Divorce is a huge source of stress that if left unchecked can put you at risk of health problems. Self-care is a method of coping with divorce that helps you get a handle on stress that both you and your children will appreciate.

By Carolyn Ellis

Divorce is a major cause of stress. Becoming divorced rips through the entire fabric of your life. It affects you not only emotionally, but financially, socially, and in some cases, professionally and geographically as well. Coping with divorce by learning how to take care of yourself in the midst of stress is important not just for yourself, but for your children as well.

Divorce and Stress

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, developed by Miller and Rahe, ranks various life changes with a point scale according to level of stress. A score below 125 means you’re at low risk of stress. A score above 300 puts you at a high risk of stress and potential illness. Just take a look at some of the stress factors that can be involved in a typical divorce:

Example of Factors in a Typical Divorce
Divorce 96 points
Major change in living conditions 42
Change in family get-togethers 25
Major change in health or behavior of family members 55
Major decision about immediate future 51
Decreased income 60
Major change in sleeping habits 26
Major change in usual and/or amount of recreation 28

In this example, this “typical” divorce easily racked up 383 points. That’s well over the 300 threshold points considered to put you at risk of stress-related illness! This puts into perspective what a huge impact divorce can have on your health and wellness and how important it is for you to get the resources and the support you need to cope with this upheaval. For people who face threats to their physical safety, this support might include help from lawyers, the courts, and the police.

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

Think about the safety announcements you hear in airplanes, advising adults to put the oxygen masks on themselves first and then assist their children. If you have passed out from lack of oxygen at 30,000 feet, what good will you be to your children in that state? The same principle applies in divorce. You must be aware of your own needs and take responsibility for taking care of yourself. Your commitment to self-care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself—and your children. When single parents let their own reserves get low, they are more likely to struggle with coping with divorce and leak emotional toxins all over their children.

Here are five simple self-care strategies to get the ball rolling.

1. Give yourself five minutes a day

Self-care doesn’t have to be big, fancy, expensive or time-consuming. Even just taking 5 uninterrupted minutes a day to yourself can make an enormous difference. Read a book, do some conscious breathing or watch the clouds moving across the sky can help lower stress.

2. Find emotional support

Connect to people who can understand and support you in your divorce journey. Talk to an experienced divorce coach or therapist. Look online or in your local paper to see if there are any support groups in your neighborhood. Friends and family can help too, but choose wisely to find someone who will help you move beyond blame and anger so you can heal.

3. Delegate as much as possible

Are there any responsibilities that you have now that you may need to delegate or defer to give yourself some time off? Add names to your babysitter list or consider doing a child-care swap. Ask for help.

4. Appreciate yourself

Acknowledgment is a healing balm to our soul, letting us know that we are doing the best we can with the tools we have. Celebrating your daily successes is so important. Take the time to appreciate yourself for who you are and how far you’ve come, and it makes the divorce journey so much smoother.

5. Be a role model for your children

Human beings have a huge emotional range that encompasses joy and creativity on one end of the spectrum and overwhelm and anger on the other. You can model to your children how to handle all of their emotions, not just the socially acceptable ones. Start by simply naming your feelings. Let your children know “Mommy is feeling overwhelmed right now,” or “Daddy is kind of scared.” Help your children build their own emotional vocabulary.

CE Pitfalls coverExcerpted with permission from the award-winning book The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid So Your Children Thrive After Divorce by Carolyn B. Ellis. Carolyn Ellis is the Founder of ThriveAfterDivorce.com and BrillianceMastery.com. She is an award-winning coach, transformational expert and is also the creator of the award-winning The Divorce Resource Kit. Combining her deep intuitive abilities with her Harvard-trained brain, Carolyn specializes in helping individuals navigate change and uncertainty by tapping into their own inner brilliance and emotional resilience. To learn more or to book a session, please visit www.ThriveAfterDivorce.com.