One thing I learned early on in the process of becoming single again was that I had to find a way to protect my health. The stress of having my world turned upside down and inside out was my biggest enemy to battle. And being 60 when it all began didn’t help! Getting older has its own stress menu to deal with.
I wasn’t sleeping well, to say the least. I worried about money, about my relationships with my adult children, with my friends, with my lawyer. At my annual physical, I broke down in tears when the doctor asked me how I’d been feeling.
I got so tired of hearing about how bad stress is for me. Okay, I know that but how on earth does one “deal” with stress? It just is, isn’t it? How could I eat healthy when the only food I could stomach was potato chips and chocolate? Stress wouldn’t let me eat healthy.
And oh, big revelation, stress affects sleep. Lying in bed, thoughts and scenes played through my head, a dozen at a time and all bad, all leading to other worries, other what if’s. It got so that I dreaded going to bed. It got so I drank two glasses of wine every night to buy myself a couple of hours of relief. And then I had that to worry about–was I becoming dependent on alcohol?
All not good. All building stress upon stress.
I googled “How to cope with stress,” and read about eating well, meditating, exercising…all things that seemed impossible to accomplish at the time. An entire day of preparing statements and information for my lawyer would go by and me not eating anything, not wanting to eat anything, not even feeling hunger. I lived alone now–no one to cook for or share a meal with. Yes, I felt sorry for myself. I became dehydrated from shedding tears. I couldn’t stop crying.
Meditate? I couldn’t focus enough even to read a book, let alone meditate. As for exercising- well, I went for walks with my dog, but that wasn’t offering much in the area of cardio. I was heading downhill fast. I knew it but I thought that I couldn’t do anything about it.
Divorce Stress is Different
One article that I came across in my search actually took a look at stress specifically in relation to divorce, arguing that divorce is the most stressful experience a human being can experience in that it is ongoing and affects every aspect of life.
In this article, the author recognizes that coping with (not eliminating) stress from divorce is an ongoing process that is different in many ways from the usual strategies. She talks about getting information and becoming knowledgeable about the legal processes, brainstorming options and making a plan. Working towards being in control of the situation as much as possible can really help. That was it! I had lost control of my life; I needed to find new stars to steer by. Maybe there was a way to get safely to shore on my own.
Dealing with stress was under my control.
After that, I did try to eat better; I didn’t always succeed, that’s for sure, but I became more aware of what I was eating and tried to see that it was my choice whether to go for the cheese and crackers or instead add some cheese to a quick salad. I went for rambling walks with my dog, deciding just being outdoors on its own was better than no exercise at all. (And it made my dog happy, which made me happier too!)
The arthritis in my joints wasn’t going to let me take up jogging or aerobics at the gym, so I had to stop berating myself about cardio. I kept track of my blood pressure and took yoga classes. I stated taking a mild dose of an anti-depressant to counteract the sleeplessness and emotional breakdowns.
These things all helped, but the strategy that benefited me the most was talking out loud about my situation, as difficult as that was, especially in the beginning. As I opened my own bank account, negotiated my first “single” auto insurance policy and having to explain the why of it, the kindness and understanding of strangers over the phone was a touching surprise. I wasn’t looking for sympathy, but nevertheless, it just felt so good when someone would say, “I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a divorce. It’s a stressful process.”
There was such comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in this sea of failure and rejection.
Expressing what was happening as a simple fact and dealing with what had to be done one step at a time, brought me out of my head and into the world. Casting light on my fears gave me the strength to find ways to overcome them.
And each time I achieved one step forward, I felt that little bit better about myself and my situation.