8 Steps to Reduce Stress in Divorce

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Abbie Gower


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In the UK, almost half of marriages end in divorce with an estimated 42% of married couples subsequently divorcing at some point during the marriage. The average length of a marriage in the UK is 12 years.

In the United States, this figure is slightly higher at around 45% of marriages ending in divorce. This is the equivalent of one divorce every 42 seconds in the US.

The trauma caused to any children involved, friends and family as well as the couple divorcing is well documented. A study conducted in 2018 at the University of Amsterdam showed that there was greater short term impact on wellbeing among men, while women experienced more chronic impact. This is perhaps linked to some women’s disproportionate losses in household income and increases in childcare demands.

In fact new research has found men in their sixties are more resilient when it comes to bouncing back from the heartbreak of divorce as the Office for National Statistics figures reveal that more than half of divorced men who married again in 2020 were aged over 50.

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Effects of Divorce on Physical Health

However, the effect of divorce on our physical health is less often spoken about with Dr Felicity Baker, Clinical Psychologist stating:

“Divorce and the period leading up to it is without doubt one of the most stressful life experiences.”

“We endure the trauma of heartbreak and loss, as well as the build-up of chronic stress, both of which contribute to changes in our bodies.”

These changes can start as soon as we notice a marriage deteriorating. Perceiving a threat, our bodies trigger a “fight or flight” response. For most people experiencing a divorce, this state of high anxiety lasts months, if not years, as the situation comes to a head. Over time, this chronic stress can manifest in increasingly debilitating physical symptoms. Dr Baker explains:

“Worsening cognitive function, poor memory and concentration, difficulty sleeping, aches and pains and increased susceptibility to illness.”

“The cycle becomes self-perpetuating as the symptoms impact our ability to keep on top of our work and home lives, piling on yet more stress.”

The impact of stress on our physical health is concerning with Dr Smritis Saraf, Consultant Cardiologist at The Lister Hospital commenting that:

“Elevated levels of stress hormones can lead to a continuously increased heart rate and higher blood pressure – both of which put extra strain on the heart.”

“Over time, this can contribute to the development of hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease.”

Our expert team of Divorce Solicitors know how difficult the divorce process can be on your mental health, but there are certain things you can do to reduce stress and replace it with positive thoughts and actions.

Divorce and Stress

If you’re getting a divorce, it’s understandable to feel stressed because you’re handling one of the toughest experiences that you may ever have to go through. Being left unsure about your future won’t help with these feelings.

You may not always recognise the signs of stress but they will often include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle Tension
  • Muscle Pain
  • Stomach Problems
  • Chest Pain
  • Increased Heartbeat
  • Poor Sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Low Mood
  • Irritability
  • Indecisiveness
  • Constantly Worrying
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Unexpected Outbursts
  • Decreased Productivity
  • Excessive Sleep
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Increased Appetite
  • Avoidance Behaviour
  • Increased Alcohol Consumption

Given the impact that stress can have, we’ve come up with some top tips which could help you to get through your divorce.

Have Some ‘Me Time’

Often people find themselves in this unfamiliar situation that they didn’t expect to happen. This can be overwhelming and can create some anxiety around the sudden uncertainty in your life.

Due to this,. it’s important to take some time out for yourself and get to grips with your separation and divorce. Giving yourself time will also help you to identify the factors that you’re finding the most stressful, for example being left without financial support. Once you have regrouped and identified these factors, you can then take steps to eliminate them. This may include courses of action, such as getting a Financial Order to make sure that you’re financially protected.

Create a Journal

Keeping a journal where you can write down all your thoughts and feelings could help you to release all the negative thoughts that are trapped in your head. This means you can shift some of those stressful feelings, especially if you’re honest with yourself.

This is a method which is actually recommended by the NHS as a way of helping to reduce anxiety. It can help to provide clarity, identify patterns, reveal emotions and process your decisions. It can also help us to become more flexible and accepting in our thinking, something which is essential when navigating a divorce.

Get Plenty of Rest and Sleep

Feelings of stress and upset may keep you up until the early hours of the morning, but one of the key ways to decrease stress is by getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night

 If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll feel mentally and physically drained and not enough rest can negatively affect your mood. Trying to keep a positive mental attitude will help you to see your divorce as an opportunity for a new beginning and getting lots of rest will help you with this.

