Guest post by Karlynn Quinn
A life-altering transition like divorce can trigger stress and many different emotions, both good and bad. Depending on the circumstances of the separation, it can lead to a dive in self-confidence and produce overall confusion on steps to take next. In times of change, it’s not uncommon to allow your emotions to get the best of you, leading to increased stress and turmoil.
It’s important during a divorce to be good to yourself, address your feelings, and take things one step at a time. Feeling better won’t happen all at once, and often doesn’t happen exactly when you want it to. Recognizing your divorce stress and dealing with it is essential in order for you to move forward and lead a productive, healthy life.
Oftentimes, when we think of stress, we think about the obvious tell-tale signs. Heart palpitations, a surge of fear or uncertainty, uneven breathing. However, stress displays itself in many physical forms which can signify that you’ve let it go too far. Here are a few signs that the stress from your separation is affecting you physically and some tips on how to work through them:
During periods of excessive stress, it’s not abnormal to feel restless and even experience insomnia at bedtime. This can lead to low energy throughout the day and extreme fatigue. Stress can make your body shift into fight or flight mode leaving you with more energy at the wrong time, oftentimes when you should be resting instead. Additionally, prolonged stress can take a toll on your body and make you tired no matter how much sleep you’re getting.
Your skin is one of the most visible ways stress presents itself. Your adrenal gland releases the hormone, cortisol, during times of stress. This can lead to a hormonal imbalance causing increased acne breakouts. Furthermore, conditions like eczema or psoriasis can worsen due to stress-induced inflammation. Stress can even lead to an outbreak of hives, causing a bunch of white, itchy bumps on the skin. On the other hand, feeling burnt out can cause you to neglect taking care of yourself altogether, resulting in these skin troubles. If it feels like these skin outbreaks are happening randomly, it’s a good indication that stress is the underlying factor.
If you notice that you’re constantly catching a cold or other illness, divorce stress is likely the culprit. Times of emotional duress can weaken your immune system and therefore make you more susceptible to illness. A weak immune system can typically be a sign that something bigger is going on.
Digestive issues can often be linked to excessive stress. Symptoms, like diarrhea or constipation, can be indicators, especially if you typically don’t experience these problems. This can also be associated with changes in appetite due to prolonged worrying. For some people, divorce stress manifests itself into a lack of appetite, while for others, turns into a need for comfort food. This fluctuation can confuse your body and lead to intestinal problems.
If you begin to notice yourself developing headaches more often, this can be a key indicator that the stress you’re experiencing is taking a physical toll. Headaches can be triggered by a variety of different factors, but if you have a tension headache with pain on both sides of your head and down your neck – this is plausibly a stress headache.
Most of us have had a nightmare at one point in our lives. They’re vividly realistic and can wake you up from even the deepest of sleep. Psychological triggers, such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can cause nightmares. An extended period of experiencing these can impact your quality of life and even increase your anxiety with a cyclical effect.
Here’s What You Can Do:
Create a consistent bedtime routine. Start by giving yourself an hour or two before you’d like to fall asleep to wind down, both mentally and physically. This time can be spent reading, doing a face mask, or doing some restorative meditation. It’s also important to put your phone or tablet away during this time. Both the negative effects of blue light on sleep and the compulsion to keep checking your phone will make it very difficult to get a good night’s rest. Lastly, only go into your bed when it’s time to sleep and do this around the same time each night. This will allow your body to adjust and get more rest.
Make a conscious effort to take care of yourself. This involves drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious food, and keeping up with your skincare routine. Once you start letting these things go, you’ll find you’re just adding onto existing stress. Focusing on healthy habits will keep you feeling your best and help prevent unnecessary stressors. Start by buying a reusable water bottle for motivation to stay hydrated. Find some healthy recipes you’d like to try so you look forward to your meals. And lastly, plan out your mornings and evenings to be a serene time to focus on caring for your skin and hair. You’ll start feeling more and more like yourself as time goes on.
Get active. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve anxiety and boost your overall mental and physical health. When you get your heart pumping, you’re allowing your body to release those “feel-good” hormones, like serotonin. Initially, it may be difficult to get into the habit, but starting a fitness routine is a great outlet and will help tremendously in the long run. There are many different ways to stay active, so try out a few different things that you enjoy doing. This part is important because you don’t want exercise to feel like a chore.
Journal your thoughts. Journaling has been known to help reduce stress, encourage mindfulness, and improve your overall mood. Taking a pen to paper (or starting a blog) allows your mind to unplug and focus on you. It can also help extinguish negative thoughts and emotions you’ve been feeling during your separation. Your journal is a place to put down all of your thoughts, feelings, and fears without judgment and without unsolicited advice. Start journaling by buying a notebook, sitting down in a quiet place alone, and see where your mind takes you.
Reach out. During your divorce, you may feel closed out from the world, embarrassed even. It’s hard to put this change into perspective, especially when you never imagined this would happen to you. This is why it’s crucial to reach out to somebody, especially if you’re body is reacting to divorce-related stress. Whether it’s a family member, your best friend, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, or a therapist. Communication is so important and quite helpful when you start to feel alone or confused.
Karlyn is a coffee connoisseur, passionate about women’s health, and a writer who is fueled by curiosity. She’d do just about anything for her friends, family, and her black lab named Binx.