There is no way to completely eliminate the stress of dealing with your abuser during this difficult time; however, there are many coping tools you can use to reduce it so that you can function effectively and take care of your children, your job, and yourself.
Try to remember that this stressful conflict is not going to last forever and that you are in the home stretch to achieving your freedom and a path to happiness, something that would not have been possible if you had chosen to stay in this toxic relationship.
Abusive men tend to escalate their bad behavior during a divorce because aggression, manipulation, and dirty tricks have worked so well for them in the past.
Here are some useful coping tools and techniques that you can use to reduce stress and stay on track to not only limit the damage he inflicts, but also to achieve your goals in the divorce.
1. Limit or eliminate contact with your abuser. If you must communicate with him about the children, text him a brief message on your cell phone. If he sends you lengthy emails, phone messages, or texts, choose not to respond. He is trying to tear you down and wear you down. Don’t take the bait. You are not obligated to allow a toxic person to take up any of your precious time. Conserve that time for what you need to do to take care of yourself and get the divorce. Remember that he is dangerous and keep healthy boundaries.
2. Do not allow him to try to negotiate the terms of the divorce directly with you to save money or for any other reason. He will use that to make unreasonable demands and to wear you down. He won’t keep any promises made, anyway. Don’t fall for it. Tell him to have his attorney contact your attorney to discuss all aspects of the settlement. Be realistic about what you can expect to receive in the divorce and then fight for it. Get your attorney the documents and evidence he or she needs promptly. Eliminate unnecessary delays to reduce your stress and save expenses.
3. If you aren’t seeing a therapist already, go see one now. Many abused women develop eating disorders, chronic anxiety, depression, and PTSD. You will need to work on self-esteem issues, as his toxic behavior has eroded your sense of self-worth over a long period of time. Please see my article, “Therapy For Stress and Healing”.
4. Take time for yourself. Exercise for at least thirty minutes, three to four days a week. Go for a walk outdoors for the sunshine and fresh air. Exercise helps to reduce stress by releasing chemicals that increase our sense of well-being. This regimen will help you to be alert and give you the stamina you need. It will also improve your memory and mood.
5. You will improve your ability to handle things if your mind is clear, you have enough energy, and you are well rested. Get enough sleep, pay close attention to your diet, and drink plenty of water. These simple things are very important.
6. When you are under stress, breathe deeply through your nose into your abdomen to the count of four, hold to the count of two, then breathe out slowly to the count of four through your mouth. Do this from five to ten times, until you are relaxed. Repeat this often throughout the day, every day, as needed. This will give you time to decide how you are going to respond. Don’t react out of emotion and fear. If you do, you will make mistakes. Respond from a position of clear-headedness.
7. Massage therapy will help you to relax and reconnect with your body. The caring touch of another person in a safe space is healing. Research suggests that massage reduces high blood pressure and may boost immunity, as several studies have found there are dramatic decreases in the stress hormone cortisol after massage sessions.
8. Since ancient times, people have understood that music has healing properties. Because positive mood affects the capacity for memory, it is important for you to listen to positive music in the car or wherever else possible. Change the channel or turn off music that is depressing or has lyrics that degrade or objectify women. What you listen to affects your perception of the world.
9. I found bubble baths to be very important in helping me to de-stress. Prayer, meditation, positive affirmations, being with family and friends, and gratitude are also very helpful. Being grateful that I had a family, we were all healthy, I had a good job. These things matter, especially now. Gratitude will help you to keep things in perspective, so keep a gratitude journal and write in it every day.
10. You will feel better about your ability to handle the divorce if you take responsibility for the outcome, inform yourself as much as possible by doing your own research, and are proactive in taking steps to protect yourself. You will feel more empowered and that will reduce your stress, too.
You can do this. Taking care of yourself, even when you don’t feel like it, will help you to keep strong and reduce your stress.