Having an alcoholic beverage is an easy way to loosen up and reduce the stress of divorce. Drinking may make you feel better in the short-term, but since alcohol is a depressant, it can have the opposite effect over time.
Here are some ways to reduce divorce stress without drinking:
Spend time with nature.
Most articles about this subject will recommend that you get some exercise. While it is best to maintain your exercise routine during times of stress, it’s a fact of life that this is not always possible. Don’t add to your anxiety levels by worrying that you’re skipping a workout on top of everything else.
Especially when the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it is harder to get out and exercise. Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD) is a type of depression that occurs in the fall and winter months and is more common in women, especially divorcing women. SAD is thought to be caused by vitamin D deficiency and increased melatonin levels due to reduced number of daylight hours. The treatment? Light therapy!
When you don’t have time to exercise, just going outside can help you feel calmer and happier. Whether you have time for a mid-day walk, or can only sneak away from your desk for a few minutes to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths of fresh air while you bask in the warmth of the sun, a few minutes outside for yourself can do wonders for your state of mind.
Focus on your living environment
It might sound counter-intuitive to do chores to relieve stress, but marking even a few small items off your to-do list can give you a well-deserved sense of accomplishment when all around you feels as if it is falling apart. Even if you’re not a neat-freak, clutter in your environment can cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Having a clean desk, car, and home can help relieve mental funks by giving you one less thing to think about. Don’t know where to start? Start on small tasks that you can easily and quickly accomplish and moving on to more time-consuming and daunting projects once you have built up some momentum.
Touch and be touched
Scientists have found that physical touch has several health benefits, including stress relief. For the most part, this is due to oxytocin and endorphins that are released when our skin is touched. Other health benefits of touch include lowering blood pressure, restoring the immune system, and relieving pain. Simply hugging your kids or a friend, petting an animal, or treating yourself to a massage, mani-pedi, or facial can help reduce stress-causing cortisol hormones in your body.
Smile even if you don’t feel like it.
Did you know that the act of smiling can actually make you happier? Studies have shown that smiling not only reduces stress, but is also good for your heart. You may not feel in the mood for it, but fake it if you have to! Laughing is even better for you, releasing endorphins and improving circulation and the immune system. So find ways to make yourself laugh every day. Read a funny book or skim through the funny pages. Watch a corny comedy on Netflix or at the movie theater. Find a social media page that makes posts you laugh at and follow them so they show up in your daily feed. There are radio stations and music streaming apps that offer a comedy station. Make a night of it and invite some friends out to your local comedy club.
Make time for others
Most of these tips so far have centered around finding some ‘you’ time. Adding one more thing to your busy schedule likely isn’t what you had in mind, but volunteering is a way to help yourself deal with stress while helping others. Studies show that helping others causes hormones to be released in our brain, causing feelings of happiness and pleasure and a sense of self-confidence.
If you’re newly divorced, volunteering is a great way to meet new people and build up a local support network of people with similar interests. Volunteering as a family is a great bonding activity; however, if you have children that share time between two homes, it’s also a great way to have fun and keep your mind busy while they are away.
When deciding how you want to volunteer, make sure you consider your own interests and availability. It will only add to your anxiety if you overbook your schedule and have to rush around to fit everything in. Test out a few organizations to find the right fit, starting with small, short-term commitments on weekends and working your way from once a month to once a week.
All in all, drinking in moderation can be a great way to have fun, but it is not the best way to reduce divorce stress.
Finding long-term solutions to reduce stress and anxiety is a life skill. What works for one person might not work for others, and what worked for us in the past may not work now. It’s important to try new things and see what works best for you and your lifestyle!