You might have noticed something kind of strange: when your world falls apart… your body falls apart too. And usually, by the time your health has taken a hit – boom – it’s too late.
You’ve got your legal representative. You’ve got your counsellor. You’ve got your accountant. You’ve got your support team. Maybe you’ve even got your settlement and custody agreements all sorted.
But do you have your health? Without it, the rest isn’t going to matter much at all.
What to do? In the first of this two-part blog post, I’m going to explain how a the stress of breakup can make your health vulnerable. Keep an eye out for part two, where I’ll show you exactly how to divorce-proof your health.
Why does divorce make you sick?
Let’s break it down:
The moment a separation or divorce becomes your new reality, your emotions and hormones take over (big time!). They kick start numerous chemical reactions within your body to help you survive the shock of a breakup – you’ve probably heard of the fight or flight reaction. Yep, that’s what’s happening here. Our body’s one incredible machine.
But, here’s the thing…
These days, the separation and divorce process is long, conflict-filled and stressful (on many fronts). This means the fight or flight response period is horribly over-extended, and your body is working overtime to produce chemical reactions well beyond what we actually need — or can cope with.
It’s very important to note upfront that for those people who’ve been living in a toxic relationship, it’s possible they’ve been experiencing this fight or flight dynamic for decades.
A prolonged period of fight or flight exhausts many elements within your system and throws your entire body chemistry out of whack. Your hormones, your mind, your emotions, your weight, your stress levels: everything gets more and more out of balance… and puts you at serious risk of illness.
Sure, but who has time to pay attention?
It’s fair enough: during a breakup, you’re so preoccupied with getting through the here and now that it’s easy to miss the telltale signs that your health is falling by the wayside.
Or maybe you have noticed, but have just chalked it up to divorce stress that will move swiftly along as soon as your divorce does. I hate to say it, but it won’t, unless you nip it in the bud now.
So, what should we be looking for?
Hair falling out
Bleeding gums and bad breath
A burning sensation in your stomach
Low energy & fatigue
Weight gain or weight loss
Bad moods & aggression
Fogginess, dizziness, shortness of breath
Where body chemistry comes into play
“Your body is its own ‘chemistry set’. It holds the secrets to precisely what your body requires at the specific time.” Nutrition Diagnostics
To assess your blood chemistry, doctors order a simple test to check a number of markers in the blood — think iron levels, or white blood cell counts. These markers help identify health conditions and show the overall health of your body’s organs.
When your blood chemistry is in balance, your body is better at fighting off disease. When it’s out of balance, you’re more susceptible. Interestingly, a weakened, out of whack body chemistry shows up first in the mouth, in the form of dental decay and gum disease.
Why the mouth?
Well, poor health all begins with an elevation of glucose in your system (yep, that’s sugar – and you know what that does to your teeth!).
What does sugar have to do with it?
It turns out that there’s a reason STRESSED spelled backward equals DESSERTS.
Let me ask you this: what are you eating or drinking to cope with the stress of your separation or divorce? Come on, we’re all friends… it’s something sweet, right?
I’m not going to lie: during my separation, chocolate was all that could cheer me up at the end of the day. But it was a toxic relationship: the next day I’d feel even worse… so that night I needed a double serving, naturally!
For some of you, the stress reliever of choice may be alcohol (please seek help if this habit becomes unhealthy), which the body actually converts to sugar… so, same problem.
Now, insulin is a hormone that moves glucose (blood sugar) from the blood into the body’s cells for energy and storage. When you increase the amount of sugar in your system, this affects insulin production and can result in serious conditions like diabetes, and can damage your kidneys, eyes, and other organs.
From here, it’s a domino effect. One thing leads to another, and another. Everything is connected. And, it all starts by you consuming way too much sugar because of that nasty little beast called stress.
The stress trifecta
There are three types of stress that impact your body:
Biochemical (toxins in your system or a poor iron status*)
Physical (parenting, intense exercise or your body repairing from injury)
Emotional (everyday pressures, loss or divorce)
Sound familiar? That’s right – you’re pretty much slammed three ways by stress when your relationship or marriage falls apart.
What women need to know
The median age for a woman going through a divorce is 42 years old. So, if you have children, it’s likely that you gave birth in the last 15 years.
Creating life (as beautiful as it is) depletes your system of many key elements, including Ferritin (a blood cell protein that contains iron). Most women fail to replenish their Ferritin level post-childbirth. Yep: things are busy and life just gets in the way. What’s worse, you’re a tired, single parent, caving in to the convenience of eating kids’ meals each night (with no steak dinners in sight!).
*Iron is a key component of a healthy immune system.
Facing a stressful event like divorce with a compromised immune system is extremely dangerous. And often there’s another hurdle for women: menopause. To successfully navigate menopause you require iron, too (and lots of it).
So, if you’re currently dealing with a stressful breakup, have an already-depleted iron store from bearing children, and are approaching menopause, your immune system is in a severely compromised position. You’re wide open to disease and illness.
Think about it: how many women do you know who have been touched by an illness in their late 40’s and 50’s? It’s a ridiculously shocking number.
The good news: you can do things now in the hope of a healthier outcome.
In the next part of this blog post, I’ll share exactly how you can guard your health as you go through even the most hellish divorce. Check it out here.
In the meantime, let me know: how is divorce affecting your health? Have you found any strategies that help? Let me know in the comments below.
If you’re currently facing the reality of a breakup, separation, divorce, co-parenting journey or are a victim of domestic abuse, there is now an app to help you document absolutely everything – information, communication and evidence – so you’re ready for whatever legal obligations that may arise.
For more support, download my FREE e-book, 5 Separation & Divorce Hacks. It’s packed with helpful tips and advice from those who’ve been right where you are now. It will help you go in the right direction faster, and less painfully.
You’re doing just fine. Take it one day at a time. And remember, be especially kind to yourself.
Founder | Hello Mojo