Separation or divorce can be an emotional journey that can have both physical and mental health effects on people. The separation and divorce process, coupled in some situations with the family court process, can become incredibly stressful, taking a toll on the wellbeing of parties, sometimes impairing their judgment and decision-making abilities.
Literature tells us that separated couples going through the process might experience a range of overwhelming psychological symptoms that includes loneliness, sadness, shock, anger, uncertainty, guilt, betrayal, frustration, hopelessness, or a mixture of all. These feelings can last a short-time or have a lasting impact and so it is important to deal with those feelings in a healthy way.
Mental health is a vital aspect of our wellbeing. Many people see mental health issues as only serious disorders or health conditions, however things like stress can have a big impact on mental health. It’s easy to shrug off your own feelings, particularly when juggling work and parental responsibilities, however it’s important to prioritise self-care.
Here are a few ways parties going through a separation or divorce might consider when prioritising their mental health.
Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During Separation or Divorce
It can be important to talk things out. Even when your feelings are particularly strong, you should try to communicate them to a trusted confidant.
Endeavour to build healthy relationships and surround yourself with a support team of people with similar values as you, who understand and who can listen to you.
Your support team can include a family member, friend, colleague or a third party counsellor.
2. Acknowledge the pain
Acknowledging the feeling of loss caused by separation can be crucial. When couples separate due to the death of a partner, there is a defined grieving process of denial, questioning, depression or anger, evaluation, and acceptance.
On the other hand, when a partner is lost due to separation or divorce, many partners find themselves without clear guidance on how to process the loss. Our review of literature in this area tells us that some couples have found it helpful to follow the ‘five stages of grief’ model:
This occurs at the beginning of the separation or divorce process. At this stage, couples find it difficult to accept that the relationship is coming to an end. It can be normal to have a feeling of denial when you go through such a major life-changing event as separation or divorce. It is a form of coping mechanism people use.
At this stage, you question whether there is a way you could have handled things differently besides going through separation or divorce. At this point, you may wish you could change the past and the events that led to the relationship breakdown.
- Depression or Anger
You may experience anger, anxiety, depression as different negative feelings begin to emerge. At this stage, you may benefit from the added support of loved ones or professionals.
At this stage, you might begin to weigh the reasons that your relationship didn’t work and this may include taking responsibility for your part in the breakdown.
The factors that led to the breakdown of your relationship may be difficult to process, but evaluating what went wrong and taking ownership where required can help in moving on. While evaluating, no matter what caused the breakdown of the relationship, it is important to allow yourself to acknowledge the emotions that come with this stage.
This is the stage where you accept what has happened and take steps to move on or look towards the future.
It is important to remember that every individual is unique and process grief differently. It may be totally normal if you don’t fit into a particular grieving model.
3. Maintain physical health
We all know that physical health is closely connected with mental health. Stress that persists for a long time can cause health problems which can have a tremendous impact on mental health.
It therefore becomes paramount that you maintain or improve your physical health when going through the process of separation or divorce. It might be of help to partake in stress-reducing physical activities that fit into to your lifestyle such as swimming, walking, jogging, bike riding, or having a good night’s sleep.
4. Stay positive
It can be daunting to have a positive outlook when dealing with an intense life transition such as separation or divorce.
It is crucial however to try to swap the negative feelings and emotions that come along with positive thoughts. Positive emotions have a way of translating to healthy mental wellbeing. Think of the things that are within your control and then make a plan to improve them, if needed.
Optimistic thinking has been shown to enhance mental and overall health.
5. Take time to review what matters to you
The mental stress of divorce or separation can make you lose yourself. This might be a good time to review what matters to you and a time for reconstructing who you are again.
Find what matters to you – this could be spiritual or religious beliefs, music, art, or other activities or hobbies that bring you joy. Rediscovering purpose and remembering the positives in life promotes good mental health. It can also be a means of coping through separation or divorce.
At a stressful time, it is vital to have a trusted advisor on side to help you through the maze of separation. At Daykin Family Law, we strive to make the separation and divorce process as collaborative and conflict-free as is possible.
Daykin Family Law’s Director, Shannon Daykin, is a Brisbane based family lawyer and an Accredited Family Law Specialist with a wealth of experience and expertise in family law. If you’re considering your options for divorce resolution and would like to keep the matter as stress-free as possible, contact us today for a no obligation consultation to find out if it’s right for you.
If you are concerned about your mental health or wellbeing, we recommend that you contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
The blog published by Daykin Family Law is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult Daykin Family Law on any legal queries concerning a specific situation.