As I was preparing to retire, I believed that leaving the world of work and its associated career demands meant that I would leave stress behind. Not so. Postworksavvy has discovered that retirement brings its own sources of stress.
Retirement life decisions demand managerial skills similar to those used at work. Setting priorities, controlling finances, managing relationships, problem solving and dealing with unforeseen challenges require decisions. The new lifestyle in retirement means new life arrangements — and these new arrangements can lead to stress.
It’s a different type of stress in retirement but it’s still stress.
Sources of Retirement Stress
Time Management —Retirement is a significant transition in terms of how time is used. Too many choices about how to spend the day is the source of most of my retirement stress. Moving from a well-defined, scheduled lifestyle to a lifestyle with endless options has been a challenge. Sometimes I find myself flitting from one activity to another and feeling frustrated that I don’t have enough time to really focus and smell the roses. I have to set priorities for each day, make sure that the priorities are achievable, and then use self-discipline to stick to may plans.
Other people may find themselves struggling with too much time to fill. The days seem endless and repetitive. It may feel that life has lost its purpose. They describe feelings of useless and aimlessness.
Many people leave demanding careers and take on the equally demanding task of caring for aging parents or caring for a sick or disabled spouse/partner. Family responsibility may also involve taking care of grandchildren, having adult children move back home, or supporting adult children who lose jobs or decide to change careers.
The tensions involved with family responsibility are considerable and inevitably lead to stress for the caregiver.
Lack of money is a common source of worry once regular employment income stops. Financial worries top the list of sources of stress for many retirees.
There are lots of lifestyle options for retirement spending — travel, vacations, hobbies, a second home, gifts to children or to charities.
This blogger is not a financial expert but knows that balancing expenditures with revenue is necessary in any budget — whether it’s a business or a household. If income from pensions and investments is insufficient for lifestyle expectations, then adjustments to increase income or reduce spending need to happen.Each reader’s unique circumstances will determine the options that might be available.
Aging inevitably brings new health challenges. Older bodies are tired; older bodies have more aches; joints don’t move as easily; fractures happen because of unanticipated falls; and every injury takes longer to heal. The top chronic health concerns include heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and depression.
Health worries also come from changes in partner’s health status which will cause anxiety for both people in the relationship.
Stress in retirement may also come from grief. Loss of a partner, a parent, a child, or any loved family member or close friend will trigger grief and the stress associated with grief.
As we grow older, it is certain that our schedules will include memorial services and funerals for people who are close to us. Each of these events may also trigger personal fears about death which looms closer with each passing year.
Finally, stress can come from habitual negative thinking and unnecessary worries. Routinely expecting that life situations will be difficult leads to a gloomy outlook. It’s important to remember that most things go right rather than going wrong. ‘Awfullizing’ doesn’t pay — it just adds to your stress.
Symptoms of Stress
Common symptoms of stress include moodiness, general unhappiness, procrastinating and neglecting responsibilities. Stress may also cause over-eating or loss of appetite. You may sleep too much or too little. You may also resort to using excessive alcohol or drugs.
Strategies to deal with retirement stress
Dealing with retirement stress starts with using the executive skills learned at work for self-management.
- Control stress—experiment with new techniques for responding to stress including meditation, hobbies, exercise and other diversions. Eat sensibly and adopt routines that are calming.
- Plan ahead — allow enough time to complete scheduled tasks and activities and don’t over-schedule the precious days.
- Avoid stressful situations— you don’t have to attend those some family events or social activities that you suck away your energy.
- Look for the positives— sometimes it is difficult to turn life’s lemons into lemonade but there are always benefits and ways to learn about yourself as you deal with your worries.Switch gears when you find yourself thinking negatively.
- Learn to laugh at yourself mistakes— stress often comes from silly things you have done or have forgotten. Laughing instead of worrying about a missed appointment will be better for your health and for your disposition.
- Honour relationships. Tell people you love how much they mean to you. Show them you care. Apologize when you are wrong. Talk things over with people you trust and get their advice. Forgive the small hurts.
- Say ‘No’. Protect yourself by saying ‘no’ as often as possible — whether it is to unnecessary spending decisions or unnecessary time commitments.
- Relax. Go slow. Breathe. Enjoy the gifts of every day. Keep a gratitude list. Hug yourself.
Keeping stress in check during retirement involves focus on personal priorities. Abandoning the expectation that retirement will be stress free has helped me to take positive steps to cope with the usual stressors of daily life. I don’t always succeed but taking a realistic and common sense approach has helped.
More than ever before, families are providing long-term care to older adults with limitations in the ability to perform tasks necessary for independent living. Nearly 25% of American households are providing care to people age 50 years and over.
Families are the foundation of a stressed healthcare system. Hospital stays are shorter than ever and family caregivers are often expected to do what healthcare professionals once did, and do so without training.
Family members often:
- Monitor symptoms and administer complex medication regimens
- Assist with personal care
- Perform housekeeping tasks
- Provide emotional support
- Manage difficult behaviors such as wandering, aggression, & hallucinations
- Deal with healthcare providers and insurance companies
- Manage finances
- Coordinate care
- Deal with uninvolved or unhelpful family members
If you or someone you know is arranging or providing care for someone experiencing illness-related losses or frailty, there are some important facts you should know.
What are the effects of caregiving?
Caregiving is what professionals call the unpaid work of family members that make it possible for spouses and parents to live at home longer. Most family members think of it as doing what comes naturally when you're a wife, husband, daughter, son, or other family member.
While many caregivers find much meaning in being able to help a loved one, there are health risks associated with long-term caregiving:
- 80% of caregivers say they feel a great deal of stress.
- 50% have clinically significant depression.
- Anxiety is higher in caregivers than non-caregivers.
- Caregivers have more physical health problems.
- Strained caregiver spouses are at increased risk of dying.
- Caregivers have poorer immune system function and slower healing of wounds.
- Caregivers experience more colds and other viral illnesses.
In addition to health risks, caregivers can experience financial strain associated with illness expenses, passing up promotions, and reducing work commitments in order to continue giving care to a loved one.
Effects on the Family
Spousal caregivers. People providing care to a husband or wife often experience significant changes in marital relationships. Responsibilities that were once handled by the ill spouse may have to be taken over by the caregiver. This may involve learning new skills at a time when there is less energy for new things. Many times, the spouse feels that roles have been reversed and this can be overwhelming and frustrating. There are also losses. Activities that once provided pleasure and deepened a sense of connection may no longer be possible. Caregiving spouses can begin to feel very isolated from their friends and feel tremendous guilt about their own unmet needs.
Adult children providing care. Caregivers often are raising families at the same time they are helping an older family member. Caregiving can affect the siblings, spouses, children and grandchildren of the caregivers. Sometimes it seems as if everything in the family revolves around the health concerns of one person. This can lead many people in the family to feel like health problems have taken over family life. When this happens, needs for attention go unmet and relationships that were doing well before may become stressed. Often, family members who are not providing direct care to elders feel guilty for expressing their own needs in the face of family struggles. When needs go unmet for a long time, unexpected problems may occur. Husbands and wives may feel more distant and intimacy suffers. Conflicts that were tolerated before can become more heated, as people are more tired and frustrated. Children can develop academic or behavior problems that require more energy at a time when less is available.
How Can You Tell if Caregiving is Becoming Risky?
People who have a lot of unmet needs and anxiety about how things are going tend to let positive health habits drop and engage in activities which feel immediately rewarding, but are ultimately bad for health.
Often, caregivers report:
- Missing physician appointments
- Ignoring their own health problems
- Not eating a healthy diet for lack of time
- Overusing tobacco and alcohol when they are stressed
- Giving up exercise habits for lack of time
- Losing sleep
- Losing connections with friends for lack of time to socialize
- Holding in feelings of anger and frustration and then being surprised by outbursts directed at the care recipient, other family members, co- workers and strangers
Other signs to look for include:
- Feeling sad, down, depressed or hopeless
- Loss of energy
- Lack interest in things that used to give you pleasure
- Feeling resentful toward the older adult in your care
- Feeling that people ask more of you than they should
- Feeling like caregiving has affected family relationships in a negative way
- Feeling annoyed by other family members who don't help and criticize your care
- Feeling upset by arguments with others about your situation
If you or someone you know is experiencing the signs and symptoms listed above, consider talking with a qualified family therapist who can help you evaluate your situation.
Family therapists are aware of the latest research that demonstrates that strong and satisfying relationships with others can:
- Reduce caregiver stress and depression
- Reduce health risks of caregiving
- Increase satisfaction with caregiving
Family therapists will work to tailor treatment to the unique concerns of the family and are skillful in helping families become more knowledgeable about the effects of chronic illness on the family. Family therapists are comfortable working with large groups and know how to manage conflict and improve communication among family members. They can skillfully address painful issues from the past; increase family involvement in caregiving; link families to community resources; help families deal with grief, and find meaning in dealing well with loss.
When consulting a family therapist, you can expect certain things to happen. Therapists will want to understand more about how each person in the family is affected by the current situation. Typically, family meetings are held to talk about caregiving roles and responsibilities. Therapists are skilled at creating a safe environment for the discussion of difficult topics. They also understand that people see situations differently and have strong feelings about what should happen. Family therapists are very good at identifying people's unique strengths and helping them contribute to caregiving in ways that are comfortable for them. Older adults should expect to be involved in care planning and have their values guide problem-solving.
Consulting with a family therapist can result in a practical and workable plan for caregiving. Workable arrangements reflect the planning and involvement of many family members and do not overburden one family caregiver to the point where the quality of care suffers or the health of the caregiver is jeopardized.
Over the past 20 years single - parent families have become even more common than the so - called "nuclear family" consisting of a mother, father and children. Today we see all sorts of single parent families: headed by mothers, headed by fathers, headed by a grandparent raising their grandchildren.
Life in a single parent household - though common - can be quite stressful for the adult and the children. Members may unrealistically expect that the family can function like a two - parent family, and may feel that something is wrong when it can not. The single parent may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of juggling caring for the children, maintaining a job and keeping up with the bills and household chores. And typically, the family's finances and resources are drastically reduced following the parents' breakup.
Single parent families deal with many other pressures and potential problem areas that the nuclear family does not have to face.
Some of these are:
Visitation and custody problems
The effects o f continuing conflict between the parents
Less opportunity for parents and children to spend time together
Effects of the breakup on children's school performance and peer relations
Disruptions of extended family relationships
Problems caused by the parents' dating and entering new relationships
The single parent can help family members face these difficulties by talking with each other about their feelings and working together to tackle problems. Support from friends, other fam ily members and the church or synagogue can help too. But if family members are still overwhelmed and having problems, it may be time to consult an expert.
If your relocation to another city has been successful, then you must know how good it feels to finally sit down in your new home right after the moving truck has left and congratulate yourself on a job well done. You can’t help but feel great satisfaction about the flawless way you organized the entire move by creating a customized moving calendar and strictly sticking to it until the very end. And what about the smart tactics of finding, researching and hiring the best moving company out there? On top of that, you took advantage of some great cost saving techniques to bring down considerably the estimated relocation price. Yes, you have every reason to be proud of yourself!
And yet, the time for opening that special bottle of champagne has not come yet. Many moving experts believe that the hardest part of a move comes after the moving day is over, and they don’t just mean the never-ending unpacking or the great number of important post relocation tasks that you will have to take care of one by one. It is believed that the toughest stage of a move is the tricky period of dealing with a post-move phenomenon known as relocation depression.
How can relocation cause depression?
You still carry the moving inertia during the first few days after moving into your new home. In the beginning, the excitement of living in a brand new city and the thought of making new good friends will be filling you up and won’t leave much room for any negative emotions. Combine that vacation-like thrill with the pressing post-move tasks you’ll be forced to deal with right away and you get the perfect remedy against any depressing thoughts after your cross country move.
Feeling as blue as a gargoyle after the move?
However, once the adrenaline-filled moving day hecticness is behind your back, the new home excitement wears off and your mind realizes that this “vacation” will last for years to come, you may start to feel one of the strongest side effects of moving – depression.
The depression due to relocation is not something that can be touched, or smelled, or seen, but it surely is a powerful force to be reckoned with. This unwelcoming physiological state comes as a direct result from leaving your old life behind – a life where you enjoyed the highly familiar and comforting daily routine, the unforgettable moments with good and loyal friends, the unquestionable support of your family and maybe even a greatly satisfying job you loved. In other words, the post relocation depression is your mourning period of the life you no longer have and could never bring back.
Relocation Depression Symptoms
People react differently to residential relocation and some handle sudden changes much better than others. Some people breeze through the post-move period by diving headfirst into the new environment and don’t seem to be affected much by the change of scenery. There are also individuals who tend to have more serious troubles adapting to the unfamiliar settings and need more time to properly settle in, but they don’t really realize they have become victims of that post-move phenomenon and manage to find their own battling techniques to deal with relocation depression, usually by facing and tackling each attacking issue one at a time. Regrettably, there are also those who get hit by severe relocation depression, struggle to regain their normal inner rhythm and who can’t seem to rediscover the purpose that used to bring meaning to their lives.
Excessive sleep is one of the most typical symptoms of relocation depression.
Here are some of the more typical symptoms of relocation depression that you need to watch out for once the dust of unpacked moving boxes settles down in your new house.
- Excessive sleep. One of the most common depression symptoms is to find out that you sleep much more than you normally do. If approximately 8 hours were enough to fully recharge your batteries, then the sudden 12 or more hours of sleep is usually a good indicator than something is not quite right.
- Uncharacteristic tiredness. Waking up tired and devoid of energy even after a good night’s sleep, and then starting about your day in a painfully sluggish way as if you were moving underwater could be a sign you’ve fallen victim of relocation depression.
- Unwillingness to leave the house. Are you spending most of your time inside your home and feel strong reluctance or even fear to step beyond your doorstep? Do you automatically reject any invitations or suggestions to go out and do something outside the confines of your house or apartment? If yes, you may be down with relocation depression.
- Lack of desire to socialize. The mere thought of meeting and interacting with new people sounds very unappealing and even frightening, and you prefer to spend your days on your own.
- Tangible apathy. You exhibit a notable lack of interest in doing anything special, except maybe sleep and watch TV all day.
It’s hard to know whether the symptoms you’re exhibiting are the result of the post relocation separation anxiety or not – it’s possible that you don’t feel your former self for some other medical reasons. One way to know for sure that you’re under the influence of this highly undesirable side effect of relocation is if you feel energized and ready to take the world head-on only when you talk with your old friends or when you plan a visit to your old home in your old city.
Read on to find out how to deal with relocation depression.
How To Overcome Relocation Depression?
Do not despair if you fear that you may be struggling with separation anxiety, for there are a number of proven relocation depression strategies to help you find a way out of your current cul-de-sac and start enjoying your new life as you should have done by now. Some useful ideas can be found in this concise but informative article.
Don’t just hide in your home but go out and get to know your new city.
Try hard to make new friends
Making new friends may not be a walk in the park, especially if you don’t have it in you to befriend strangers almost seamlessly like some people do. And yet, it’s imperative that you do your best. It’s no secret that friends will give you exactly what you need to break free from your nostalgic post relocation sadness. Start small until you regain your confidence. For example, why don’t you go over to your new neighbors, say something like, “Hi. How are you?” and maybe even invite them to a humble housewarming party? Be friendly to your new colleagues at work and make an effort to go out more often and meet new people with a smile on your face.
Get to know your new city
Unfamiliar settings can easily bring about ungrounded fear and darker thoughts. The solution? Turn the unfamiliar surroundings into more familiar by exploring your neighborhood first and then your city. Be brave enough to step outside the illusionary safety of your new residence and you’ll see how fresh possibilities will open in front of you one by one. Take a walk in a beautiful city park, dare to go shopping in a crowded shopping district, visit historic city landmarks and locate important places (hospitals, post offices, police stations, etc.). The more you get to know your still strange city, the less strange and more appealing it may become in the end.
