When you go through a major life crisis like a separation or divorce, there is never a shortage of stress. Often emotions go into overdrive, you cannot stop thinking about what should have happened, replaying what did happen, worrying about what might happen. Your brain keeps cycling on the same issues and it is difficult to turn it off. You are under a lot of stress and functioning well can become a major challenge.
Stress is what you feel during times of adversity. Our ‘flight or fight response’ is triggered and the adrenaline that you need to fight or run away rushes to your defense and creates a tremendous boost in energy to put up a good fight or make a quick escape. In ancient times when you needed to run from or fight off a tiger, this was very useful.
Fighting and running away from your problems is rarely an ideal solution in our society and may result in very destructive and negative outcomes. With no quick solutions to your issues, you may sustain long periods with high levels of stress. This can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Your ability to function well decreases as stress increases. You may find it difficult to eat, sleep, focus and even perform basic tasks. Your ability to think through and solve problems with intelligence and creativity reach an all-time low when you need them most.
Self-care routines can help turn down the stress levels you are experiencing by creating a few minutes of much-needed relaxation. Positive coping strategies will lessen your stress in the short term and can help you sort out solutions. Negative coping strategies, like alcohol, for example, can cause more stress and worse problems in the long term.
Some positive coping strategies you can try:
- Get emotional. Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. It is okay and normal to feel very emotional. It is okay to cry. It is okay to feel sad and mad. It is also okay to feel elated and relieved. Break ups are often a mix of polar opposite feelings. Feel your feelings – try not to suppress them because they will surface eventually, so why not let them out now rather than let them fester. Do let them out in a safe environment with trusted people or alone. It is okay to be upset but not okay to take it out on others.
- Get writing. Start a journal, write lists, letters or just scribble on scraps of paper. Write whatever you want. Getting things down in writing helps release some of the emotion and helps to clarify your thinking.
- Get thankful. Practice gratitude. Write down or think of at least three things you are grateful for every day.
- Get physical. Move your body! Walk, run, hike, swim, do yoga, ride a bike, canoe, ski. Pick your favourite sport and release your excess energy in a positive way.
- Get learning. Start a new hobby that will bring you joy. Join a class or group activity and learn about something you have always been interested in. What have you always wanted to try but have not been able to until right now?
- Get creative. Start a dream board. Putting pictures of things you want in your life on a bulletin board or in a scrapbook helps focus you on positive outcomes that are possible instead of dwelling on the unknowns of your future as you go through change.
- Get social. Visit friends and enjoy their company. Remember that you are not alone. Others have gone through this before and some are going through it right now. Look for support groups and services in your community.
- Get absorbed. Find ways to release the stress by taking yourself outside your own head and into the world of books or movies.
- Get laughing! Laugh as much as possible. It really does help your mood and outlook.
- Get silly. I found a great release was having pillow fights with my children. We would let go of a lot of pent up emotions and end up in a giggling heap all snuggled up which was really pretty wonderful and a great memory looking back.
- Get spiritual. Spirituality is very personal and some people meditate, some pray, some just look for still moments or lessons to improve their lives.
- Get into being truly present. It really is a gift! Stay in the now and focus on getting through each day one minute at a time. Easy to say and difficult to do. When you find yourself reliving the past, consciously bring your focus back to the present moment. When you find yourself worrying about the future, bring yourself back to the current moment. Concentrate on your five senses. Sight, sound, smell, feel and taste. What is in this present moment? Really look around you, take in all the details, the sounds, smells and sensations that make up this moment in time.
- Get focused. Focus on the simple things in life that give you pleasure like the sun warming your skin, warm water on your hands while you wash, the warmth of a snuggly child or pet, green grass, blue skies, beautiful snowflakes – gifts that you receive when you are present in the moment but miss if your thoughts are elsewhere.
- Get help. Know that if you really are having difficulties you may need professional help. Talk to your doctor, therapist, church or Employee Assistance Program to determine how to proceed. There are services available to help you.
- Get going. Do things. Start setting goals. Take small steps to get where you want to be. Live within your means. Sort your issues out and get control of what you can control. It feels good to face the future with both feet on the ground ready for whatever life throws at you next.
Thanks for your time! If you are going through a divorce, separation or just a difficult time I hope you find my ideas helpful. Remember you are not alone! If you or someone you know would like help with the journey please contact me.
The Separation Project Coach!
P.S. Please note that new research also talks about the benefits of stress in our lives. If we see it as a positive stress can be a positive. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside to Stress, delivers a great TED talk on the benefits of stress and how your perceptions can change the effect of stress on your body! Check it out: