Divorce and Wellness: Taking Care of Your Physical Health
The divorce process can feel interminable, especially in a state like North Carolina, which requires a separation period of at least one year as grounds for divorce. This makes the already stress-ridden process drag on about a year longer than it needs to. And if we’re being honest, that’s pretty hard on both the mind and the body. Nonetheless, the last thing you want to do is emerge from the process with a battery of mental, emotional, and physical health issues that will follow you well beyond the temporary (though certainly stressful) divorce process. Self-care anyone? While it may seem silly a divorce self-care routine could be exactly what you need.
While we are not doctors, we do have extensive experience referring clients to the right professionals to help them stay healthy, heal, and thrive (as best as possible) while we handle the legal side of their divorces. Based on the work we do every day with our clients, we’ve learned that there are a few tricks of the trade that our most successful clients use to stay well when everything seems to be going up in flames. Take a look at some of these topics to create your divorce self-care routine.
Embrace Leisure – But Move Your Body
If you are physically exhausted by the demands of your new schedule – court dates, childcare challenges, meetings with your attorney, and more – you probably won’t feel like hitting up the Crossfit gym. But you do need to stay physically active to burn off stress. Consider swapping your pre-divorce workout routine for some leisurely activities that ALSO keep you active. Go for a long walk. Take a dance class. Play badminton with friends. Take a bike ride with your kids. Anything to raise your heart rate and move your body. Because these leisure activities are fun and include other people, they will also improve your mood by increasing endorphins created by movement and social connection.
Beware of Negative Coping Mechanisms
We all have our demons, but some coping mechanisms are healthier than others. When facing challenges, it’s all too natural to turn to the less wholesome ones. But do all you can to resist the urge. Garner support from friends and family to keep an eye on you. Are you hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru more than anyone should? Are you drinking alcohol or taking drugs so you don’t have to feel? Are you binging Netflix instead of getting much-needed sleep? Put the right support network in place to help you dodge or minimize these habits and replace them with others. If needed, engage a therapist to recommend healthier activities for you and, even more importantly, to give you a strategy for when you are tempted to turn to less healthy habits.
Keep Your Doctor’s Appointments
With all the time-consuming responsibilities inherent in the divorce process, it is easy to neglect any appointments that don’t seem pressing. The dentist. The dermatologist. Your annual physical. It is natural: when we are busy, we don’t want one more THING to deal with, think about, pay for, or reschedule for. But the last thing you want to do is put your health on the back burner. After all, you’re not helping anyone if you skip an appointment only to find out a year later that a detectable and otherwise treatable condition has been festering for quite some time. Without your health, nothing else matters.
Get Enough Sleep
When we are mentally and physically exhausted by the divorce process, it is important to get sufficient sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and in times of high stress, we may need even more. Set a sleep schedule and try to stick to it. While we may find that alcohol helps us fall asleep, it disrupts our sleep pattern, resulting in mid-night waking and less restful sleep. Don’t use alcohol in an attempt to get a better night’s rest. Healthier remedies are daytime physical exercise, bedtime reading, or melatonin (though you should confer with your doctor before taking any supplements, including melatonin). And do some research on cultivating good sleep habits, like darkening your room, skipping screens the hour before you go to bed, and not eating heavy foods too late in the evening.
Fall in Love Again…With Your Hobbies
Remember those hobbies you used to love? Maybe it was playing basketball or tennis or going for long hikes in the woods. Or perhaps you used to love riding your bike to the shore, or your daily morning yoga practice. Whatever it was, do those things as often as you can. Our hobbies, especially those that involve physical activity, can infuse our lives with joy and keep our spirits high when everything seems to be in shambles.
It is always the right time to take care of our bodies. But self-care takes on monumental importance when we’re struggling under the weight of a challenge as massive as a divorce. This is not the time to cut corners – rather, this is the time to bring in reinforcements. Do all you can to keep moving (forward), nourishing your body and mind, and giving yourself the grace you need to press on.