5 ways to manage your mental health during a divorce or separation

Going through a divorce or separation can be very stressful and emotional and can have an effect on our mental health. The process is not unlike that of facing the death of a loved one: many of the same emotions will be felt including loss, anger, sadness and loneliness. It is at such times, more than ever, that you need to take care of your mental wellbeing, spotting the signs when things worsen, and finding ways to improve these effects. Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in May and this year the theme is ‘Loneliness’, a common emotion felt by those going through a divorce or separation. So how can you take the best care of your mental health during a divorce and how will it benefit you overall?

Why is good mental health so important?

When we are feeling mentally fit and resilient, we are better able to cope with the difficulties that life throws at us. Looking after your mental health is as important as looking after your overall physical health; in fact, one will improve the other.
Reducing your levels of stress and anxiety during a divorce will benefit your mental wellbeing. Here are five ways that may help:

#1 Know the triggers

We all have triggers that cause us to feel overwhelmed. There may be certain topics that need discussing that cause you more stress than others or certain times of the day that are more difficult.  Once you identify these triggers you will be able to better prepare for them. For some people, it helps to make a note of these trigger points; by writing them down on a piece of paper, you are acknowledging and accepting them.

#2 Time out

A divorce or separation can feel all-consuming at times. Remember to take some time out each day for yourself. This may simply be a quiet 20 minutes with a cup of coffee and a magazine, a walk in the fresh air, or a soak in a hot bath at the end of the day. You may even decide to take up a new hobby or activity at this time. Your mind will be working overtime, taking in lots of information so give it space to declutter and unwind.

#3 Find support

Make sure you have people around you who will support you. You do not need to discuss every detail of your divorce or separation with them, but it is important to know they are there should you want to talk.  Support can come from many places: friends, family or a professional.  The most important thing is that you have a support network. We all need a helping hand or a listening ear at times!

#4 Be savvy

Life will be changing, and you will be spending a lot of time thinking about your future and your next chapter. This could involve a change in circumstances or finances.  Many of your thoughts will be around finances, where you are going to live and what changes you will have to make when you are no longer part of a couple.  You will need to stay as positive as possible right now so don’t be afraid to detach yourself from those who are affecting you negatively. This will benefit your well-being and enable you to cope better.

#5 Protect your privacy

Much like a death, a divorce can attract the attention of those around you and sometimes this can be unwanted.  There may be times when people ask you questions you are not comfortable answering.  The less resilient you feel mentally, the more difficult you may find it to avoid the questions.  Try not to get drawn into conversations about the details. Keep your business confidential, sharing it only with those you know you can trust such as your solicitor or very close family or trusted friends.  The last thing you want is for people to discuss your personal business or for things you have said to get back to your partner. 

The period of divorce or separation will not be easy but it will not last forever.  If you can manage to deal with things methodically with the help of your solicitor, take some time out for yourself, and not let it become all-encompassing, you will be doing as much as you can to protect your mental health and putting yourself in the best possible place to tackle the process.

Alison Whistler Solicitor

 If you would like some advice on divorce or separation, please do get in touch with Alison Whistler, Head of Matrimonial and Family Law via awhistler@horseylightly.com

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