✝︎ Taking Care of You After Divorce
by Kim Johnson
“After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.”
Ephesians 5:29 (NIV)
Problems of Stress from Emotional Pain
- Emotional pain causes stress. Stress is the word for the response from our body to external or internal events.
- External stress – includes threats (fear), adversity (big or small), conflict, pain of divorce; and does include excitement or challenge (“good” stress).
- Internal stress – a physical handicap, discomfort, depression, or pain.
- The human body, however, does not distinguish between an external or internal stressor…it responds to stress the same in every case.
Process of Stress Response
- The brain sends messages along two separate pathways.
- First, the pituitary gland releases a substance called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).” This travels rapidly in the blood to stimulate the adrenal glands.
- The second pathway is through the brainstem and spinal cord, sending nerve impulses to many parts of the body, including the adrenal glands.
- The combined effect of these chemical and neural signals is to stimulate two major parts of the adrenal gland — core and cortex. Each secretes different hormones for differing purposes.
- There are several hormones, but the two most important are cortisol and cortisone. Both help fight pain and inflammation. These hormones stimulate the heart and prepare us for that unique emergency reaction in the body —- “fight or flight.”
- These hormones are commonly recognized as our rush of adrenaline. They rev the body to help it cope with a challenge.
- Important point – this ADRENALINE RUSH (emergency response system) can create a state of increased activity throughout the whole body.
Product of Stress Response
- Research has shown a direct correlation between adrenaline and stress, and the negative effects it has on our bodies. When we don’t have a normal “on and off” period for our emergency response, the production of the stress hormone released from the adrenal gland, called cortisol, increases. With extreme surges, it forms a barrier to the brain’s natural tranquilizers, thus blocking them from reaching their receptors. It results in:
- Anxiety, panic attacks
- Headaches, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, heartburn
- Worry, guilt, compulsive behavior, irritability
- A myriad of other emotional, behavioral and physical ailments
- It has also been shown to do the following long-term damage:
- Increase production of blood cholesterol
- Narrowing of capillaries and other blood vessels that can shut down the blood supply to the heart muscle
- A decrease in the body’s ability to remove cholesterol
- An increase in the blood’s tendency to clot
- An increase in the deposit of plaque on walls of arteries
- A great example of this is a flashlight. You turn it on when you need it and then turn it off when you don’t. Doing it this way keeps the batteries charged and it is ready to go when you need it. However, if you turn it on and never turn it off, it eventually ruins the batteries and it stops working.
Prescription for Stress
Proverbs 14:30 “A life at peace gives life to the body.”
As difficult as it may be, the best solution to the continual effects of stress is to “give yourself a break today.” Going through a divorce, you can sometimes barely get through one day. So, rather than try to make a “long-term” plan, decide each morning to find a few minutes of peace for just that day. It may not look the same every day, but whether it is 5 minutes in the shower alone, taking deep breaths as you drive to work, or lying in bed in the dark before you get up in the morning, try to make the most of whatever time you have to “turn off the flashlight” for a few minutes.
Precedent Set by Jesus
The best Biblical example of self-care was modeled by Jesus himself. Because of his teaching, people desperately wanted to be near him. So, hundreds of people would gather when he came to town. Jesus did love the people. Jesus was very kind and giving. Jesus was extremely wise. Yet, Jesus did not let people control him. He set boundaries and took care of himself. Mark 6:31 is just one example. Jesus practiced this throughout his ministry eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, investing in relationships and taking time to be alone. He did not allow outside influences to control who he was and what God wanted him to do.
There are times in our life when we are running on empty and there is nothing wrong with focusing on your own needs. God made us and he understands when we are exhausted from the pain of a divorce. It is being a good steward of how God made you.
Suggestions for Nurturing
- Girlfriends – a gift of God to encourage us
- Family – healthy support is good
- A spiritually mature or older mentor
- Be aware of your emotional vulnerability and where you are in the healing process
- Watch your priorities
- Be aware of what your true emotional needs are. A short list of some emotional needs might be to feel:
accepted, acknowledged, admired, appreciated, approved of,
believed in, capable ,challenged, competent, confident,
forgiven, forgiving, free of guilt ,fulfilled, heard,
helped, helpful, important, included, listened to,
noticed, private, productive, reassured, recognized,
respected, safe, secure, supported, understood, and valued
- Recreation (have some fun)
- Exercise and Healthy Diet
- Resolve Hormonal Issues
- Physical Appearance (make-up, something new, long hot bath, haircut, etc.)
- Do something to relax (deep breaths, read a magazine, listen to soft music, sit in the sun, etc.)
- Read the Bible (specifically Psalms and Proverbs)
- Daily devotional book
- Meet with other believers (Hebrews 10:25) for encouragement
- Prayer (pray Psalms)
- Don’t push yourself too hard
- Know your limits
- Watch your priorities
- Keep a journal (to process thoughts and the pain)
“Take one day at a time. Today, after all, is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”