Stay Healthy and Hydrated

It can be really easy to fall into the ‘pitfall’ of comfort eating and drinking alcohol to make the feelings of upset temporarily go away. It’s important not to beat yourself up about this but make sure it doesn’t become a habit because these things can affect your mood and dehydrate you.

One of the main ways to reduce stress is to stay hydrated because this will reduce feelings of tiredness. Studies have also found that exercising releases positive hormones, which will boost your mind. But if you’re not feeling up to it, long walks can soothe and calm your mind, so you can think clearly and constructively.

Talk About How You Feel

Bottling up feelings of distress will make you feel worse and so it’s important to tend to your emotional needs as well as your physical needs.

Speaking to your family and friends might make you feel better about your entire situation. If you can’t speak to family or friends, then you could consider arranging an appointment with a professional, such as a counsellor, for example.

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

With divorce comes a lot of change and so you may find it helpful to make a list of all the things that you want to achieve. It’s important to be realistic when thinking about what you want the outcome of your divorce to be or you might end up fighting a losing battle that will make you feel worse.

Regularly looking at your expectations and updating your checklists will make you feel in control and calmer about your divorce and all that comes with it.

Get Legal Advice

When you start your divorce, you might understandably want to know what your financial rights are and what you’re entitled to. But this will be different for each couple, so make an appointment with a Divorce Solicitor to put your mind at ease and answer your questions about all aspects of the divorce process. By getting the answers you want, you will gain clarity and feel certain about what will happen with your children and your finances and what your future will look like.

Stay Involved

It is important for you to speak to a Divorce Solicitor about any queries you have throughout the divorce process, rather than getting information online or anecdotally through friends as this may turn out to be inaccurate or misconstrued.

Every divorce case is different so only the Divorce Solicitor working with you on your case can give you the correct information and the answers that you need.

How We Can Help

At Simpson Millar we understand the challenges that come with a relationship breaking down, but rest assured that our Divorce Solicitors will always deal with your case in an empathetic and friendly way. We will always use our professional expertise to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

If you require representation, help or assistance in your divorce and are looking for legal advice, help and assistance, our friendly team of experts in this particular area can be contacted on 0808 239 3465. Alternatively, you can request a call back.

Additionally, if you find that you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to seek support which can be found through several organisations, some of which are listed below.


‘NHS: Urgent Mental Health Helpline’ by NHS (n.d.) ‘Find an urgent mental health helpline’. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

‘Samaritans: Contact Information by Samaritans’ (n.d.) Contact Samaritan. Available at: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/ (Accessed: 20/12/2023)

‘SANE: Saneline Services’ by SANE (n.d.) Saneline Services. Available at: https://www.sane.org.uk/how-we-help/emotional-support/saneline-services (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). How to Pay for Your Divorce and Financial Order: How Do I Get a Financial Order? [Online] Available at: https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/family-law-solicitors/divorce/how-to-pay-for-your-divorce-and-financial-order/how-do-i-get-a-financial-order/ (Accessed: 19/12/2023).

The Telegraph. (n.d.). The Health Impact of Divorce: Mental, Physical, and Psychological. [Online] Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/wellbeing/mental-health/divorce-health-impact-mental-physical-psychological/ (Accessed: 19/12/2023).

(n.d.). Stress. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/ (Accessed: 19/12/2023).

NHS Grampian. (2021). Guided Journaling. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhsgrampian.org/your-health/wecare/noticeboard/2021/june/guided-journaling/ (Accessed: 19/12/2023).

(n.d.). Exercise and Mental Health: Exercise Health Benefits. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/ (Accessed: 19/12/2023).

Abbie Gower


Abbie Gower is a Solicitor in the Family Law department based at our Manchester office.

Abbie holds a Law LLB (Hons) from Northumbria University, graduating with a 2:1 in 2018, and completed her Legal Practice Course (LPC) at BPP University. Her journey with Simpson Millar began in October 2021 and led her to qualify as a Solicitor in October 2023.

In her day to day role, Abbie works along her senior colleagues and assists families during some of their most challenging times. She deals with complex cases like divorce proceedings, financial settlements, and children matters.

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