that may stop one from keeping on top of regular checkups and preventative health maintenance. Actively taking initiative to maintain your health will have a positive effect on your outlook and state of mind.
Have A Support Structure – Particularly in cases of long term relationships, divorce may lead to a sudden social vacuum as friendships based being part of a couple fall away. Isolation at this time can be very dangerous and can worsen depression and self destructive behavior. Reach out to friends and family. Stay engaged. Make new friends far away from anywhere you may have socialized as a couple.
Therapy – Professional counseling can help you sort out painful and conflicting emotions and avoid clinical depression and anxiety.
Be Social But Avoid Rebound Relationships – Emotional turmoil can lead to poor impulse control, and the repetition of unhealthy patterns. Take the time to get reacquainted with yourself, whatever that means for you. Jumping into a new relationship to alleviate feelings of loneliness and grief can lead to even more intense sadness if and when the relationships don't pan out. Give your emotions time to recover before moving toward romance again.
Be Patient – Time and support will help you heal and move past your pain, but it will take time. Don't be afraid to afford yourself and if necessary your children and loved ones that time. It's one of the most important things you can do for them and for yourself.
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