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How to Look After Your Mental Health When Going Through a Divorce

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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce has been making headlines for years. Jolie filed for divorce back in 2016, and the proceedings have only recently reached a conclusion. The media has been covering the acrimonious split and moving between favourites since the petition was filed.

Whatever the ins-and-outs of Jolie and Pitt’s divorce may be, her most recent interviews have revealed that at the time she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder where the sufferer experiences weakness or even paralysis on one side of their face. It is thought that some part of the cause is stress.

While Bell’s palsy is curable, it has highlighted the impact of Jolie’s divorce on her physical and mental wellbeing. She has claimed that Bell’s palsy came on about 6 months before her divorce, and she was officially diagnosed in 2017.

What this highlights, and will likely resonate with many people, is the mental and often physical effect of divorce, which can manifest in completely unique ways. Divorce is rarely an easy or stress-free process, even for couples who break up relatively amicably. There are so many factors at play and things to think about. It can be a difficult time and takes its toll in unusual ways.

As divorce lawyers, we frequently see how divorce and its many complications can affect an individual and their family. It is therefore important to be aware of what may cause stress and to try to put measures in place to mitigate the negative effects.

Financial settlements and child arrangements are often where we see contention come to the fore. It is important to seek legal advice as early as possible to help mitigate potential financial risks and put protections in place for your future. Having a clear picture of your options helps dial down the stress and means you can make well-informed decisions from a place of knowledge and understanding.

Where possible, coming to an agreement with your ex-partner without court intervention also helps reduce stress. For example, setting up a parenting plan between yourselves or with the help of a family lawyer can minimise the risks associated with child orders.

What many people are unprepared for is life after divorce. It can be easy to get caught up in the problems at hand, and those issues are important and valid. However, making sure you have a solid support network available for when your divorce is finalised (as well as throughout the process!) can be really helpful.

The end of an important relationship can leave people with a real sense of loss, and this is very natural. What is known as the emotional fallout of divorce happens when transitioning out of a marriage. There are unfamiliar and often complicated legal considerations alongside heightened emotions that can be difficult to cope with and may surface physically as well as mentally.

Grief is a common response to divorce, and people will go through the range of emotions identified in the traditional 5-stage grief cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. But this will not be linear, and people often find they move in and out of the different stages before acceptance.

Feeling grief over the end of a relationship is normal and can be immobilising at first. Saying this, there is hope for the future! Remember that small acts of kindness to yourself can boost your well-being. Practising mindfulness and meditation and prioritising rest and eating well can also help you avoid burnout.

Reach out for help when you need it, from family, friends, online support groups, and colleagues. Connection matters, and maintaining strong relationships with others is central to wellbeing. Try to keep up with meaningful conversations and social activities that remind you that you are supported.

It is important to remember that seeking legal advice from a family lawyer will mean that the legal elements of your divorce are properly dealt with, reducing stress in the long run. You may also want to call on other professionals. Divorce coaches, for example, offer practical and emotional support and help alleviate the complexities of the legal and financial processes of divorce. Financial planners help you manage your money after divorce, or therapists can professionally work on your mental health.

The mental load of divorce is unique for every individual, and it can easily manifest itself physically, as in the case of Angelina Jolie, so it is important to take care of yourself and your mental and physical health.

Lauren Roche is a senior associate at Stowe Family Law.

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