Self-care: Divorce Edition

1321733_14013964Whether acrimonious or amicable, divorce ranks among life’s most traumatic and life-altering experiences. Divorce means grieving multiple losses while simultaneously balancing all the other areas of your life that have suddenly been thrown into a tailspin. Financial crises, legal problems, and custody arrangements are just a few of the headaches divorce can bring. On top of that, your day-to-day responsibilities and obligations don’t disappear just because your world is falling apart.

Divorce can be devastating, leaving even the strongest and most level-headed among us reeling. According to psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe’s Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), a questionnaire created to identify major life stressors, divorce is ranked among the the top two of stressful life events, second only to the death of a spouse or partner. Elizabeth Bernstein, in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, reports that it takes a solid two years to recover from a divorce or similar loss, and to find your new normal.

Self-care is essential as you deal with your divorce. Why is self-care so important? Because the high levels of stress experienced during this time can wear down your body and leave you at higher risk for health problems. Focusing on your complete wellness and practicing regular, nurturing acts of self-care can increase self-esteem and foster a sense of control during a time when you may feel helpless.

It’s important to be patient and gentle with yourself throughout the stages of divorce. Some days, it may take all the energy you have just to get out of bed and take a shower. Other days, you’ll feel stronger and braver; those are the days you may want to add simple healthy habits to your self-care routine.

  • Sleep. Dealing with divorce is exhausting, so this is very important. An old fashioned mug of warm milk with a sprinkle of nutmeg or a cup of chamomile tea can help to relax you and make it easier to fall asleep. A soothing bubble bath can also encourage sleep and ease aches and pains. “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure,” Sylvia Plath famously wrote, “but I don’t know many of them.”
  • Move. Amble around the block or shake your groove thing in the privacy of your living room. Go ahead, no one but your cat knows that you fancy yourself the next Dancing Queen and the cat’s not talking. Physical activity can help to discharge negative emotions and soothe stress.
  • Eat. That is, eat well. You’ve heard it all before– increase your intake of fruits and veggies, consume lean proteins, and drink plenty of fluids. Fuel your body with nutritious foods. Stay away from the processed stuff and try to avoid making a regular date with Ben & Jerry or Sara Lee every Saturday night.
  • Get out. Speaking of Saturday night, get out of the house for a night out! Take a Sunday morning Zumba class, or a Tuesday afternoon book club. Divorce may lead to severed social ties and feelings of isolation, so you may have to work extra hard to step out of your comfort zone and make new connections. There is a link between social connectedness and enhanced health and well-being. Doing something fun with other people can provide a healthy outlet for all that stress. If you’re feeling brave you can even try  groups like to find a variety of local clubs, fun activities, social events, and support groups.
  • Find your bliss. Do something for yourself. Reinvent yourself even. Now is the time to get in touch with who you are. Rediscover old interests or explore new activities. Howard County Library System is a treasure trove of educational resources, with books and DVDs on subjects ranging from watercolor painting and organic gardening to mountain climbing and wine appreciation, in addition to a wide variety of instructive and enlightening free classes. As George Eliot wisely said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
  • Get Help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek out professional help from your physician or a mental health care provider. Remember, recognizing when we need help is a sign of strength. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

These tips are a friendly reminder of the things you can do nurture yourself during or after a divorce. Nothing can make the stress of divorce magically dissipate, but focusing on simple, small acts of self-care can increase your feelings of control over your circumstances while at the same time enhancing your health and elevating your sense of well-being.


The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

Bernstein, Elizabeth. After Divorce or Job Loss Comes the Good Identity Crisis. Wall Street Journal, 2013.
Tennant, Victoria. The Powerful Impact of Stress. School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, 2005.
McLeod, S. A. (2010) SRRS – Stress of Life Events – Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

Andrea L. Dowling has been with HCLS since 2006. She is an Assistant Customer Service Supervisor at HCLS East Columbia Branch. Andrea’s interests include collecting vintage cookbooks, genealogy research, reading banned books, and enjoying what there is to enjoy.