10 Stress Busters for the Recently Divorced

Here are 10 ways to beat stress as you get over your divorce:

1. Start the day right. Wake to music on a favorite tape or radio station. Allow yourself a minute or two to open your eyes, breathe deeply, and adjust to being awake. Take a precious 10 minutes for quiet meditation or prayer; this can save you an enormous amount of frustration later in the day.

2. Breathe away your stress. Several times a day, slowly inhale through your nose, feel the air pass deep into your diaphragm, let your abdomen expand to greet it, and feel the invigoration of that fresh breath. Exhale slowly through your mouth and imagine that you are breathing out your stress. Many experts feel the practice of deep breathing (greatly simplified here) is the basis of the relaxation response. There are many tapes and videos that train you to breathe healthfully.

3. Hang on to your humor. What you are going through now may not seem funny, but that's no reason to let your sense of humor wilt. This is the time to maintain a sane perspective, and exploring what you find funny will help. Look for the ridiculous and incongruous rather than the tragic in the news and in your own life. Share your humor with others and revive their sense of fun. Can you laugh at yourself?

4. Keep in touch with those you care about. Pick up the phone and chat with a congenial friend or relative: suddenly you're not isolated with your problems any longer. Send an e-mail or fax to a forgotten friend. Use cheap evening or weekend rates and feel virtuous.

5. Don't neglect your spiritual life. Renew or create ties with the spiritual institution of your choice -- whether it be church, synagogue, or Zen temple. (You won't, of course, choose one that doesn't sanction divorce.) Music and ritual, together with the act of group worship or meditation, can bring you peace and deep satisfaction.

Click here to find out about the other 5 stress busters.

6. Try a therapeutic massage. Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for a therapeutic effect. It's recommended for general relaxation and stress reduction, back and neck pain, headaches, and athletic injuries. If you're on a tight budget, some clinics offer student massage therapy at reduced rates.

7. Turn off the TV. An evening of television can actually be stressful. Consciously limit the amount of time you spend watching: choose the shows that interest you, watch them, then turn off the set and walk away. Walking away is also a good strategy if others want to watch a show that doesn't appeal to you. Here are some alternatives to TV:

Music. Experiment with soothing music or try something like Gregorian chant. Then there is the haunting music of Loreena McKennit or Enya. Tired of your own CDs? Try a swap with a friend.

Books. Save a book for a time when you're unlikely to be interrupted, settle down in a comfortable chair with a drink that cheers but doesn't inebriate, and lose yourself in another world. Background music shouldn't compete with the book for your attention. (A precocious five-year-old boy we know recently asked his family to "Be quiet, please: I can't hear my book.") Books on audio tape can help ease the stress of your daily commute. And read to your kids: this is a wonderful, inexpensive family activity they will never forget.

8. Take a hike. Researchers at West Virginia University have discovered that stress is more likely to be relieved by outdoor than by indoor exercise. Head for a calming, restorative environment for walking, cycling, horseback riding, golfing, or tennis. Choose to exercise when your physical energy level is at its highest -- if you punish your body with push-ups when it's tired, your mind could go into a stress-spin.

9. Garden of Eden. The healing power of gardens has long been known: a hospital in Padua has a medicinal garden dating back to the 16th century, and the Friends Hospital Garden in Philadelphia dates back to Colonial times. Stroll through a public garden to relieve stress, or become a gardener yourself -- you may find that while you nurture the garden it nurtures you. Gardening brings not only solace and satisfaction but daily excitement as seeds shoot into plants and buds into flower and fruit. Allow yourself to fully enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells that you share with the birds and butterflies as you dig and water.

10. Go back to the water. Scientists believe that life began in the seas; we know that we spent the first nine months of life floating happily in watery wombs. If you have access to a hot tub, pool, lake, or the sea, use it. If you're stuck on dry land, pamper yourself at home with a 20-minute bath. If your muscles are sore from exercise, throw some Epsom or sea salts into warm -- not scalding hot -- bathwater. For a truly lovely experience, try aromatherapy or herbal oils offered by retailers such as The Body Shop. Light a few candles, turn off the lights, and wash your troubles down the drain.

Dorothy Henry knows all about stress: after separating from her husband, she raised two children while teaching high-school English and math.

Divorce Magazine provides advice and support for those coping with separation, divorce, and remarriage. For more tips and stories, visit www.DivorceMagazine.com.

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