“Why can’t I do this?” Amy groaned as she slumped to the bench. Walking the mile to her office had always given a calm start her day needed. Now she could barely walk two blocks. “What’s happening to me?” Divorce was happening. And, Amy needed to heal from the physical impact of her divorce.
Little did Amy know that divorce causes a 23% reduction in physical mobility. Those going through divorce often find even the simplest physical tasks, such as climbing stairs or walking, overwhelming. And, that is only the beginning.
How divorce impacts health
Amy’s declining energy finally frustrated her enough to consult her doctor. Tests revealed elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. “The stress of divorce triggers physiological responses that create long-term physical risks,” her doctor said. “For women, a first divorce causes a 20% increase in risk of heart disease–a risk that never goes away. Divorce also increases risk of cancer, stroke, and diabetes for men and women.”
“I know you’re young—but studies show that the younger you are, the higher the physical impact of divorce. So, we need to monitor you closely to stay on top of this.”
Amy knew the toll her divorce was taking on her financially and emotionally. But really?? It was doing her physical harm?
As Amy researched, she kept finding connections between her divorce and her health. She began sharing her findings with her divorced friends—who also found connections for themselves. One friend lost 25 pounds after her divorce—something echoed by several men and women in Amy’s divorce recovery group. Significant weight gain or loss is one of the most common effects of divorce—bringing their own health impacts.
Other friends suffered increased anxiety and depression—not surprising given the huge adjustments they were making in life. But surprising in their intensity and duration. Research shows that insomnia, drug/alcohol usage, and immunity related illnesses all tended to increase for people going through divorce.
Sociologist Linda Waite, PhD, of the University of Chicago notes, “Divorce and widowhood appear to have a more long-term influence on physical health than on mental health. Mental health seems to be much more responsive to your current state,” she says. “But, if you ignore your physical health by not exercising, eating well, or seeing a doctor when you are sick, that can have lasting impact. And (ignoring these) is what people tend to do when they lose a marriage.” (Divorce Has Lasting Toll on Health, WebMD)
Steps to healing from physical damage of divorce
Amy heeded her doctor’s advice and got serious about her health.
- Exercise—though difficulty in mobility took Amy to her doctor, she committed to stick to exercising. Even her reduced exercise routine began to lower her blood pressure and cholesterol. She heard that some studies show that walking reduces depression, so she forced herself to still walk to work—relishing the victory of a few more steps each day. She found those peaceful moments led to happier days.
- Eat healthy—Amy also focused on her diet. Dreading eating alone, Amy had been eating take-out or frozen meals. She resolved to make meals that fueled her body with nutrients to help balance the effects of stressors on her physical systems. With the new diet, her cholesterol levels declined. More, she found the time in the kitchen relaxing as she chopped fresh vegetables, experimented with spices, and explored new recipes. It provided a welcome focus at the end of a long workday .
- Establish a sleep routine—Instead of binge-watching late-night television to get through lonely nights, Amy set a firm bedtime and instituted a relaxation routine a half-hour before. The pattern eased her insomnia and gave her much-needed rest—which led to better coping during the day.
Divorce takes a physical toll. But, armed with information and a plan—people going through the divorce can mitigate these impacts and regain their health.
For more information on navigating divorce, email info@ResolutionMediationIN.com or call 317-793-0825. We look forward to serving yo