When you are going through a divorce, you may be so traumatized that you stop caring for yourself physically. You may stop exercising, binge on comfort food or neglect to eat, battle to sleep and even resort to drinking too much. This obviously takes its toll on your physical health. Just knowing what happens to your body can help because you become more aware of what you need to do to prevent any permanent damage.
Weight gain or Loss
It’s common to lose weight or gain weight after a divorce. You may just not feel up to cooking for one so you tend to skip meals. You may find that you have little appetite anyway. On the other hand, you may find yourself reaching for comfort food to get you through the tough times. Whether you find yourself eating too much or too little, the one is as unhealthy as the other. Weight change can cause depression and many long term health effects.
A common complaint when you are going through a divorce is that you can’t sleep. Apart from battling to fall asleep, you may also experience disrupted sleep or have nightmares that cause you to wake up.
Continued insomnia can put several of your bodily functions at risk. Some studies have associated lack of sleep with higher blood pressure as well as increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Alcohol or drug abuse
You may find yourself using alcohol or drugs after a divorce to help to numb feelings of anxiousness, depression and loneliness. They may offer temporary relief but in the long term, they can be very destructive. Some studies have shown that men are more likely to become substance abusers after divorce, possibly because they are conditioned to suppress their feelings.
There’s certainly no harm in drinking alcohol in small quantities, especially if you are drinking with friends. This is very different to drinking alone, and heavily. Socializing and having a drink with others can be uplifting but drinking heavily when you are alone can lead to depression and other serious health consequences.
Weakened Immune System
Any kind of stress, including post-divorce stress, puts pressure on your immune system. A weakened immune system means your body can no longer protect itself effectively from illnesses. You may find yourself coming down with frequent colds and being more subject to injuries.
Current research has revealed that the psychological stress of a divorce can have serious physical effects on the heart, especially for women. This is because when their cortisol levels spike due to stress. This in turn causes raised blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Lack of exercise
The stress of a divorce can cause people to stop exercising or working on their fitness. They simply can’t get their bodies to co-operate. I know that my anxiety and sleepless nights left me drained and unmotivated when it came to any physical exercise.
The good news
Many people report that when they reach the two year mark after divorce, they feel much better mentally and physically. In fact, many found that their divorce was just the wake-up call they needed for them to pay more attention to their health. It is only when you use unhealthy ways to cope with your divorce and these become habits, that your health may suffer permanent damage.
A complete disruption of your normal routines and eating patterns may be difficult at first. However, it also provides the opportunity to make positive changes. After that initial period when you may not want to eat or eat too much, you can start introducing new healthier eating habits. After all, you have more time to focus on yourself when you don’t have meals to prepare for a partner and you don’t have to cater to his/her likes and dislikes.
Eating more healthily and including foods containing plenty of antioxidants helps to strengthen your immune system at a time when you really need this.
Common sense tips for dealing with sleeplessness include cutting down on caffeine and having a winding down routine before bedtime. You can even breathe yourself to sleep. There are dozens of natural ways to deal with sleeplessness.
If natural remedies do not work for you, a last resort is to have some sleeping pills prescribed. Taking these for a temporary period usually does no harm and can prevent your insomnia from turning into a long-term problem.
Exercise is a great way to relieve the stress of divorce and channel negative emotions. Some people have found it very helpful to join local walking or running groups where they can make new friendships and release pent-up emotions.
A relationship breakdown often means you have less physical touch. For this reason, getting massages regularly can be very therapeutic.
The stress of divorce can cause permanent damage to your physical health. However, if you are aware of the possible damage, and do everything you possibly can to address it, there is no reason you can’t come out of it healthier than ever.