Curbing the Physical and Emotional Health Impact of Divorce

The majority of people marry with the hope and expectation that it will be a mutually rewarding relationship that will last forever. So, it is not surprising that divorce can be a painful experience for almost everyone.  Some individuals are better equipped to handle the stresses, challenges and new opportunities of divorce than others.  However, as recent medical studies are uncovering, the health of some individuals suffers both physically and emotionally during the process as well as long term.

Research shows that divorce immediately increases psychological distress and has a long-term negative effect on the physical health of divorced people.  When compared with adults in a stable marriage, on average divorced adults have poorer physical and mental health.  Some common physical and mental health problems include a general lack of happiness, depression stemming from psychological stress and poor self-esteem, as well as some serious health concerns.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that the experience of divorce can severely damage health, with the effects still evident years later.  Specifically, people who have gone through divorce are 20% more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or another chronic condition.  They are also 23% more likely to suffer from mobility issues later in life such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances.  A researcher from the University of Texas at Austin adds that the “long-term stress before, during and after a divorce may accelerate the biological processes” that lead to the more serious health concerns.

It is important to remember to find ways to reduce stress and keep in mind that divorce should function as the path to a less stressful and happier life.  When going through divorce it is important to put yourself first and remember to eat well, exercise and simply do the small things that make you happy!  The most successful divorced individuals are those who embrace the impending changes that divorce brings.  They focus on the positive, move through the negative things by getting support and guidance, and learn how to deal with things in the past that they cannot change.  By concentrating on the present and looking toward the future you can begin to focus on the things that you need to make your transition better and smoother.

Along with focusing on the positive, having a positive attitude and focusing on what you are grateful for can help to reduce stress and the risk of depression.  It is easy to be preoccupied with the immediate stresses of life following divorce.  Just getting through today’s problems is overwhelming, so it is hard to look at the big picture and embrace long-term change.  Set realistic goals for yourself and congratulate yourself no matter how small the achievement.  By consistently telling yourself that you can do it, you are in essence willing yourself to do it!  Small successes will start to move you forward!

Remember to forgive yourself and accept the past and any mistakes that you made. No one is perfect, so don’t stress yourself out by revisiting your mistakes over and over.  Analyze them and make mental notes about what was wrong and how to change it.  Recognizing, owning and learning from our mistakes helps us to grow and move forward through divorce, rather than get weighed down and stressed out by the “could haves”.

Socialize and maintain current friendships while making the effort to develop new ones.  Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good, make you laugh, and applaud your achievements can keep you in that positive frame of mind that is so valuable during and after divorce.  Friends can also help to provide you with the support you need during difficult times.  Whether by diverting your attention away from the stress or being there to help you get back up when you feel knocked down, interacting with friends and family can help you stay positive.

Although the medical studies are out there – do your best not to become another statistic.  No one ever said that moving forward through divorce would be easy.  Strive to keep yourself and your best interests at the forefront of every decision that you make.  Stay positive, surround yourself with uplifting people, accept the things that you cannot change and learn from past mistakes.  Making these conscious decisions will aid in your transition and help to reduce your chances of ending up a statistic.

© By Nancy Kay 09/20/2012

Divorce and your Health

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