I read in Psychology Today how the death of a spouse rated at 100 on this official stress scale, but divorce registered at 73. The author of this article, one Susan Pease Gadoua, disagreed; she thought divorce scored more like 100 and argued that the divorce experience created its own set of stressors. She created a new stressor scale specifically for those experiencing divorce.
While I'm not going to argue about whether divorce or death are the same on a scale, I am going to agree that divorce is certainly the time to evaluate your health. The author makes good points, ten to be precise, but I think the most important are these three:
- Don't take on any shame over your situation, but do express your grief. As you go through the divorce process, it's easy to internalize negative emotions and events. Sort through the emotions, and be sure to grieve without shame and in your own time.
- Build a support system. This includes the support you garner from knowledge about your situation. Support covers many aspects, so don't neglect the support you build for yourself and definitely let others help you. You cannot be strong all of the time. You just can't.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well. Sleep. Relax. Exercise. See a therapist.
Why is this important? The emphasis on managing your stress comes from science. No joke. Stress causes certain physiological responses that ultimately damage your health. Divorce deserves its own category as far as stress is concerned, and the danger of sickness or illness due to this stress needs recognition. Too many people try to cope during divorce, but the reality is when you are divorcing, your environment becomes stressful for a long period of time. We were designed to endure short periods of stress, but long periods are damaging to your psyche and your physical health. Don't find a "quick fix" for stress. Own it. Process it. Deal with it. You'll be thankful later for the rewards of a healthy mind and a healthy body.