Posted on Apr 1st, 2006

Living in the modern world is tough enough without the heartbreak, insecurity, and trauma of splitting from your spouse. Divorce adds a multitude of worries to your already-hectic life: waiting for the outcome of the process; not being sure where you will go or what will happen afterwards; legal bills and other possible financial woes; dealing with the children’s reaction to the situation; the annoyance of having to relocate; and the awkwardness or embarrassment of having to explain to everybody you know that your marriage is no more.

"The loss of a loved one — whether through geographic relocation, divorce, end of a friendship, or death — often triggers feelings of bereavement, abandonment, depression, insecurity, fearfulness, and sometimes anger," says national stress-relief expert Susie Mantell, whose award-winning relaxation audio, Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace, is physician-recommended for stress, sleeplessness, pain, depression, and PTSD. "All of those emotions cause stress on the body-mind-spirit that can be harmful, so we must, at those times, summon support from others (friends/family/health-care professionals we can trust), muster all our inner resilience and resources, and put ourselves in emotional ‘intensive care’."

The stress generated by divorce may seem unbearable at times. But what really matters is not how much stress you have, but how you deal with it. You must take care of your physical self, since how you feel physically affects how you feel emotionally (and vice-versa); you must also learn how to adjust your mental attitude to overcome stressful periods, either through outside stimulation and activities or through your thoughts.

The following basic remedies are useful places to start to help ease yourself through any tense times.

Caring for your Body

One of the most basic ways to keep your energy and spirits up is to take proper care of your physical health. This may seem like simple common sense, but for many people, it takes a lot of willpower to sidestep old habits or persevere with new routines. You’ve probably heard the cliche, "you are what you eat." The quality and variety of food you take in directly affects your body and your emotions, so improving your diet is a vital step. Ask your doctor to recommend a nutritional specialist who can work out a plan based on your needs and goals. If finances permit, book a week or two at a health spa like Canyon Ranch rather than going on a booze-cruise for your vacation: you’ll learn what your body needs to help improve your spirits — and your quality of life.

"Make sure to get professional advice, such as recommendations and approval from a doctor," advises fitness expert Teresa Taylor-Dusharm, the operational director of Advocate Health Care’s prevention-focused product lines. "Work with fitness professionals who can advise you on what levels to work at." If done safely, exercise can be a tremendous benefit to your mind, body, and soul. "Some relaxation exercises are good for your mental and emotional state, whereas other exercise has physiological effects that return your body to a healthy state."

Beneficial Mind Games

Now that you’re meeting your body’s needs for proper nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and sleep, it’s time to start working on your mental and emotional fitness. "Your attitude creates stress, so you need to revise your attitude to decrease the stress in your life," says L.A.-based psychologist Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., who runs an intensive weekend retreat workshop on anger four times a year. In order to start taking action to reduce stress, you need a positive attitude to move forward. "Energy follows thought. If your thoughts are positive and upbeat, you’ll have more energy. But if you see through the lens of the glass being half-empty rather than half-full, your energy will be low."

In order to keep your issues from driving you crazy or affecting your health, you should list your priorities. Take care of what needs to be done or dealt with right away — and save less urgent tasks and problems for later. Get organized. Clear your desk of all non-priorities so that only immediate concerns are showing. This way, you will make steady, forward progress instead of getting stuck in a worrying tailspin; focusing your mind on the problem or task at hand will block out thoughts of the others further down on your priority list. Professional Help

If your anxiety has gone beyond the point where you’re able to help yourself, you should seek professional assistance — from a medical doctor if stress is pushing you toward ulcers and heart problems, or from a mental-health professional to help you work through your issues.

Dr. Brandt suggests seeking help "when the things you’ve been doing don’t work and you need an outsider’s viewpoint: somebody with a fresh perspective who can help you see your issues in a different light." If you had a broken leg, you would seek professional help to fix it. The same is true for a broken heart or spirit. A professional can help you get on the right track to inner peace or health.

"You want to have a balance between articulating or expressing your feelings and living your life normally," adds Bernstein. "If that balance is missing, it may be time to be evaluated by a social worker or therapist." She recommends seeking help "if you start to become a victim of your emotions and are not voluntarily in charge of expressing them. If you have sleep disturbance and feel fatigued every day, if you’re crying at a lot at inopportune times, or if you’re very easily angered. Workshops are another way to do some healing work. There are many personal-growth workshops in every area that offer help with stress management."

Facing the World Again

Ultimately, your ability to withstand stress depends not so much on how much of it you have in your life or what’s causing it, but on how you cope with it. "Remind yourself that there’s really no such thing as stress," says Dr. Dyer. "Stress is an illusion — it’s a matter of how you choose to process every event. Every situation is an opportunity for you to make something positive out of it. You have the choice to avoid dwelling on thoughts that weaken you: such as how much you dislike a person, or thinking about bad things that are happening to you. If you fill yourself with shame, anger, hate, or anguish, you’ll have low energy. But high energy — or energy of light — defeats stressful actions."

Above all, don’t abandon hope. Keep a positive attitude about yourself and where you’re heading. "Where there is life, there is always hope," says Mantell. "Hope has great power. You do need to make realistic plans, but sometimes you have no idea what is truly possible. So it’s a good idea not to put too many limitations on what you hope for. Hope makes all things bearable, and somehow gets us through the most stressful moments of our lives. And if we are very lucky and hope very hard, we just might see ourselves make some remarkable changes over time."

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Kelly Kennedy is the Communications Specialist for MindComet Corporation, a full service marketing agency for Fortune 500 companies and international conglomerates. Kelly specializes in public relations strategies focused on personal finance. Kelly has been author to hundreds of articles focusing on finance. She also acts as a contributing author for a wide variety of websites and newsletters. Kelly holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing from the University of Central Florida.

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