Coping & Stress

What exactly is stress? Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand; a condition or situation that imposes demands for adjustment; the mind’s message to an organism to adjust; a normal state, either pleasant (eustress) or unpleasant (distress); an excess (hyperstress), or a shortfall (hypostress).

A stressor is the agent producing stress or the source of the stress. Stressors are external events that cause emotional and/or physical reaction, whether positive or negative; or internal commotion in our minds and emotions.

Some common divorce stressors include:

  • Too many goals, unrealistic goals, uncertain goals
  • Inability to adapt
  • Financial burdens
  • Health factors
  • Parenting responsibilities
  • Legal issues
  • New relationships
  • Children
  • Change of residence
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Pressure from work
  • Loss of social life and friends
  • Disappointment of family members

If you claim never to feel stress, let us know what rock you live under. For the rest of us, here are several stress management techniques to cope with the scope of stress:

  • Eliminate the stressor or change your response to it. Job stress? Change jobs or change the way you deal with your job and colleagues. Know the exact agent of stress. There is no point in changing jobs if the stress will follow you there.
  • Use coping resources, such as communication skills; problem solving techniques (step back and view the stress-inducing problem as though it belonged to a friend. Then decide how you would advise them to cope with it); friendship; flexibility (you might have limited choices on how to deal with a certain stressor, such as work or family-related issues); satisfaction with your decision on what to do about it.
  • Prioritize your life and divorce. List everything that is important to you and rank them in order of importance. Work on a short list of your top priorities and leave the others alone until there is room at the top for them.

What will happen if you ignore stress? Let’s just say you do not want, or need, to find out. Be able to recognize the signs of stress exhaustion, so you do not ignore them:


Physical
change in appetite
headaches
fatigue
muscle aches
tension
Spiritual
emptiness
loss of meaning
doubt
unforgiving
cynicism
Emotional
anxiety
mood swings
worry
depression
crying spells
Mental
forgetfulness
poor concentration
negative attitude
confusion
negative self-talk
Behavioral
resentment
lashing out
intolerance
distrust
isolation
Relational
hiding
less sex drive
lack of intimacy
using people
less contact with people

Since divorce is your stressor, list all the negative and positive outcomes of your divorce. Make it personal, not what you think might be standard. The only standard that matters here is yours, so be honest. If not sharing bathroom time is a plus, however important or trivial that might be to you, then list it! If your spouse was a good fixer-upper and you are all thumbs, go ahead and list that loss as a negative.

Complete your list and concentrate on the positives. Allow them to give you the confidence you deserve. Now look at the negatives, one by one. If you can learn to be a fix-it person or can afford to hire help, then turn it into a positive or let that negative go. Do the same with each negative. Decide what you can do about it or let it go!

Communication skills

Good communication clarifies view points and reduces misunderstanding. The problem is, most of us are troubled listeners. We give off the signal that we are not really receiving the other person’s message. Non-verbal communication is the culprit. Our body language, posture, facial expressions, eye contact or lack of it let the other person know how well we are listening and how interested we are in their message.

You would probably agree that most bad marriages are characterized by poor communication between partners. For many married couples, there is a direct correlation between the deterioration of communication between spouses and problems in their marriages. But, people digress into the past. Our objective is to not cope, get through this period in your life.

Flexibility

How flexible are you to change? Are you open to diverse ideas? Can you appreciate other people’s view points, even when they don’t match yours? Avoid judging.

Friends

Make relationships a priority and let the people you like know that you value their friendships. Share your feelings and views of the future, rather than always rehashing and trashing the past with them.

Problem-solving skills

Don’t procrastinate. Deal with it now. Don’t wait until it balloons into a way too serious situation. Separate the people from the problem. Attack the problem, not the people. Separate your emotions from the problem. Strive for clarity of mind. List creative and practical solutions to choose from. Don’t fall into the trap that suggests there is only one solution or one way to do something.



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DEATH WITHOUT A BODY – Divorce for most people who made a good faith effort at making a marriage work is like death without a body. The alienated spouses move through stages very similar to those described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her landmark On Death and Dying, including denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

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