Coping With A ‘Grey Divorce’ : Divorce among adults over 50 (so-called ‘grey divorce’) is rising in the U.S., at a time when it is becoming less common in younger age groups. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, for every 1,000 married persons aged 50 and above, 10 underwent a divorce – up from 5 in 1990.
Among those aged 65 and over the divorce rate has actually tripled, with six people in every 1,000 calling it quits. If you are over 50 and undergoing a divorce yourself, it is important to keep stress at bay and take the steps you need to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
Time is on your side
A study carried out by scientists at Michigan State University found that divorce at a younger age damages one’s health more than divorce in one’s senior years. In part, say researchers, this may be because the pressure to stay married was stronger for older generations. Therefore, seniors who split up tend to do so because they are very unhappy in their marriage. The process of transition is the hardest; therefore, it is during this time that efforts must be taken to promote one’s physical and mental health.
Boosting your physical health
Chronic stress has been linked to a plethora of illnesses, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. To ensure you stay healthy, guard yourself against stress-related issues such as sudden weight gain or loss by sticking to a Mediterranean diet, comprising lean proteins, healthy fats, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. A high-sugar or fast food diet can compromise your immune system, which can already be under attack from the emotional stress you are facing.
Express yourself through writing
A study published by the American Psychosomatic Society found that ‘narrative expressive writing’ (which involves not just writing about your experiences but creating a meaningful narrative of your experience) helps buffer the effects of divorce-related stress. By writing not just about how you feel but expressing your divorce as a ‘story’ with a beginning, middle, and end, you can reduce your heart rate and increase your heart rate variability (the latter is a sign of good cardiovascular health). The scientists concluded, “This is a pretty striking result for just 60 minutes of writing over three days.”
Caring for your mental health
In addition to working on your physical health, it is important to hone in on your mental health, as well. A bevy of studies have shown that holistic practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation significantly lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol. These practises don’t just relax us; they actually ‘reverse’ the effects that stress has on our DNA, according to a study carried out in 2017 at Coventry University.
Divorce rates among seniors may be rising, but this is definitely not a bad thing if couples have been unhappy for years, sometimes decades. Because divorce is generally a high-stress event, however, it is important for those undergoing it to take care of the diets and to pursue natural stress reduction techniques such as narrative writing. Physical exercise is always a boost for one’s mood and vitality but when it comes to lowering stress, holistic practices such as yoga definitely hold the key.
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