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  • Writer's pictureKim Boyd

Divorce: Why It’s So Tough and Ways to Get Through It

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Let’s face it, divorce is hard!

While any type of change can be difficult to process, divorce is actually considered the second most traumatic event in a person’s life, second only to the death of a loved one.

And it makes sense, right? Divorce affects every aspect of a person’s life: immediate and extended family, children, friends, mental and physical well-being, and immediate and long-term finances.

It’s like being transported to a foreign land without a map. The sense of uncertainty of what the future holds, the challenge to your identity as a spouse, being forced out of your comfort zone, the loss of emotional attachment, and the lack of control put you in a mental and emotional tailspin. You may even feel like you’re walking around in a fog, or living in an alternate reality.

The Physiological Explanation For How You’re Feeling

When the human brain perceives a threat to its safety and security, there is actually a complex physiological reaction that occurs that is meant to protect us. Here is a brief summary of what happens:

  • When the brain detects a threat (we’re served with divorce papers, we’re contemplating divorce, etc.) our body’s stress system is activated.

  • Stress hormones, particularly adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, are released to prepare the body for fight, flight or freeze mode.

  • These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure and respiration, providing a surge of energy, and sharpened focus and reaction times.

  • While the body is physically preparing to respond to the threat, the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for rational decision-making and emotional regulation, gets overridden.

In short, humans respond to threats from a place of instinct and reflex, not from a place of rational, measured thought. While this physical response may have saved the caveman from the saber-toothed tiger, it doesn’t serve you well when you need to think clearly and rationally about your future.

Overcoming the Body’s Reactions to Stress

So what can you do? How can you feel confident in the decisions you make when your own biology seems to be working against you? Below are some tried and true methods for overcoming your body’s reaction to stress. I’ve seen them work for my clients, so I know they can work for you too.

Take a timeout. This is my favorite tool, because it actually takes the body 20 minutes to return to a normal state after a perceived threat. Cozy up with a cup of hot tea, take a yoga class, go for a walk outside. Allow your prefrontal cortex, the thinking part of your brain, to regain control. With the gift of time, you'll improve your ability to look at the problem from a higher perspective, more logically and creatively. Where you once saw obstacles, you’ll now see options and solutions. If you aren’t at that point yet after 20 minutes, take 20 more (along with more hot tea, yoga, or walks), and reassess again. In time, it will come.

Take baby steps. You may not find your way out of the rabbit hole overnight, but set small, achievable goals for yourself every day. Meet yourself where you’re at. That one small step may be taking a shower, eating a small dinner, going to that yoga class, or making one attorney phone call. Slip on the superhero cloak of determination (It may sound corny, but the visualization does help!). Work on one, small, achievable goal a day. Then celebrate your success. You deserve it. And next week, add a second daily baby step and celebrate twice as hard!

Be aware of your mindset. Practice adopting a “growth mindset.” I get it…life isn't unicorns and rainbows at the moment. But staying on the dark side day after day isn’t going to make things any easier. You’re already taking baby steps. What if you also fully, and completely, knew that you would get through this? A growth mindset views “hard things” as an opportunity for personal growth and learning.

You’ve overcome challenges before. Think back to when you’ve felt scared, unprepared, uncertain, or in over your head. What obstacle stood in your way? How did you overcome it? What did you learn about yourself? How can you use what you learned then, now?

I’m a firm believer in the strength of the human spirit, your spirit. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again. You are more resilient, adaptable, and able to push through challenges and obstacles than you probably give yourself credit for.

Whether you successfully used these techniques to overcome stressful situations, or still just don’t know where to start, my inbox is always open at, and I’d love to hear from you.

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