by Zonder Family Law Group
Just before Valentine’s Day of 2022, the New York Post published an article entitled “How a divorce can make you sick – and even lead to early death.” So just in case you were going through a divorce or on the verge of one, and you were already feeling wistful (or straight up depressed) about Valentine’s Day, you could convert that wistfulness into existential dread by absorbing the article’s findings that, among other things, the lingering effects after a divorce could mean not just a lonely V-Day but also diabetes, unintended weight loss, cancer, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, and, of course, early death.
And while the article reports on the temporary nature of some health effects following divorce, it also contains the chilling pronouncement: “About 15 percent of the heartbroken never recover and ‘stay sicker and die younger.’”
Fun, right? While it could be argued that the article may be slightly on the sensational side (it is the New York Post after all), it does point to some very challenging realities regarding personal physical and mental health that can play out in and after a divorce. And while it’s scary and potentially demoralizing to ponder a laundry list of ailments that can follow from what was already a difficult period of divorce, it’s important to focus on what you can do to help avoid such outcomes and help foster your health both now and, in the future, following a divorce.
Use Your Post-Separation Life to Establish New Habits
One upside after a divorce (although it may seem like a downside at first) is that you get the opportunity to engage in new activities and habits that you may not have felt able to in your marriage. Whether you felt obligated to spend time just with your ex-spouse and/or he or she was not interested in trying new things, now is your opportunity to get out there and do things that you’ve never got to experience before.
This can take any number of forms – joining a yoga class (it’s a lot easier to get into than you might think), joining a hiking or running group meet-up in your area, getting involved with a volunteer organization, taking golf lessons, and on and on.
Some activities you might like, some you might not. It may be awkward, or you might meet your new best friend. This may all sound obvious, and perhaps it is, and yet most people still find a reason not to try new things, preferring to stay with the same-old-same-old which has not been doing them any favors, and then get depressed and less motivated as a result. But if there was ever a time to give new things a try, it’s after a divorce.
Surround Yourself with Positive Friends and Acquaintances
Many studies have shown that our health habits are often defined by the people we spend our time around. If you spend a lot of time with people who eat too much, drink too much, don’t exercise, and have a generally negative attitude towards life, then there is a good chance you will engage in many of the same behaviors, even if unconsciously so.
After a divorce, it can be tempting to be around people who have a negative or at least cynical outlook on life, and who perhaps engage in behavior that is temporarily helpful at distracting from the negativity of life (i.e., excessive alcohol, drugs, and other risky behavior) but which have long-term negative consequences and certainly do not build you up into a positive version of yourself. In some ways, when you yourself are feeling deeply negative due to the impact of your divorce, it simply feels easier to “fit in” with this type of group than a group of well-adjusted people with positive outlook and healthy habits.
That said, the effort is worth it not just for your long-term health but also your present happiness. Make the effort to find not just people who can accept you and appreciate what you are going through, but who can also inspire you to engage in habits and activities that are going to build you up, not bring you down.
Find Healthy Ways to Cope with Negative Feelings After a Divorce
It is of course easy to revert to unhealthy responses to negative feelings of loneliness and heartbreak and the general struggles involved with navigating life on your own post-divorce. This could take the form of substance abuse and rage behavior, but it can also show up as workaholism, serial dating that doesn’t serve your needs, risky financial behavior, or any other unhealthy behavior to help distract from your negative feelings.
Now is the time to find more healthy ways to help you deal with negative feelings, even if it seems silly or out of character. Remember, this is a new, unexpected life you’re living now, and so there may be new, unexpected ways to help improve that life. You might try joining a religious/spiritual group, take up meditation or ballet or kickboxing, or finally learn or indeed master that musical instrument you always wanted to play. And don’t think about what your ex-spouse might think about it all – if they think it’s silly that you’re doing things that make you happy now, that suggest that perhaps they are not so happy themselves.
Give Yourself Some Grace After a Divorce
Finally, if this all sounds like a list of easier-said-than-done recommendations, or even like a kicking-you-when-you’re-already-down sermon, understand that divorce just really sucks for most people, and no one expects you to handle it perfectly or even all that well on any given day.
Take the time you need to build a new life and understand that you cannot always control the outcomes and that all of us make mistakes every day. But keep moving – your future life awaits you!
Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions from a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney
If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 for Ventura or Santa Barbara County or (818) 877-0001 for Los Angeles County.