Divorce is rarely ever simple or easy, no matter how mutual it is. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that, even in the best of circumstances, divorce can have a serious impact on the physical and mental health of the couple. Many people who are in the process of getting divorced will experience some level of depression. People who are already divorced may also experience depression, in part as a result of the stresses caused by their divorce. Depression is a common, albeit complex mental illness, but depression during divorce is a volatile combination that should be treated with care.
If you’re feeling depressed, or you’re worried that your divorce may cause depression, we’re here for you. In this guide, we’ll discuss what causes depression, how you can manage depression, and some of the ways that you can find support.
In writing this, we’ve endeavored to avoid specifics. The mutuality of the divorce, custody battles, estrangement from in-laws and friends, and a wide variety of other factors may affect the mental health of the couple getting divorced. We don’t delve into these specifics because asserting that some divorces should be easier or harder than others misses the point. When a person is feeling depressed, it rarely does any good to compare their trauma to the trauma of others.
With all of that in mind, let’s discuss the causes of depression. By attempting to understand and define the causes of depression, it can be easier to grapple with its symptoms.
The causes of depression
“Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain” is a very common, but oversimplified understanding of what causes depression. That’s not to say brain chemicals aren’t relevant, but they aren’t the only thing to think about. After all, there’s growing evidence that divorce itself can trigger depressive episodes.
Harvard Health has an excellent article on what causes depression – we encourage you to read it, as it’s very informative. Here’s a very brief summary: depression is caused by a number of factors, including genetics, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems, as well as an almost uncountable number of different possible chemical imbalances.
All of these factors together can affect how depression looks, and how it can be treated. This is one of the reasons it does no good to compare one divorce to another when trying to determine why one person is depressed and another isn’t. There are too many variables at play.
This is also why treating depression can be quite complex. There are a number of different tactics that you can use to manage depression during divorce: let’s take a look at some of them.
Managing depression during divorce
Taking care of your mental health
Establish a routine
Divorce can disrupt many aspects of your life. The daily routines you’re used to may disappear. One of the best ways you can care for your mental health is to establish new routines – and stick to them. Building these routines one step at a time can help.
Sleep is absolutely essential to maintaining good mental health. It’s understandable if divorce disrupts your sleep, both because divorce can disrupt routines and because stress can make sleep more difficult. Practice good sleep hygiene – try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Don’t look at screens for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings can be incredibly therapeutic. It can also be practical – your journal can help you track your moods. This can illuminate which triggers make your mood worse, as well as what activities or states of mind improve how you feel.
Talk to a therapist
We’ll discuss this more in the “Finding support” section. For a lot of people struggling with depression during divorce, therapy can be a tremendous boon.
Taking care of your physical health
Taking care of your body can lower stress and improve mental health, which in turn can make depression more manageable.
There’s a lot of evidence that regular exercise has a positive effect on mental health. If you can work out at a gym, great! If you can’t, even walking quickly or jogging for about 30 minutes three times a week can help a lot.
Eat healthy foods
Healthy habits can quickly fall to the wayside when experiencing life altering events like divorce. Put time aside in your week to cook at least one healthy meal – better yet to cook healthy meals every day. Meal prep can help – and it can be a good way to start getting into a routine.
To improve both your mental and your physical health, it’s important to develop a support network. Resources vary depending on where you live, but there are support groups for people going through divorce in almost every city.
You don’t need to go to a support group if that’s not your thing. Spend time with friends and family. Join a club or find a group with the same hobbies as you. When there are people in your corner, it’s always a bit easier to pull through hard times.
How a good family lawyer can help
The idea that a good lawyer can cure depression is pretty far flung; that’s not what we’re claiming here. A good lawyer can, however, reduce the stress of a divorce by offering transparency and solid legal advice.
Our friends at Olschewski Davie Barristers & Solicitors in Canada have a good summary of the realities of family law on their website: “Each case is unique and requires detailed knowledge and understanding”. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in family law, so you need a lawyer who is ready and willing to sit with you and truly empathize with the situation you’re going through.
That’s the kind of care and compassion we strive to provide at Modern Law. We want to help reduce the stress inherent in divorces by providing legal advice you can trust, and the support that you need. We also have resources online to help those struggling with other mental conditions and divorce, in addition to depression.
Depression and divorce are both complex, let a lone depression during divorce. Remember to care for yourself – you are worthy and valid, no matter what you’re going through at the moment. We’re here for you.