By Anne Foy
Going through a divorce is a very, very stressful process. For those suffering from depression, it can make feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem far worse than they may otherwise be. While studies show that divorce ultimately increases one’s chances of recovering from depression (when compared to depressed people in unhappy relationships who remained in those relationships), while proceedings are ongoing, the stress and emotional turmoil of divorce can exacerbate low moods, rumination, and all the other horrors associated with depression. It’s important to try and maintain your mental health during this time, for your own sake as well as that of your family and loved ones. Here are a few tips on how to battle mood swings and depression during your divorce:
Accept The Situation
Acceptance is hard. It can be really tough to get your head around the reality of divorce, to understand what’s happening to you and how your life is going to change. But sitting down and having a good, long think about what’s really going on will help you to come to terms with it. Accepting what’s happened and what is happening, and developing some understanding of both why you are in this situation and where you can go from here will prevent harmful ‘What if?’s from creeping into your thought patterns. ‘What if?’ ruminations and self-recrimination are strongly associated with depression. Comprehension and acceptance of your new reality will help you enormously to move on, emotionally speaking.
Don’t Rush Into Anything New
Going through a separation and/or a divorce constitutes a huge shakeup to your life. It can be really tempting to try and ‘replace’ your partner and thus regain some semblance of ‘normality’ (not to mention self-esteem and emotional support). However, this is rarely a good idea. New relationships need to come from a place of emotional stability and self-love. Furthermore, they should occur because you really want to be with the person in question – not because you’re seeking to replace an old partner or lifestyle. Too many people try to use ‘love’ as a salve for their problems, as a cure-all rather than as an end in itself. They end up pushing new relationships too far too soon, believing that a new love will somehow solve all of their problems. In fact, these relationships frequently just end up adding a new layer of emotional complexity to an already difficult situation, ultimately piling on more stress, heartbreak, and depression. Wait until you’ve put some space between you, your ex, and your divorce before you embark upon something new.
Self-care is vital to maintaining a healthy frame of mind. Self-care involves treating yourself kindly, and with respect. Give yourself as much ‘me time’ as you can – make time to do things which you enjoy, and which you feel will fulfill you. Surround yourself with a network of supportive loved ones who are prepared to listen and empathize with you during this time. However, self-care isn’t all about total indulgence and hugs from your friends. These are very important – but it’s also important to care for yourself by practicing mentally healthy habits. Serotonin – a chemical strongly associated with moods – is also a big player in your circadian rhythms. So regularizing your rhythms can have a marked impact on your mental health. Ways to do this include:
- Sleeping and waking at regular times.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Eating at regular times.
- If you’re taking antidepressants, take them at the same time every day.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Spend as much time as you can out in the open air.
Eating healthily and getting plenty of exercise will also help. Exercise improves blood supply to the brain, and increases the flow of mood-boosting endorphins – as well as being a great way to blow off steam when you’re stressed out! If you don’t fancy lifting weights or going for a run, something as simple as taking regular walks can make massive differences to your state of mind. Yoga is also a common and very effective exercise-based stress-buster. Meanwhile, healthy eating means that your brain is getting the nourishment it needs to handle the emotions and stresses you’re going through at this difficult time. Treat yourself with kindness, and treat your body and brain with respect, and you’ll give yourself a fighting chance of making it through this with your mental health in peak condition!
Anne Foy is a freelance writer who has worked in business management in the healthcare industry.