Stress can be your friend in divorce but don’t go it alone

Divorce is one of the most stressful life events you’ll ever experience whether you chose to be in this position or not. There’s so much to cope with: anxiety about escalating legal fees, worry about your future, whether you’ll have to move home, the effect on your children, loneliness and dealing with the roller coaster of your emotions.

When we’re affected by stressful events such as divorce and separation, our body experiences the flight or fight response, causing a flood of hormones to be released into our blood streams to help us cope with the stress. The main hormones are adrenaline and cortisol which give us extra energy to run away or fight. This response is an ancient one as part of our brain still thinks it’s 400 million years ago when there were many physical threats to our survival. But these days the brain’s stress response can’t differentiate between an actual physical threat and an emotional threat.

The stress response triggered by divorce can make you feel overwhelmed, like your life is out of control, confused, unable to make decisions or think clearly. It can also have physical effects such as not being able to sleep, low energy, muscle tension, headaches and being more susceptible to infections such as colds and flu.

But you can harness the stress response for your benefit during your divorce journey. Another hormone released during the stress response is oxytocin and it’s the hormone we release when we hug someone. It primes you to do things that strengthen social relationships and is telling you to seek support instead of bottling it up. Oxytocin not only acts on the brain but also the cardiovascular system, it’s a natural inflammatory and allows blood vessels to stay relaxed during stress. Our heart cells have receptors for oxytocin which helps it heal and regenerate. When life is difficult your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you. The more you reach out for support the more you release this hormone and your stress response becomes healthier and you develop emotional resilience.

If you are going through divorce and find it stressful and overwhelming, reach out for support from family, friends, a counsellor, therapist, support groups or a divorce coach. If you are struggling or don’t want to burden friends and family with worries about the divorce or run up costly legal bills, you might find it helpful to seek the support of a divorce coach. A divorce coach provides you with one to one support, guidance and encouragement on your divorce journey, as well as helping you manage the stress of your divorce constructively. The more support you seek, the faster you will recover from the stressful effects of divorce and get through your divorce journey more swiftly than going it alone.

Jane Busby is a divorce coach and an accredited family mediator


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