Updated: Jul 9
There is no question that divorce is stressful. So many things are changing. And all of the emotions are just swirling. The only constant is the amount of uncertainty you face.
During my divorce process, the 2 years from separation to the divorce decree, I remember the sleepless nights, anxiety, anger and tears, it wreaked havoc on my work life, social life and family life with my kids. There wasn’t any part of my day that wasn’t affected by the stress and overwhelm. And when I felt the most overwhelm I made irrational and hasty decisions. It wasn't until I slowed down, and got a hold of my emotions that I was able to find the clarity I needed.
From talking to so many women going through divorce, I hear similar stories from them as well. Smart women, accomplished and successful women, who are struggling to get control of their emotions and create an essence of calm.
When our cortisol level is heightened and stays elevated due to stress it becomes toxic, it affects us mentally, emotionally and physically, and we are unable to make rational decisions. But the good thing is that there are some small changes you can make to reduce that stress and help create more peace. This will help you at home, at work and at the mediation table.
To help alleviate the stress and anxiety I’ve listed 7 ways to help you lower your cortisol, and bring down your stress to make your life a little easier.
In Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing he says that fear triggers despair or prayer. Fear of loneliness. Fear of a new life. Fear of financial insecurity. Fear for your kids in a divorced household. With all of the fears that come with divorce, will you allow them to take over and lead you into despair? Or will you turn it over into prayer?
There’s a lightness that we can achieve when we hand over our burdens. We don’t have to hold on to them, we can lay them down. We can ask God to take them from us. He knows all of them anyway, so why do we constantly think we can do better than Him. Why are we not asking Him to intercede?
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phillipians 4:6-7
During this time when Paul was writing this letter to the church at Phillipi, he was nearing the end of his life. He was in a Roman prison, beaten and chained, but still rejoicing.
Handing over his requests, knowing that God was in control, gave Paul peace so he could rejoice even in dire circumstances. He lived in prayer, not despair!
2. Do Not Be Afraid:
This phrase is quoted at least 100 times in the Old and New Testaments. This isn’t something said once in passing. No, it’s repeated over and over and over again so maybe we should pay attention to it!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
When you follow His command, "do not be afraid", then you can release your stress. You can let go of the fear. You can let go of all of the anxiety that comes with that fear. And you can walk forward in that knowledge that He is with you.
“When you pass through the water, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
A wave. This was my first tattoo. This is what I decided to hold on to after I learned about my husband's affair. Before he even moved out. Before the kids even knew. It was my personal reminder that I wasn’t alone. That I didn’t have to walk through this alone. That I didn’t need to be afraid.
3. Control Your Thoughts:
We need to learn to be good observers of what’s going through our minds. We need to learn to become aware of our thoughts, take notice of what’s circling on repeat through our heads. Because if you want to make changes, you need to know what needs to change.
If negative or harmful thoughts race ahead untamed, if they cause you distress and create worry, then you need to rein them in and rewrite them. We have to be on guard at all times and protect ourselves. And it starts with our thoughts.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
If we are worrying. If we are stressed. If we are discouraged. If those negative thoughts are running wild. Are we living abundantly? No, clearly not. This is the thoughts of the enemy coming to steal our happiness, kill our joy and destroy our lives. These thoughts then aren’t from God. So observing them and being aware of whose voice it is that we hear, can give us insight as to how we can make changes. Turning those negative thoughts into something more positive. Whatever is true, noble, good, pure and lovely are the thoughts we should be focusing on. (Phillipians 4:8) So let’s observe and rewrite those negative thoughts, controlling them to lead us to more peace.
4. Create Physical Calm Through Self-Care:
There are so many self-care practices that can be used to help reduce stress. We all have different ways we naturally enjoy bringing down our tensions and releasing the extra tightness in our bodies, it’s just tapping into what works most and scheduling it to be most effective.
Some enjoy journaling, freeing those thoughts in a stream of consciousness on paper. We talk about the benefits of journaling in The Divorce Confidante Podcast, episode 7.
Some enjoy meditation, whether it’s an opportunity to focus on words or verses, to listen to a guided meditation from someone else, or just listen to God speak.
Others enjoy movement. While some like running or more cardiovascular activity to work out anxiety, others prefer yoga, tai chi or walking to connect the body and breath for a softer approach.
Returning to nature on a hike in the woods or a swim in the ocean creates grounding and can help find clarity.
Breathwork brings a fresh perspective with a fresh breath.
Bodywork allows for the physical manipulation of muscles and lymph nodes to increase blood flow and immunity, release tension and improve relaxation.
You can always add a warm bath, essential oils, reading, relaxing with friends, and so many other activities that bring you joy to fight the overwhelm.
5. Healthy Eating:
There’s the saying “garbage in, garbage out”. And it’s true. If you feed your body processed foods, full of fat, sugar and preservatives, you can’t expect it to perform at optimum levels. Your body and mind won’t function at the highest capacity. On the other hand, If you treat your body right, it can optimize how you handle stress.
* Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
* Increase your vitamins and minerals with food or supplements.
* Eat the rainbow and get in 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
* Consume lean proteins.
* Limit sugar and fats.
It’s all part of a healthy lifestyle that gives exponential yields when you’re trying to handle additional stress.
6. A Morning Routine:
Starting your day with a positive mindset and intention allows you to move through your day, or a stressful situation, with more balance and ease.
If you start off your day by jumping out of bed and running late with your hair on fire, it’s going to be a difficult day. Yes, you can regulate the craziness along the way, but you’ll have to make some serious adjustments and take time to get yourself back into alignment. So why not just start the day as you intend to move throughout the day?
You don’t have to commit to an hour’s long routine. Everyone’s mornings are different, and what some guru does in their routine may not be practical for you. But starting your day with a 15-minute quick start, or a 30-minute morning practice can give you what you need.
Taking these few minutes in the morning to have a devotional or prayer time. Moving your body to acclimate to the day. Reading or journaling to get your mind in motion. Drinking a glass of water to flush the toxins and hydrate from the night’s sleep. Some of these…..all of these .... can become a part of a routine that you can craft on your own, that’s personalized to your likes and needs. It can change with the seasons of the year or the seasons of your life. But a morning routine can have a dramatic effect on the progress of your day.
7. Evening Routine:
Last, but certainly not least, we have our evening routine to create more calm to help you fall fast asleep. This is just as important as our morning routine, making book-ends for transitions at the beginning and end of our day.
To help you unwind, it’s best to start at least an hour prior to bed. But just as with the morning routine, find the time length that works for your life.
That hour prior to closing your eyes, begin to reduce the blue light from electronic devices. I KNOW, it’s hard NOT to read your Kindle, play online Scrabble, or watch a show on Netflix, but to allow the melatonin to begin to flow, power down those screens and relax the mind and eyes.
Make your space clutter-free and comfortable. Take a warm bath, reduce harsh white lights, put on comfy jammies, lower the temperature. Your body will start to slow with each change.
Read, pray or meditate. Write out a to-do list to get those thoughts out of your mind and onto paper so they don’t spin through your dreams all night long. Incorporate a gratitude journal to focus on something positive.
Creating a routine in the evening can slow the body, still the mind and fill the soul. Don’t skimp on this nighttime practice, it can create a huge impact on your sleep habits, therefore
reducing your stress!
Remember, nothing changes until something changes. So put one or two or all seven into effect and see how you can impact and improve your stress level. Life is stressful enough, divorce adds to that exponentially, but you don’t have to live that way. You can take control of your life and your circumstances and reduce the anxiety and overwhelm. You can take the stress out of divorce!