It’s Mental Health Awareness Week…
As you go through divorce, mental health becomes especially important.
Divorce can compromise your mental health.
Compromise, yes, but not destroy.
Sometimes divorce and separation can feel as though your life is being turned inside out. It’s a time when your identity is undergoing shift and transformation.
It’s totally normal for your mental health to fluctuate. Maybe you’re overwhelmed, afraid, feeling isolated or guilty? These feelings, and the divorce itself, can be a heavy load to bear.
Feeling depressed or anxious is not a sign of a mental health problem, but it could be a sign of a mental health injury. There are things you can do to protect yourself from this: to feel stronger; more optimistic. Strengthening self-esteem is central to this.
Having robust self-esteem makes it easier to deal with the pressures of divorce: paperwork or relationship breakdown or legal admin or emotional overwhelm.
The aftermath of infidelity, heartbreak, abuse – or nervousness about the road ahead – can be overwhelming, but self-esteem is one way to find light at the end of the tunnel. I say this with confidence because I see it all the time in people going through divorce.
The harder the challenge you are facing, the greater you should focus on maintaining your self- esteem.
Working on your self-esteem needs to be the first point of action in supporting your mental health, not an afterthought.
So, what is self esteem?
Self esteem is the thoughts you think about yourself.
In my experience, people have a general sense of their own self esteem but they don’t understand it or how to improve it, and they overlook its importance for mental health.
Some people think they’re born with a fixed level of self-esteem yet research shows it’s malleable: responsive and flexible.
Self esteem comprises two factors: a sense that you deserve to feel great and worthy, and the confidence that you can control the direction of your life.
There are a few myths to bust about divorce that might be on your mind, to free your attention to building your self-esteem (instead of focusing on why it feels low):
Your marriage failed: you didn’t.
You are lovable and deserving of happiness. Everyone is even if you’ve made some mistakes or feel somehow responsible for your marriage ending.
Divorce might feel like one door closing: let me assure you it will open others.
Divorce is not merely an ending but a bigger beginning. Is there some excitement hiding under your fear?
Calling on support whether from friends or professionals is so valuable in moving your life forward. You don’t need to stay stuck in the messy middle with no hope of escape: the right sort of help and support will influence your mental health.
Although self-esteem is internally generated (that is, by yourself), having professional coaching, therapy or counselling can make an enormous difference. I am a firm believer in asking for help when you need it, and see this is a sign of strength.
Mental Health Awareness Week is running from today until 16th May. You can find more information, resources and sources of support on the Mental Health Foundation website. This year’s theme is nature.