Introduce familiarity to your new home
One proven way to overcome relocation depression, which is partly due to your unwillingness to accept abrupt change, is to surround yourself with familiar items and place them in familiar fashion so that you make your new place feel more like your old residence. Arrange the furniture pieces exactly the way they were before the move and install the same furnishings throughout the living space in order to get that well-known and enjoyable warm feeling of home-ness that you’ve been robbed of. Some people will probably not understand your nostalgic home interior recreation and that’s okay. After all, you’re the only one who knows the secret and highly complicated household arrangement pattern that has the power to restore your inner harmony and peace of mind.
Keep meaningful relationships alive
Reliving the joys of your childhood may be just what you need to settle in your new city more quickly.
Making new friends is probably the most effective technique out there to fight depression due to relocation. And while your new life is taking you forward, do not forget to look back and keep in touch with your old pals. Nowadays, it takes nothing more than a mouse click or a single finger tap to talk and even see an old friend, so distance is a poor excuse to let great relationships slip between the cracks of your new reality.
If you do happen to find yourself a bit overwhelmed by your new life, keep repeating to yourself that sometimes backward is the only way forward.
Do something crazy
If you can’t seem to find a way out of your depressed state of mind, consider breaking your set daily rhythm and your inner pattern by doing something you wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. Simply put, do something crazy (reasonably crazy, of course) like joining a chess club or signing up for yoga or dance classes or learning how to play a musical instrument. Find yourself new hobbies and interests to clear your head out of any sad thoughts and help you meet new interesting people seamlessly.
Give yourself more time
And most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You have just survived a stressful and testing move which, even without you realizing it, may have turned your world upside down, broken your daily routine to pieces and wreaked havoc on your internal biological clock.
Be patient. Your pre-move and post-move lives are closely interconnected and it will take some time before your life essence balances itself out.
Are you familiar with the concept of communicating vessels? Your new post-move life and your old pre-move life are the interconnected vessels, and you’re playing the role of the medium between these two entities. Now, similar to the homogeneous liquid inside interconnected containers which requires time to balance itself out to the same level inside the vessels, you also need time to acclimatize properly to the unfamiliar surroundings and advance slowly but steadily through the adaptation period. You need more time, so give yourself more time. One little step at a time, just like a baby learning how to walk for the very first time. Right?
The relocation depression strategies described above will help you find the right path much faster but the best way to fight the post-move side effect is to avoid relocation depression altogether. The moment you set foot in your new home, believe in your inner strength to handle change, use your strong will to avoid the cleverly set depressing traps, and counterattack the unexpected enemy with the healing power of positive thinking.
Yes, occupy your mind with positive thoughts and soon you’ll be ready to have your relocation depression for breakfast. Bon appétit!
Economic hardship and financial distress can have devastating effects on families. In tough economic times, many families lose their jobs, homes, cars, retirement accounts, belongings, savings, health insurance, and more. Families often struggle just to meet their basic needs. Stay-at-home moms may suddenly find themselves searching for work or selling their prized possessions.
Unemployed fathers feel like a failure, are guilt stricken and ashamed of losing their identity as the family's provider. Grown, adult men and women with children may find themselves moving back in with their parents until they can put the pieces of their lives back together; other families are moving in with each other. The shift from having "something," even moderate means, to having "nothing" is devastating. When families are faced with the grief of losing everything and the fear of never being able to recover, these uncontrollable circumstances have a drastic impact on families as a whole, on marriages, and on husbands, wives, parents, and children.
Common responses to such devastation include:
- post-traumatic stress
- severe grief
- alcohol or drug abuse
- overwhelming levels of stress
- feelings of detachment
- feeling surreal
- over- or under-eating
- inability to sleep (or excess sleep)
- upset stomach
- and other physical and mental symptoms of stress and depression
Families may become torn apart or separated. For example, children may move in with extended family or friends, or marriages may be extremely stressed and fall a part, and there may be underlying tension or feelings of despair. Parents may interact with their children in tense or punitive ways with a short temper; children may respond with negative behaviors and emotions, and teens may face problems in school, negative peer groups, lost self-esteem, and delinquency.
