It was about two months into my divorce and I was at the grocery store picking up a few things to feed the kids. I was not in there for me, as I was not very hungry. In fact, I had pretty much lost my appetite since my divorce hit. As a result, I had lost almost thirty pounds. I am not a very big guy to begin with, so that was pretty extreme.
As I was walking through the bakery, a large pound cake caught my eye. Although I didn’t have much of an appetite, that cake looked good to me. I bought it “for the kids” and brought it home. I then proceeded to eat the entire cake in less that two hours. That was pretty extreme, too.
Overwhelmed and Consumed
What was going on here? I consider myself a pretty reasonable and conservative person. Why was I experiencing all of these extremes? Simply put: I was not taking care of myself.
My divorce had overwhelmed and consumed me. Everyday was a battle just to get through as I struggled with the basics of life and taking care of the kids. In the process I lose sight of me.
My body, severely weakened from losing so much weight, went into survival mode and triggered my body to eat even though I had no desire. Fortunately, that episode with the cake scared me enough to wake me up to the fact that I needed to take better care of myself.
Four Fundamental Ways to Take Care of Yourself
From then on, I pushed myself to live a more healthy and balanced life. Here is what I focused on, and recommend you to do the same:
#1 Eat right. It is very normal to lose your appetite during periods of high emotional stress. It is not normal (or healthy) to stop eating. If you are not hungry during mealtime, supplement your diet with protein bars or nutritious shakes. Your local health food store should be able to steer you in the right direction. Bottom line: find creative ways to keep your calorie intake up.
#2 Exercise routinely. I had just taken up running the year prior to my divorce. I believe that saved my life. I was under such extreme stress during my divorce, that if I did not have some physical outlet for it, I believe I would have suffered something severe like a heart attack or stoke. You don’t have to start running marathons, but make sure you are getting 30 minutes of exercise in each day. It can be as simple as walking through your neighborhood or park. I know of a woman who took up running during her divorce and within two years was running a marathon in Paris, France! You never know where your new found habit of exercise may lead you, except to better health. Don’t ignore this. Exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and give you more energy—all things you need to deal with a divorce.
#3 Get enough sleep. Like losing your appetite, extreme stress can make it difficult to sleep. This is normal. However, if you are ignoring your health in other ways, it can make sleeping even more difficult. Try to keep your normal daily rhythm as much as possible. Also, follow the above advice on eating right and exercising. Both of these are key to helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Consult your doctor if you are struggling to sleep for more than two weeks. Melatonin is a natural sleep aid that I used during periods of restlessness. It is effective and non-habit forming.
#4 Stay away from drugs or alcohol. People often joke about “needing a drink** when under stress. While it might elicit a chuckle, alcohol and divorce don’t mix. Many of the problems I see occurring during divorce are directly related to alcohol use. A glass of wine is not a problem, unless it is something you “need” to have to fall asleep or deal with the stress of your divorce. Or, it becomes a pattern in your life that you can’t shake. It is best to play it safe and steer clear of alcohol or drugs. Something that started out as an innocent attempt to get some sleep could spiral out of control.
Take Care of Yourself and Recover Faster
Divorce is very stressful. You need to be healthy, energized, and clear-minded now more than ever. Taking care of yourself physically is how to ensure this happens.
Question: Is there anything you are doing, or have done, that has helped you take better care of yourself during your divorce? Do you have a “war stories” to share that others can learn from?