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Redesigning Your Life Part 1: A Guide to Navigate Divorce and Create Your Dream Future

Redesigning Your Life Part 1: A Guide to Navigate Divorce and Create Your Dream Future.
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash.
Dr Jennifer Ulie
Founder & CEO
Mensana Wellness Solutions

Moving on after a divorce can be challenging, but it is also a chance to start anew and design the life you want. In this three-part series, we will explore different aspects of post-divorce life, from managing emotions to rediscovering passions and creating a new sense of purpose.

In Part One, we explore what is at stake and the impact stress will have on your body. Part Two, we will discuss words of wisdom to help you cope with life after divorce, and Part Three will provide the roadmap of holistic, evidence-based strategies to help you rediscover your identity, passions, and purpose after divorce. By focusing on practical tips, evidence-based strategies, and re-centering yourself, you can embrace the future with optimism and confidence.

Divorce is undoubtedly one of the hardest things you will ever do, but you must remember that you were amazing before you were married and will be outstanding after. You have the strength, skills, and support to navigate challenging times but ask for help when needed. Be intentional in starting and celebrating your next chapter because the possibilities and opportunities are endless to create a life you have only dreamt about having.

I remember the day my ex-husband, the father of my kids, told me he wanted a divorce. To say I was instantly devastated feels like the understatement of the century. We had two young children, one was actually on the way at the time, and I was a teacher, so I remember immediately telling myself,

“You cannot do this. You cannot survive with two little kids on a teacher’s salary. This is not how my fairytale life is supposed to be.”

We had our fair share of issues and tried therapy, but it wasn’t enough. I remember wanting to be mad, but at that moment, we both agreed that because we had two kids, this wasn’t their fault. They deserved to have the best-divorced parents scenario.

I won’t pretend it didn’t have its moments because it did. Still, we managed our entire divorce process without yelling or arguing and had everything settled long before an attorney or judge was involved.

Full disclosure… I didn’t do it for him but for our kids and myself. I do not show up in this blog with some magic advice, nor can what worked for me work for everyone. There was no abuse, violence, or anything like that on my end, and I realise not everyone is so lucky.

What’s at stake…

There are different models of the most significant life stressors, but all of them share divorce as one of the greatest stressors a person can go through in their lifetime. Multiple studies have shown that going through a divorce can increase rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, and parental stress, especially in the first year during and after the divorce.

Divorce can be varied and complex, which can only exacerbate stress. It can impact your sleep, self-esteem, and physical health, increase financial pressure, and increase children’s stress levels.

Stress and divorce

Our bodies are naturally wired to use stress as a survival mechanism. Imagine you see a fire in your home. Your body is wired to turn on the alarm, a physiological response, to high-tail it out of the fire into safety. Your brain automatically shuts off all non-essential functions and goes into survival mode. After you are safe, your stress alarm turns off, your parasympathetic goes into a restorative mode, and you go about your life.

The brain has higher activation under stress
The brain has higher activation under stress. Photo from (Bruna Portes et al, 2019).

When we have chronic ongoing stress, that alarm never gets to go off, so your body continues to release stress hormones, namely cortisol. Over time, cortisol can wreak havoc on your body, increasing your likelihood of heart disease, cancer, digestive issues, memory problems, and substance abuse, just to name a few. A more significant issue is the chronic stress you’re facing today isn’t just impacting you tomorrow. The impact on your body can be felt decades later when it’s too late to go back and reduce that stress to preserve your health.

After working with hundreds of people over my career, divorce continues to be one of the most pervasive situations people coming to me for mentorship and learning are struggling to work through. My hope in this article and the others to follow, is to endow a little holistic, evidence-based wisdom to you to minimise the impact stress will have on you now and in the future as a result of your divorce now.

As you navigate the challenges of divorce, remember that you have the power to shape your future. In the next part of this series, we will discuss words of wisdom to help you cope with life after divorce. A divorce does not have to destroy you. By focusing on personal growth, self-discovery, and reclaiming your identity, you can design a new chapter that aligns with your values and aspirations. Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration on how to redesign your life post-divorce.

About Dr Jennifer Ulie

Over the last two decades, Jennifer Ulie, Ph.D., has become a trusted voice and award-winning expert on building sustainable personal and organisational systems of mental, social & emotional wellness. Having presented to tens of thousands of professionals, she is a highly sought-after thought leader & public speaker for her wit, knowledge, relatability, and engaging talks.

Dr. Ulie is the founder and CEO of Mensana Wellness Solutions. She has been a teacher, professor, nonprofit founder & Executive Director, legislative advocate, school board member, and legal expert witness. She has founded, launched, and led countless stakeholder groups, coalitions, conferences, programs, and online courses & certifications.

She sits on multiple regional and national professional organisations, advisory boards, and boards of directors. She has published peer-reviewed articles and is an academic journal peer reviewer. Dr. Ulie has been featured on multiple media outlets, including CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, NPR, and PBS. She can be contacted at mymensana.com or on social media @mymensana.

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