Whether you were together for 10 years or 10 months, divorce is tough. Whether it was your decision or your partner’s choice, it still hurts. No matter what the circumstance that led to the end of your relationship, we all go through a similar aftermath. Some of us are social media stalkers, some of us listen to Adele on repeat and others are numb to all of it. Remember that you are going through a grieving process (the death of your marriage) and that can take a toll on your health.
The emotional trauma of a divorce can often lead to mental and physical repercussions. The stress we feel can manifest in body aches, nausea or heart palpitations. We aren’t thinking clearly and therefore tend to make poor decisions regarding our health. For some, food is a way to comfort and calm their emotions while others are too upset to eat. Many times, in dealing with difficult emotions, we develop destructive habits. We drink too much, sleep too much or not enough; we remove ourselves from social situations and become isolated. Previously healthy practices such as exercise are non-existent because we are too exhausted to leave the house. These inclinations can lead to depression and have negative impacts on our health and well being.
Chances are, if you have been through a divorce, some or all of this rings true for you. As a health and fitness professional, I never thought the day would come where I lacked the motivation to get out of bed. Fully aware of the importance of nutrition, days passed before I realized I hadn’t had a meal. As someone who hardly missed a workout, I didn’t have the energy to walk my dog. I was caught in the trap of destructive behavior despite my predilection towards wellness.
As with any life transition, you often have a desire for connectedness. You feel alone, you struggle to make sense out of “why” this happened “to” you. Instead of questioning what is wrong with you, take some steps to process your emotions with mindful meditation.
Meditation is more than just a way to calm our thoughts and lower stress levels: research has found that our brain process more thoughts and feelings during meditation than when we are simply relaxing. To be mindful is to have a moment to moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings and emotions without judgement. For some, this comes more naturally than it does for others. When you practice meditation, it has been proven that you can learn to become mindful. Findings from a recent study have shown that meditation not only improves emotional health but that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their “natural ability” to be mindful.
Whether it’s going for a long run or taking a spin class, the reduction in cortisol and adrenaline levels during intense cardio sessions are great for relieving stress and anxiety. The endorphins released by the brain also contribute to these mood-boosting benefits and can help you deal with the sadness you are likely feeling after a divorce. When the heart is strong, it pumps more blood as it contracts, leading to a lower resting heart rate and reduced blood pressure, which equals a more relaxed body when you are not exercising. That relaxed body is probably going to see some of the physical results like toned legs and a smaller waistline; this can help boost the confidence we may be lacking now that we’re single!
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Feeling strong and empowered is so important when you’re going through a life change like a divorce. Finding yourself in this unknown place feeling weak and vulnerable is not where you want to be. Strength training (whether it’s bodyweight, machines or dumbells) can give you that feeling of control and power. Because you need to focus on proper form and movement patterns, it can also be a great distraction from obsessing over your ex. Strong body = strong mind.
While we may want to bury our heads in Ben & Jerry’s, this is not going to do us any favors. Eating our feelings is never a good idea. Before you reach for that second (or third) pint of ice cream, think about how you will feel afterward. Fast forward to that moment when you are in a food coma, feeling bloated and sorry for yourself. The sugar high only lasts until your next binge. This cycle becomes hard to break and before you know it, you have put on extra weight and your confidence has plummeted. On the flip side, many of us are non-eaters during stressful times, which is also unhealthy. Our stomachs are constantly in knots and we have no appetite. This is a dangerous habit to fall into as our brains and bodies need to fuel to function properly – especially during trying times. No food = no energy.
The unfortunate reality is that a traumatic event took place and you are grieving a loss. This takes time. And some of us never truly get over it. Not to say that you will never be okay again but you probably won’t be the same. The dissolution of a marriage shapes the person you are and the experiences gleaned through the divorce process affect every aspect of your (new) life. Remember that healing is not linear. You will make progress and you will slip back. Honor your feelings as there is no time limit on grief. The journey can be rough but staying mindful of each stage can ease you through the transition.
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