Looking after your health - Advice and tips - separating parents
Most people know that divorce is considered to be one of life’s most stressful events, what’s less is well known is the impact it can have on your physical health. Separating from a long term partner can be harmful to your health in different ways, so it's really important to take steps to look after yourself during this difficult time.
Adjusting to life after separation - settling into a new home, managing on less money, sorting out new ways of parenting can all be very draining - so it's important to keep in mind that this is a time where you also need to be thinking about your health and wellbeing.
What's more, it's very easy to ignore your own health if you're focussing on caring for children. If you're not already living a reasonably healthy lifestyle it’s all too easy for things to slide; often eating badly and not looking after yourself is short-lived and can be turned around, but if you can prioritise your health during this difficult time you’ll come out feeling stronger and healthier than before.
So what helps?
Avoid conflict. The more stress and conflict you experience through separation, the greater the chance of physical or mental health problems so the sooner you reach at least’ some’ agreements with your ex the better. Not just for your own sake but for children’s health and well-being too as children exposed to conflict can develop more behavioural and emotional problems than other children.
Don’t take up new bad habits. Smoking and alcohol can seem like the answer when things are stressful. It can be tempting to overuse them to block out pain and forget about problems. But it is far better to try and work through the pain. This might be with the help of some of the articles on theparentconnection or by using the forum to talk to others. If you need that extra support professional counsellors and mediators are available through the Listening Room.
Instead of crutches such as alcohol try healthier distractions such as walking and running both of which are very good for stress – and take up a new exercise regime or hobby something you’ve never thought of trying before.
Single people are often less healthy than married or cohabiting couples. As in many relationships wives/girlfriends look out for their partner by nagging them about eating habits, alcohol and sleep patterns. So take responsibility for your own health. Schedule regular check-ups and be mindful of any changes in eating, drinking and exercise habits etc.
Enjoy your job – but get the balance right. Work can be a lifesaver, a distraction and give you a sense of purpose and identity, but don't overdo it, remember to balance meaningfulness at work with meaningful activities outside of work.
As you face a new life on your own, don't let loneliness get to you – research shows that those who feel lonely face greater health risks than those who learn to adjust to being alone. So, lean on friends and family as much as you need to and then when you are ready embrace your new single life: take up a hobby you can do alone and try and take pleasure in making your home reflect who you are.
Avoid angry friends. Not all friends will be helpful during separation, often our friends show support by saying, 'Get what you can out of him or her'. Whilst you might feel empowered and supported by this at the time, there is a mental and physical cost to living anger and negativity day in, day out. Try and spend time with friends who are more generous and neutral – rather than those who want to get too involved – their friendship is more positive in the long run.
Get money advice. Women are usually financially worse off after separation and divorced women have the lowest levels of income compared with married couples and divorced men. This not only increases stress but it also means you are more likely to try and cut costs on things like healthy eating, gym membership, health insurance etc. Good financial advice can help you live within your budget, cut back on non-essentials and in turn make you worry less which is all good for your health.