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Dealing with the stress of divorce: Self-care is important

Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person will ever go through. According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory rates divorce as second only to the death of a spouse. On this well-known scale, the death of a close family member is rated number 5, "Sexual Difficulties" ranks 13th, and "Troubles with the boss" is 30th. "Major holidays" is farther down the list in the 42nd position.

Many of us know that too much stress can suck our energy and ultimately cause serious health problems if it isn't contained. So, what can you do to manage your stress in the midst (or the aftermath) of a divorce? Many experts emphasize the importance of self-care. Here's what that might mean for you.

Managing your stress

Your divorce is a very personal thing. Stress is experienced uniquely and managed differently by each one of us, so there's no prescription that works for everyone. However, numerous medical experts, mental health authorities, spiritual and religious leaders, and health and wellness practitioners would agree on these principles of good self-care:

  1. Avoid medicating your stress with drugs and alcohol. The topic of substance abuse is big and complicated. Use good judgment and get help if you need it. 
  2. Get enough sleep. This is easier said than done. Sleep can help heal our bodies and minds from the effects of stress. Of course, many experts recommend 8 hours per night and suggest going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  3. Eat as well as you can. During times of stress, your body and mind can become depleted of nourishment more easily. Consume as much fresh, energizing food as you can. Take steps to avoid junk food, fast food and binge eating.
  4. Exercise. Most of us know we should exercise more often. Inactivity can beget other physical and emotional difficulties. Going to the gym, running, walking or doing yoga are great, but small steps help, too. Exercise can be useful for clearing your head, getting your blood flowing and increasing your energy.
  5. Be part of a positive community. Whether it's being part of a religious organization you feel comfortable with, spending time with supportive friends or pursuing hobbies in a group, community can be a healing thing.
  6. Take advantage of therapy, counseling or personal coaching. Professional support can make a world of difference.
  7. Listen to your body. Believe it or not, we know ourselves better than anyone else. If your body is telling you to rest, stop drinking or avoid bad social situations, there's probably a good reason.

Make good choices

Divorce is painful, and it can be legally complicated, but there is life and hope on the other end. Making good choices now will help you be your best in the future.

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