Managing stress in divorce

Divorce has long been recognised as one of the most stressful situations people can find themselves dealing with.

A divorce or separation after a long-term relationship can trigger a range of emotions that leave us feeling weakened. The familial, financial and social implications are far-reaching, and many people describe their divorce as akin to a bereavement.

For many, their stress is heightened by the feeling they are not in control of their life. Divorce isn’t a situation many people have prepared for, so it’s only natural that as they negotiate its course it will feel strange and uncomfortable.

Family lawyers advise lots of clients going through stress in divorce and we include below some important points that might help. And the good news is that in this Stress Awareness Month, there’s lots of online advice available and signposting to resources that can help.

Look after yourself

It’s all too easy when life is pressured, to put our own health and wellbeing on the backburner. But that’s absolutely the last thing we should do.
This has been likened to airplane safety advice. Passengers are always told to sort out their own air mask and lifejacket before helping anyone else. We need to look after ourselves to be able to look after others and to be able to handle the pressured time we are going through. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep – are all among the first steps to keeping our stress at bay.

Stay positive

Or put the other way round, don’t catastrophise. It’s not uncommon for clients seeking divorce advice to think the very worst is about to happen; that they’ll be left homeless, penniless and without access to their children. Such distressing outcomes are rarely the reality. Following the other advice in this list should help in realising that while life is changing it doesn’t follow that it’s all going to be for the worst. Focus on the positives that you can look forward to. That might be more space for you, a financial fresh start or the end of a difficult, destructive relationship.

Don’t bottle up problems

It’s amazing how sharing problems with a trusted friend or family member, sometimes even a stranger, can help put stressful situations in perspective. Allowing problems to whirr and whirr inside our heads isn’t helpful and rarely leads to a positive conclusion.

Stress in divorce: Two men talking on a bench

Sharing our fears and concerns with others may open up a fresh outlook – or at the very least encourage us that we’re not facing everything alone. It’s important to have someone in your camp who you can unburden to as a way of releasing pressure.

Be there for your children

Undoubtedly how children are going to be affected by divorce is one of the very first concerns for parents going through divorce. A parent naturally wants to protect and nurture their loved ones. The last thing they want is to be the cause of unhappiness for sons or daughters. That’s why ensuring you understand and can share the concerns of children has two benefits during a divorce. You are showing the parental lead that will guide them through a family break-up. But also, focussing on helping others cuts the introspection mums and dads can put themselves through. Looking out for others and their needs is recognised in many settings as a great way to help us feel connected and more balanced (but don’t forget to help yourself first).

Seek expert advice

One of the biggest causes of stress in divorce is feeling we’ve lost control. Conversely taking action to help us wrestle back some of it can keep a situation balanced in our heads. This will more than likely be the first time you’ve been divorced. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve tackled a huge life event without a partner, or is your first involvement in a legal process with all its terminology and form filling!
Getting good legal advice from those who have been through that process many times before and understand the stresses and strains it places on people is a good first step. If you can, ask for recommendations from family or friends. Alternatively, take a look at a few websites and find an expert you think will fit well with you.


There are some great stress-busting tips from the NHS to help with divorce, work-induced stress or other pressured situations. We particularly like the advice from Professor Cary Cooper: “If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse.”

Mind has lots of readily-available information, including this guide to the signs of stress.

If you’re looking for general advice on keeping stress at bay, search for #StressAwarenessMonth on Twitter.

And we’ve written previously about the benefits of maintaining a positive mental attitude to help you get through.