Dealing With Divorce Stress: Inevitable, but Not Impossible
With or without children there is nothing easy about divorce. Stress comes at the couple from every direction– financial, emotional, social and psychological. Tension, conflict, worry, and painful emotions are inevitable aspects of the divorce process. When problems remain unresolved, chronic stress can result, impacting the physical and/or mental health of the partners. There is a significant body of evidence that shows that unremitting stress can weaken the immune system, lead to depression, and even cause burnout on the job. The effects of stress on the divorcing or divorced couple will depend to a great degree on how they resolve the problems that cause their stress, both individually and as a couple.
When children are involved divorce stress compounds daily. The amount of stress the couple experiences will depend not only on how the basic divorce issues are resolved, but also on how the needs of the children are addressed. When no children are involved, there can be a clearer separation, making it easier to move on. If there are children, and if the needs of the children are a priority, (this is best for the kids!) then the couple will likely have continuing contact.
As a result stressors may arise even after the divorce is done. On going episodes of conflict are not unusual. The couple may fight over who gets the kids, how visitation is working, and/or who is paying for what. Increased or chronic pressure can ratchet up the impact of stress on the couple, and heighten the chances of stress related illness or emotional problems. And let the couple beware. For, if they bring their kids into the middle of conflict, the children may suffer emotionally and may act out, causing even more stress for the parent couple.
In my professional experience counseling divorcing/divorced couples; and in my personal experience as a divorcee, I have discovered that dealing with the stress of divorce is inevitable, but not impossible. Here are five basic tips that will help reduce divorce stress.
1. Accept that divorce is stressful and get mediation assistance if you get bogged down in conflict.
2. Learn basic stress management strategies, particularly the art of relaxation.
3. Get professional counseling assistance if you find that negative thoughts and feelings are controlling your reactions and keeping you and your partner in conflict.
4. If you have children, keep them out of the middle. Do not use them as go betweens or messengers. Do not vent about the other parent to the child. If you follow this tip, you will keep the child’s stress level down and contribute to a lower stress quotient for you.
5. If you have children, find a way to co-parent as amicably as possible with your ex. This will reduce conflict and will make your children’s upbringing significantly smoother, and your own stress level significantly smaller.