A divorce is unquestionably one of the most stressful events someone can experience. Life as you have known it is dramatically and irrevocably altered. Fundamental, foundational aspects of your existence—things you may have taken for granted—must be re-examined, negotiated, and ultimately may be determined by a third party.
Whether it’s where you live, the custody arrangements for children or pets, the division of assets and earnings, or just the fracture of a relationship you expect to last forever, all of these issues are life-altering. When dealing with the dissolution of so many of the certainties you once depended upon, it’s easy to move into a place of constant anxiety. This places an unhealthy, unsustainable amount of stress on your mind and body.
As a divorce attorney—having gone through a divorce myself—I have experienced firsthand how these stressors negatively affect both mental and physical well-being.
People often come into my office with their shoulders hunched up to their ears due to stress, anger, sadness, resentment, and fear. Stress affects everyone differently, and I am not a mental health professional; however, my experiences both professionally and personally have provided me with the ability to share what has helped me get through such stresses, especially during my own divorce.
I’ve found that the first step toward healing is actually to take a step back. Try to get perspective on the situation. Slow down, give yourself a bit of space, and look for ways you can care for you. Over time, as I develop trust with my clients, I am privileged to watch their fears and apprehensions begin to dissipate, and to see their confidence begin to grow. I am grateful to bear witness to their growth. There’s nothing more gratifying than to see—and to help—my clients embrace the next chapter of their new lives.
Here are the strategies that I’ve seen work for my clients—and the ones I know made all the difference in seeing me through to my own new beginning.
1. Sweat it out.
It might sound cliché, but that’s because it works. Truly, the best way I have found to relieve stress is through exercise. Whether it’s a run, a class at Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle, a workout with my personal trainer, or boxing to relieve anxiety and release aggression, I came to depend upon the adrenaline rush of an all-consuming workout. But what works for me might not work for you. If those high-intensity workouts don’t do it for you, try going on a hike or even a walk. Getting out and moving around is beneficial to both mental and physical health—and you get added benefits from doing it outdoors.
Simply put, exercise releases endorphins in your brain, which fight stress, minimize the discomfort of exercise, block feelings of pain (physical and emotional), and are even associated with feelings of euphoria. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Exercise made all the difference in my journey to the mindset of resilience I needed to make it through my divorce.
2. Don’t skimp on self-care.
It’s important to commit to investing time into taking care of yourself. I could’ve languished in bed, depressed, when I was in the throes of my divorce, but I chose instead to discipline myself to fill my empty hours with things that nourish me—mind, body, and soul. I still get up at dawn every day to make time for a workout because it clears my mind and gets me ready for the challenges I will face—both personally and professionally. A recent study from Harvard Medical School even shows that exercise improves memory and critical-thinking skills. Make sure, even during the most hectic of days, you set aside some time to focus on yourself and your well-being.
3. Go outside your comfort zone. (You won’t regret it.)
Once you’ve boosted your resilience through exercise and nurtured your internal balance with self-care, challenge yourself to take on a new endeavor. Learn to cook; travel to a country you’ve always had an interest in; take ballroom dancing classes. It’s been proven that people who engage in new activities are more likely to focus more on the positive aspects of their life.
Though it may feel unfamiliar—and maybe even a little uncomfortable—you’ll experience incredibly positive feelings if you stick with it. For example, I never thought of myself as a boxing enthusiast, but after taking a few classes, I found that I absolutely loved it. It gives me an outlet for my stress that also makes me feel stronger both physically and emotionally.