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How Diet Changes Can Help You Manage Divorce Stress

Woman Eating Apple

When contemplating or going through divorce, stress becomes part of your daily life. Did you realize what you eat can help you to manage it? Our Wellness Expert, Gretchen Ferraro, recently wrote a helpful blog that provides information on ways you can help control depression and stress with food and vitamins. After reading that, you may have wondered if you had accidentally stumbled upon some health site or scientific article. Whatever the case, it may have been hard to immediately connect with the topic of divorce. I would have thought so too when I was struggling through the effects of an unhappy marriage and divorce. I wish I knew then what I know now.

I’ve been there…

Depression hits me from time to time, and it has for years. I realize now it is very connected to the stressors in my life. I was in an incredibly dark period the last two years of my marriage. I would go through spurts of taking really good care of myself, but I mostly chose to numb with foods that made me feel good at the moment. I’d also regularly indulge in wine — not to excess, but definitely a glass or two to take the edge off. Plus, I got a prescription for Xanax toward the end for a quick “chill out” when things got really bad. This isn’t something I would take often because I didn’t like how it made me feel, but it sure helped calm my body during tumultuous moments where it all felt like too much to even bear. If you’ve experienced this, you know exactly what I mean.

I have been out of that marriage for two years, and I am so much happier. Life is far from perfect. It can be incredibly difficult, to be perfectly honest. Like everyone, my life is full of stressors. It involves everything from choosing to create my own business, the financial pressures of not having a steady income without another income to rely upon, parenting alone with two small children, acclimating to single life and dealing with the ups and downs of romantic relationships. I am very proud of how I manage this most of the time. But sometimes, it just gets to be too much. When too many things are not flowing in the right direction at one time, I simply shut down.

I do try to take decent care of myself, but admittedly it’s not the best. I especially fall down when I am experiencing significant stress. At those times, I go from eating fairly well and exercising at least semi-regularly to sustaining on carbs and wine. The workout clothes stay tucked in my drawer. This doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Unfortunately, the responsibilities of having two kids and a business don’t go away when I find myself overwhelmed, depleted and with nothing more to give to anyone or anything. Out of desperation, I took drastic measures.

The Cleanse Experiment

After an unbelievably stressful month, I realized I had gained 5 pounds due to stress munching and comfort-food numbing with every carb I could get my hands on. I had been trying to just get through each day instead of facing it with clarity and focus. I didn’t even feel like myself and certainly wasn’t the person I aspired to be.

So, I decided to detox body and my life. I started the Conscious Cleanse, designed by Jo Schaalman and Julie Pelaez. It’s a 14-day program that eliminates everything processed, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, soy, gluten and even many fruits and vegetables. The goal of the program is to remove “triggers” from your diet that can cause inflammation and irritability. It’s a good reset for your body, with the side benefit of dropping some pounds. How could you not when you eliminate just about your entire diet! I have never tried something this drastic. I have a history of not sticking to any diet, but I felt really committed this time because my goal wasn’t to look better in my jeans — it was to actually feel better and feel more in control of my life and mood.

I had chosen a time to start when life would be “manageable”. But life decided to give me some serious “tests”. It was my week where I would have my kids for three days instead of four, and there was nothing major going on — I could focus a bit more on me. Well, Day 1 is when I found myself at Children’s Hospital with my son’s terrible ear infection. Then I was trying to manage taking care of him while working for the next couple of days. Nothing stressful about that!

On Day 3, I woke up to a waterfall in my kitchen due to a malfunctioning toilet upstairs. Water ran all night, flooded the bathroom (which, of course, is carpet), the entire hallway, ran through the ceiling into the kitchen and then into the basement. Are you kidding me?! I took a deep breath and worked the problem. After I got the kids to school that morning, I wanted coffee and a bagel like crazy. I could barely handle the craving, but I staved it off and had my smoothie. Later that day, I had a little misstep that injured my wrist, which made it hard to drive, type and chop those veggies I needed to eat. It was also tough to carry those 150 boxes of Girl Scout cookies I picked up for my daughter to sell. Nothing like having stacks of those irresistible goodies in my garage to test some willpower!

Something clicked for me within a few days. I felt more in control of my life. Instead of allowing stressful situations to drive me into behaviors that aren’t good for me, I took control and made better decisions. I chose to nourish my body instead of indulging in something comforting for the moment that really wasn’t so good for me. After reading Getting Divorced? What to Eat to Beat the Blues and Boost Your Mood, I learned that I was actually incorporating the foods and nutrients that Gretchen had recommended.

I had stepped up my vitamins, folic acid and magnesium. I was having a smoothie for breakfast every morning that contained spinach, kale, blueberries, flax and coconut oil. I was eating a ton of salmon, greens, and munching on pumpkin seeds. I started looking forward to my new favorite snack of half of an avocado. I replaced my Diet Coke and coffee with water and non-caffeinated teas. The wine bottles remained closed and the popcorn maker stayed in the cabinet. I was very proud of myself for how I stuck to this program. It was definitely hard at times, and I must admit that I had a couple of cheat moments.

I also took this time to focus on the quality of my thoughts and taking care of my spiritual self. I was meditating for 15 minutes each morning and writing in my gratitude journal, which always shifts energy to a better place. In her book, “Crazy, Sexy Diet”, Kris Carr said that “…when I dumped the junk and aligned myself with my higher purpose, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.” I got a glimpse of this. I felt stronger, more focused and started reclaiming my power. I was setting appropriate boundaries with people and in situations that were not in alignment with my values. I found it easier to make better choices in all aspects of my life. I stayed more in control of my emotions in the most trying of circumstances.

I say all of this not to advocate engaging in such a drastic program, but rather to encourage you to take some small steps to nourish your body and your mind. Adding foods that truly feed your body and a few additional vitamins will even out and even elevate your mood. Combine that with a little exercise to magnify the positive effects! I know it’s so hard when you are in the depths of depression and struggling to get through the unwinding of an unhappy marriage. One day at a time. One choice at a time. Focus on nourishing yourself instead of numbing. Doing lots of little things right will make a major impact on how you feel physically, emotionally and simply how you feel about yourself. If you found this helpful, please learn more about Untangle The Knot can further support you through your divorce journey.

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