How do you know when to seek help?
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help. Stress may feel overwhelming. Depression, if left unaddressed, could cripple one's ability to get out of bed, take a shower, put on clothes and look for a new job. In the worst case, if left unaddressed, depression can, in some cases, lead someone you love to committing suicide.
What options for help are available?
Medications are commonly used to treat anxiety, panic, depression, and other symptoms one is experiencing. While medication is helpful in restoring health and healing to one's physical body (the brain in particular), treatment is most successful when coupled with psychotherapy or "talk" therapy. Talk therapy (psychotherapy) occurs in a relaxed, straightforward, and non-judging environment, in which you or your loved one will sit down with a therapist and discuss the things that are bothering you in a safe and private space. A therapist is skilled in helping to bring important issues to the forefront, and in helping each voice and perspective be expressed, heard, and understood. Areas may include:
- Financial health issues, such as instrumental and psychoeducational interventions, to aid job searching and financial management
- Mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety, confidence and esteem loss, and depression, in adult and child family members
- Behavior issues, academic issues, and issues of negative activities and peers, in children and adolescents
- Couple and marriage issues, reducing financial strain effects on relationships
- Parent-child relationship issues, parenting emotions and practices, understanding negative and positive parenting practices and effects
- Family issues, including family counseling to reduce blame, to build resiliency, and activate family resources
- Community issues, helping families to engage with community resources and increase social support
How can an MFT help the client and family?
A marriage and family therapist (MFT) can help you or your loved one and the family. MFTs are trained to understand the complex nature of problems, especially problems resulting from external social factors, such as economic hardship. They address problems that an individual may be experiencing, as well as difficulties in couple and parent-child relationships. An MFT can help alleviate symptoms like anxiety or depression through addressing the social or familial circumstances that may be contributing. They can help you to ensure that your children are buffered from the worst effects of financial strain in effective and concrete ways. MFTs believe in the power of healing that occurs when treating and working with the whole family unit. Even though a particular family member may be the one who seems to be suffering the most, generally all family members are also affected in various ways. All perspectives and resources come together in family therapy to create positive and helpful changes in a shared and co-created vision. MFTs can work with family relationships to restore trust, improve communication, increase satisfaction, and foster healthy ways of relating. Clinicians are knowledgeable about research findings about what protects families from the adverse effects of financial strain.
- Couple/marriage therapy. Couples who treat each other well in times of financial stress fare much better than those who argue and blame each other for problems. While some amount of argument about money is to be expected, how couples argue is important to relationship quality. Couples therapy can help spouses/partners communicate safely and effectively. Couples therapy can help couples work together to partner, support, and care for each other through difficult times.
- Family therapy and parenting. Positive parenting practices and good parental relationships substantially protect children from the serious negative impacts of financial strain in families. Family therapy focused on parenting and parent-child relationships can go a long way in helping children. Clinicians may work with mothers and fathers to reduce irritability and stress expressed toward children, and to reduce negative parenting—aversive, punitive, arbitrary, coercive techniques (such as threats, derogatory statements, slaps)—and to build positive parenting—(reasoning and loss of privileges)— that is nurturing, affectionate, and sensitive to children’s needs.
Research indicates that parents, as well as children, benefit when parents feel more effective and capable, parent-child relationships improve, and parenting feels less difficult and more satisfying. In turn, as parental well-being improves, so does children’s. Themes commonly addressed in therapy include grieving loss, confronting denial or unrealistic expectations, symbolism and meaning of money, restoring trust, emotion regulation and couples skill development, stress management, money management, job search skills, parenting skills, and children’s well-being.
