Divorce has a way of trickling down and affecting nearly every aspect of your life, being ranked second on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory behind only the death of a spouse.
The added emotional strain can create decreased productivity at work, changes in your social life, trouble sleeping, anxiety, weight fluctuations, increased risks of heart disease / chronic health problems, depression or a variety of other negative effects.
It is totally understandable that the increased amount of stress you feel as you deal with the uncertainty of divorce proceedings will likely have both obvious and subtle consequences on your mind and body.
However, by being proactive and taking steps to reduce the physical and mental toll of divorce, you can minimize the impact on your overall health.
Go to the doctor
From hypertension to the common cold, men are at a much higher risk of developing physical health problems after a divorce.
The long-term consequences of the stress that comes before, during and after divorce has been found to significantly increase the biological processes that can result in heart disease, as well as other life-threatening conditions.
While men often put off going to the doctor until they are on the verge of death, it is a good idea to (at the very least!) go in for your yearly checkup and have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked out.
This is particularly important if you are already risk factors going against you, such as a family history of heart disease or if you smoke.
Your doctor can recommend a course of action to lower your risk factors for developing serious health conditions and help you manage any preexisting conditions, as well as advise on whether you need to come in for more frequent exams.
Appreciate the friends who stick around
It’s an unfortunate reality that your social life is going to take a real hit during your divorce.
Some friends may naturally take sides while others may simply find it easier to avoid the complications of a divorcing friend. Whatever their reasons, you will likely lose friends you never would have expected, which can be devastating when you are trying to manage the loneliness that comes after divorce.
However, having a support group you can fall back upon is crucial to help manage the mental health aspect of ending a marriage.
Men may be notorious for keeping their feelings to themselves, but they are also more than twice as likely to suffer post-divorce depression and nearly 10 times more likely to commit suicide.
Make sure to appreciate the friends who do stick around and utilize them if they offer to help. Sometimes just talking or venting can be a great way to release some of the pent-up tension, and friends or family will often be more than willing to lend an ear.
Consider professional help
While friends and family can be very helpful as a part of your support network, they may not be enough to help you through the emotional turmoil that comes with divorce. You may reach a point where it is more constructive to seek professional guidance to help you deal with the stress and anxiety.
Although some men may feel uncomfortable about the thought of going to a therapist, it can be an extremely effective method to stay on top of your mental health.
Not only can opening up to a licensed counselor be more advantageous since they are trained to help people deal with tough times in their life, but they are also qualified to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression.
Divorce is not the time to bottle everything up and deal with it alone; a licensed therapist can help you manage the negative emotions you are bound to feel at some point throughout the process.
Get an attorney
Many guys have a very do-it-yourself attitude, which is usually a good thing. Divorce, however, is not one of those times.
Do not make the mistake of thinking you can do some research online and be ready to handle yourself in the courtroom like Perry Mason. Unfortunately, the rules of procedure and statutes that comprise family law are extremely complex.
By going into your divorce without representation, you are likely setting yourself up for an unbalanced settlement and an enormous amount of additional stress — particularly if your divorce is contentious.
Hiring a lawyer obviously has its drawbacks (it’s expensive), but having an experienced attorney who is able to take care of the details and knows the ins and outs of your jurisdiction’s laws will take a huge amount of pressure out of the equation.
Additionally, an attorney is critical for fathers to ensure you have done everything in your power to maximize your parenting time, as family courts still overwhelmingly award custody to the mother.
Avoid falling into bad habits
It is fairly common and easy to turn to your old Uncle Jack when things go wrong in your life, but alcohol can be a very slippery slope when it is used to self-medicate.
Guys are also much more inclined to binge drink when they are going through a divorce, which can lead to a number of problems, including depression and suicide. Alcohol or other drugs of abuse can also be used as evidence in divorce, creating extra hurdles if you are attempting to gain custody.
Another unhealthy habit that men frequently fall victim to is jumping into a rebound relationship too quickly. It is a bad idea to get serious shortly after a divorce, as someone is likely to get hurt — whether that is you or the person you are seeing.
It is important to give yourself plenty of time to fully recover, so wait until you are truly ready to get back out there.
Divorce is obviously an extremely difficult and stressful time of your life. However, by actively taking steps to keep your mental and physical health in check, you can reduce the negative impact this process will have on your overall wellbeing.
Don’t wait until you are dealing with problems before addressing them; putting in the time and effort from the beginning to prevent the common side effects of divorce is a much easier and more effective way to manage the stress.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”