Divorce is a difficult process. You shared a life with someone, spent years growing a mutual relationship, and suddenly that relationship is about to end and you will be single again. Even if you knew divorce was eminent – even if you were the one that ended it and had been planning the divorce for years – it still marks an end to something important in your life, and that can have some serious mental health consequences.
One of those consequences is anxiety. Many people that deal with a serious divorce find that they suffer from a great deal of anxiety after the divorce is over. This anxiety is caused by a number of different factors including, but not limited to:
Change in Routine
Marriage – even a rocky marriage – is a routine. You’re used to having your partner around, sharing in activities and depending on their behaviors. After a divorce your routine changes, and that change can cause regular amounts of anxiety. Often your lifestyle has to change as well, as you move to a new place or take care of your children. All of this can contribute to feeling anxious.
Stress of the Divorce Process
The divorce process itself is often a stress-filled ordeal. There is a lot of arguing, and lot of awkward conversations, potential court dates and more. Even after the divorce has been finalized, there is often residual stress that bleeds into the rest of your life. It’s not uncommon for those going through a divorce to feel more stress at work, which leads to greater levels of anxiety at home.
Worry Over the Future
Divorce also changes your expectations of the future. Suddenly the way you pictured your future starts to change. You may worry about whether or not you’re dating again, or if you’re going to be okay financially, or how you’re going to get your life back together. Worries over the future are common with those that go through divorce, and often contribute to greater amounts of anxiety.
Dealing with Post-Divorce Anxiety
Anxiety after a divorce is common, but it can be reduced if you’re willing to seek treatment. Rest assured that the anxiety you feel is natural, and simply a part of experiencing that level of change.
Counseling is the most effect treatment, as it allows you to vent your frustrations to a trained therapist that is able to offer both counseling and behavioral training to help you cope with the issues of the divorce. Having that type of social support available makes dealing with the issues surrounding your divorce much easier. Other successful coping mechanisms include:
Reconnecting with Friends
During a marriage, it’s easy to lose contact with those that you care about in favor of spending time with your partner. But social support is an important part of reducing anxiety, and reconnecting with your friends will give you fun activities that will take your mind off the stress and pressures of a divorce. Time with friends is one of the most effective and enjoyable coping mechanisms.
Find a Hobby
Part of the anxiety comes from focusing on the divorce, rather than yourself. When you find a hobby, you are able to occupy your time with something you enjoy, giving you a regular task to do that gives you something new to be passionate about. Consider a creative outlet such as art or poetry that can also help you improve your ability to cope.
Develop a Healthy Routine
Routines are the way that human beings find balance in life. As long as your routine is healthy (and you refrain from harmful behaviors like alcohol abuse), you’ll be able to find more comfort in your daily life. Your routine should include activities such as hobbies and spending time with friends, because keeping active regularly – and knowing you have regular activities to do – will also contribute to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Find a Support Group
Millions of other people are experiencing the same anxiety after a divorce. Connecting with a support group and listening to the experiences of others can be comforting, and being around those that understand where you’re coming from provides you with additional social support to help you through the process.
Emotions Can Be Misleading
After the divorce you may also experience a range of different emotions – from anger, to sadness, to missing your partner more than you realized. Trusting in these emotions can only lead to more anxiety symptoms. Emotions often have no meaning, and are a natural result of dealing with change. Talk these emotions over with your counselor, friends, or support group, to ensure they don’t lead to further anxiety.
Recovering Over Time
Anxiety after divorce is a common, and no matter how emotionally strong you are, it takes time to recover. But if you focus your attention on healthy activities, improve your social support system, give yourself a healthy routine and seek counseling for your emotions, recover is easily possible.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera recognized his own issues wi
Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago. Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance. He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”