When you married a decade ago, it seemed to be for all the right reasons. Both ski enthusiasts, you spent all your weekends in Aspen. When in the city, you both loved the theater, opera, and museums. Since you were both in advertising, industry news often formed the subtext of your speech. Over the years, however, your styles have changed. You have become an increasingly ambitious account executive; the heady feeling of power in each new deal and acquisition keeps you primed. Your husband, meanwhile, has opted for the quieter life of a high school biology teacher. He loves nothing more than hiking in the mountains or helping his students protect the ecosystem of a local lake. There's no animosity–you still like each other–but you've grown apart. Your relationship has changed.
At first you thought it was exciting, that fiery temper that flared up whenever she sensed a universal injustice or personal slight. On campus, protesting the Viet Nam War, she was first to join the march. Her boss fired a friend, and she quit, too. Yet now that passion has turned to venom–and it has turned on you. Whenever you leave your coat in the living room or whenever you disagree with her politics or her taste in film, her eyes widen in anger, and before you know it, a book or shoe has flown across the room. You would like to work it out, but she wants a divorce. What, if anything, can you do?
You thought you would be faithful forever, but suddenly, at the cusp of middle age, you have fallen in love. The new object of your affections is irreverent, exciting, forever into something exotic or new. An insatiable world traveler, he's spent years abroad, with extended periods in Sao Paulo, Jerusalem, Osaka, and Madrid. A jack-of-all trades, he's worked as a photographer, gardener, stock broker and now --in his latest incarnation–masseur. Oh, those massages! It's wonderful now, of course, but will you really abandon your reliable, loving husband, the father of your children, for this?
At the Crossroads
The decision to divorce is never easy and, as anyone who has been through it will tell you, this wrenching, painful experience can leave scars on adults as well as children for years. Therefore, before you and your spouse decide to call it quits, consider whether your marriage can be saved.
Colorado Psychologist Mitchell Baris, who works specifically with the divorced and the divorcing, has some definite guidelines for those wrestling with this difficult issue. When is it possible, through diligent hard work in counseling, to save a marriage? And when is it generally impossible? When, despite the kids, are you doing the right thing to throw in the towel?
There are, of course, many reasons for divorce, including sexual infidelity, a lack of interest, a difference in values, and even abuse. When are these chasms just too wide to bridge? When can bridges be mended and relationships restored?
"The decision to divorce is personal," states Dr. Baris. "But I think the point of no return comes with the loss of respect and trust. Those two feelings are particularly difficult to rekindle. Trust can be built back, but it takes years. Often if trust and respect are gone, rebuilding the marriage is hopeless."
Dr. Baris also feels it may be difficult to rebuild a marriage when the animosity between two people builds to the breaking point.
"I find couples are most likely to split when the intensity of negativity between them escalates." One couple, for instance, fought relentlessly about their son's bedtime, his eating habits, the duties of the cleaning service they had hired, and even the cable TV bill–she wanted the Sci Fi Channel, and he wanted no extras on the tab except for ESPN and HBO.
Indeed, for such couples discussion on any topic from the children to the brand of dog food may erupt into a negative and angry emotion. "These people will continually make destructive remarks about each other, or just bring up the past," states Dr. Baris. "In therapy with them, you see this intense negativity and anger just pouring out."
What If Children Are Involved?
"The studies show that whether or not parents stay married is less important than whether they engage in fighting or conflict–and whether or not they drag the children in. The critical factor in the ultimate psychological health of a child is the degree of conflict in the environment," Dr. Baris explains. In other words: Don't keep your marriage together for the children, especially if that entails exposing them to constant conflict and wrath. It's better for your children if you divorce amicably than if you stay together and at war.
Divorce often means relinquishing the creature comforts that have defined your life in the past. Families who lived in the 'burbs as a unit now must sell the house, leave the neighborhood, and disperse out to harsher, economically sparer realms. Divorce means divesting the accoutrements of a life shared together and starting out again–diminished in strength and number, and alone. The death of a marriage inspires, among other emotions, anger, grief, and fear.
As painful as it may be to admit that your marriage is at an end, sometimes ending a painful or difficult marriage is the only way you can empower yourself to move forward toward a state of emotional health and growth. We know that leaving a familiar relationship for the isolation and stress of single life (and possibly single parenthood) is a rough road to travel. But once you have made the transition, you will find that you are open to new experiences and new relationships never before possible. If your marriage has been demeaning, damaging to your self-esteem, painful, or even boring, take comfort in the knowledge that divorce may signify the beginning of something, not just the end.
