A Crash Course in Surviving Divorce – Part III
Individuals join our support group at all different stages before, during and after the dissolution of their marriage. As the marriage comes apart, many group members tell me that they feel overwhelmed by anxiety, stress, and fear. This may result in panic attacks, sleep loss, chest pain, headaches, indigestion, muscle aches, etc. etc. There are simple things you can do to help calm your nervous system when anxious fear thoughts overwhelm you.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the U.S., affecting most people throughout their lives. Divorce is a stress-inducing experience, and so it benefits us to learn ways to control and calm our nervous system, slow our heart rate, and maintain a more stable, grounded emotional state.
There are simple procedures you can learn that will help slow down the anxious, fearful thoughts. I have limited space here, but you can find countless techniques online which are designed to help you when you’re overtaken by worry and stress. An important point that was repeated in the articles, is that the techniques are more effective when you practice them over time. When first developing a practice, it’s best to do so in a relatively calm state, not when you’re in a high anxiety state. Like most things, practice makes perfect (or at least more improved) when learning these new processes. Once established, you’ll be better prepared to handle the waves of fear or worry, easily reaching for the technique you’ve developed.
Using a breathing technique to maintain a sense of stability in times of stress is extremely effective. Belly Breathing, Box Breathing, or the 4-7-8 style, are just a few that you may want to research and practice. These techniques direct your focus to the process of inhaling and exhaling. Unlike our normal breathing, which is unconscious, these methods require us to concentrate and/or count while we breathe. This shifts our thoughts off stress and fear, helps to slow our heart rate and sends signals to our body and mind that we are safe. (**If you have respiratory issues, consult your doctor before beginning any new health regimen.**)
Stress and anxiety are future-focused, creating fear about what is going to happen. Another simple way to combat the fear-based spiraling that may occur is to slow down and direct attention to the present moment. A method known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique may be helpful. You simply name 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste. (Maybe have some candy on hand?) Designed to bring you out of future-based worry, this method re-directs your awareness to the here and now.
You do not need to let fear and worry hijack your life during divorce or after. Simple methods can be practiced and honed that will enable you to live a more peaceful, stable life. There are many tools we can use to help modulate and regulate our own mental health and wellbeing.