Psychologists suggest that a painful divorce can cause psychological trauma. If you do not notice it in time and do not take timely action, this emotional pain can grow into post-traumatic stress disorder. A person may develop obsessive thoughts about the traumatic event, including nightmares, anxiety, and violent expressions of emotion in response to a trigger reminiscent of a breakup.
So to avoid such a state, it is important to assess all the risks timely.
Risks and Consequences of Divorce
- The decision to break up was made by your partner, while you would like to remain married. Moreover, the news of his or her decision came as a surprise to you. Such a situation can negatively affect self-esteem.
- Your whole life has been built around relationships. You don't have your own friends, apartment, job, hobbies, and goals. In this case, you may need external support badly but have no one to rely on.
- This is not the first time a relationship ended with a partner leaving. It may start to seem that something is wrong with you, that you are cursed, not made for being happily married.
- You got married very early, and your husband or wife took up the baton with decision-making and caring for you from your parents. In this situation, you may begin to feel like a helpless child.
- Although you broke up, some circumstances still force you to spend a lot of time together (shared apartment, work, business). In such a case, you cannot separate from your partner to start dealing with your pain and building a new life.
In all these cases, you need to understand that you are at risk of psychological trauma and need support.
How Can You Help Yourself?
Opt for a more peaceful divorce
One important thing you can do to reduce your post-divorce stress even before a divorce procedure has started is to have a peaceful uncontested divorce if possible.
An uncontested divorce has many pros. It typically takes much less money and time. Negotiating with your spouse out-of-court and trying to reach an agreement may seem too hard. Yet, by pulling yourself together long enough to negotiate a settlement, you may save yourself from drawn-out litigation and, respectively, have more time and inner resources to create your new life after a divorce.
According to Bob Butterworth, CEO at CompleteCase, one of the leading online paperwork drafting services that help prepare for an uncontested divorce, the latest statistics show that divorcing spouses' behavior has significantly changed in recent decades.
Earlier, the service was used mainly by people whose marriage was short and did not have children and common property (that is, the simplest divorce cases). Now, more couples are choosing an uncontested divorce, regardless of whether they have to create a Settlement Agreement.
"Today, most spouses want to treat a divorce rather as a business deal than a tragedy, and we are happy to help them avoid undue stress by completing all the needed divorce papers in the shortest terms," Bob Butterworth says. "It's not about callousness or lack of feelings and emotions, but choosing a more amicable way to arrange the dissolution of marriage thus contributing to their future happier life. They get a chance to maintain a friendly relationship after some time, which is especially important if they have children. On the contrary, traditional contested divorce and litigation often cause new conflicts and even more hatred than when the spouses first decided to end the marriage."
Let yourself cry and grieve for a while
Unspoken grief turns us into knights in metal armor, effectively blocking all their emotions. In this case, not only sadness, heartache, and despair will be blocked, but also joy, happiness, inspiration, and the ability to fall in love again in the future.
Frances Cohen Praver Ph.D., clinical psychologist, well known for her book The New Science of Love and others, says: "Identify the feelings. Acknowledge them. Express them. Let them wash over you. If you suppress or deny your feelings, you are impeding the healing and grieving process, and it will take longer to heal and move on."
The best pain reliever to start with is people who love you. Call friends and family, but only those who are willing to listen and support you. The keyword is "support." There is no need to communicate with people who will aggravate the emotional state with phrases like: "I told you so, it's your fault."
If you cannot or do not want to rely on someone from your social circle, online divorce support groups for those dealing with divorce's emotional fallout can also be a good option.
But remember, alcohol is the wrong painkiller. Temporary relief will lead you to feel worse the next day. The pain, anxiety, depression, and self-pity that you feel will increase dramatically when hungover.
Practicing self-care is essential
According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second highest stressor for people, second only to a close person's death. And in fact, many individuals perceive divorce as the death of the marriage, get stressed out, and become stuck in this situation for a long time, being at high risk of having depression.
"I tell my clients, "Imagine how you are going to react to this death, and how it's going to impact every part of your body – your mind, your stomach, even your ability to walk," says Natalie Greggs, a family lawyer from Texas. "Self-care is the number one thing that gets you through the day."
Foremost, it would be best if you find a source for maintaining serotonin and dopamine levels. The best helpers will be sports, sun, and proper nutrition.
Although antidepressants most effectively raise serotonin, only use them if your doctor has prescribed them. As for more natural methods, you may consult a nutritionist who will advise on appropriate nutrition to provide the tryptophan responsible for the synthesis of serotonin.
Dopamine levels also rise when you set goals and achieve them, so don't give up on your creative, work-related, or athletic ambitions. On the contrary, set goals for yourself every day - first small, and then increasingly difficult, but still achievable goals.
In such a stressful situation, struggling for joy, there is no sense just waiting for motivation to appear suddenly. The dopamine reward system works in such a way that joy will overtake other feelings after solving the tasks, and with it comes the motivation to complete the new plan. The main thing is to keep moving.
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