Your Brain on Divorce

Divorce, as we all know all too well, is an extremely stressful event. You feel it as a significant loss, but the rest of the world expects you to just carry on with business as usual. There’s no time off from work, there’s no ritual where your loved ones gather to offer support.  Meanwhile, you’re hit with all the burdens of divorce: the meetings, the calls, the gathering of financial records, all the decisions you have to make. Even a solid, squared-away person can become a raving lunatic.

But could understanding what’s actually happening in your brain during a divorce help you cope better?  

According to Dr. Lisa Gabardi, Ph.D., the more primitive part of your brain is seeing your divorce as a threat, and revving up your flight-or-flight response. Unfortunately, that shuts down the thinking part of your brain, the pre-frontal cortex, which you need to engage for all those decisions and plans that have to be made. And all that stress you feel is one of the results.

In this article, Dr. Gabardi argues that it’s vital to shift from the primitive to the pause-and-plan part of your brain, both to reduce your stress and to make better decisions.  She offers several suggestions for doing so, including:

  • Keep your energy up by eating a healthy diet and exercising.
  • Heighten self awareness.  Observing yourself and your situation engages the pre-frontal cortex, keeping it active.
  • Seek support from others.  Interacting with friends helps calm you down, allowing better access to the thinking part of your brain.
  • Be open to new information and experiences.  Embracing the changes you’re going through helps strengthen the pre-frontal cortex, contributing to better decision making.

If you can understand what’s actually happening in your head during a divorce, and effectively deal with it, you’ll become a more a resilient person and have an easier time dealing with the inherent struggles a divorce presents.