Saving Your Marriage: What Does It Take?
Your marriage is at the brink of dissolution. You and your spouse have lost trust and faith in each other; your mutual anger is so palpable that you can no longer go out as a couple without breaking into a verbal sparring match or an out-and-out fight. Past hurts and wrongs haunt both of you, coloring your interpretation of the present; and perhaps most damaging, one or both of you have engaged in an extramarital affair.
Despite such problems, couples can and do put their marriages back together, though only through extremely hard work. That work must be done by both members of the couple, or it will be doomed from the start. Generally, the best approach is finding a marriage counselor to help you through. You would have to be living on Pluto not to grasp one basic truth about therapists: They come in as many styles as this year's wall calendar. The question is, what should you look for in a marriage counselor? What kind of therapist is right for you?
Some of the best advice we've heard comes from Dr. Mitchell Baris, who works with the divorced and the divorcing every day. Couples should look for someone who can help them restructure their communication and react to their partner in terms of the real situation, not ghosts of the past, Baris advises. "Some counselors look into the couples' deep past–they help them go over their own childhood experiences, their early family dynamic. Couples might explore the impact their past had on their marital choice, and on the negative (and positive) patterns they carry into their marriage through the present day." Although different marriage counselors emphasize different strategies, we have seen the highest levels of success among those who focus on conflict resolution.
"When one spouse gets excited or angry," explains one therapist, "the ideal strategy for the other is to try to defuse the anger by soothing his or her partner." Picking up the cudgel and doing battle–or worse yet, dredging up the past–will only fuel the fires of conflict and weaken the relationship already on its last legs.
Other therapists, meanwhile, teach clients the art of "fair fighting," in which each partner listens to the other without being vicious or defensive–or striking back with hurtful insults, references to the past, or other means of hitting below the belt. One well-known doctor, who pioneered the technique of "restructuring" couples so that they can fight fairly, has this amusing approach: He literally keeps a piece of linoleum in his office and hands it to one member of the couple at a time. "Here, you hold the floor," he says to the person holding the linoleum. The other person cannot speak until the linoleum, in turn, is handed over. The lesson for couples here: Learn how to hear the other one through, and do not interrupt, especially to escalate the conflict. How can you find an appropriate therapist? The best way, our experts tell us, is to get referrals from satisfied friends. Do make sure, of course, that the individual you select specializes in couples and relationships work, and that he or she is well-regarded by other professionals. Make sure that whoever you choose simply feels right. Is there a rapport among all three of you? Can you communicate easily with the therapist?
Once you've found a therapist who meets these criteria, do give therapy a chance. Be open to the possibility that your marriage can be saved–and ready to do the work that entails. Remember, therapy is not always easy, especially if you are carrying excessive and painful emotional baggage from your childhood. But if you and your partner truly love each other, and are willing to alter some basic patterns, therapy can succeed.
When All the King's Horses and All the King's Men Can't Put Your Marriage Together Again Sometimes the best laid plans are laid to waste. Despite all your hopes and dreams in the beginning, and all your good intentions now, it seems impossible to continue your marriage. For many of us in the latter part of the twentieth century, the notion of "till death do us part" is an anachronism: When life becomes too painful, replete with too many battles and battle scars, few of us question the notion, at least intellectually, of moving on.
Sometimes, Dr. Baris notes, so much hurt has been engendered over the years that it is simply impossible to get beyond it–at least in the context of your current relationship. When people harbor deep, abiding anger, and when, despite therapy, that anger cannot be resolved, it could be time to let go.
But even in the absence of anger, one or both partners may start to lose respect for the relationship and a spouse. That may signal the end as well. One couple we know, for instance, divorced after the husband made some poor investments and lost his business and the family home. The woman, who insisted she bore no anger, said she could no longer remain married to someone for whom she had "no respect."
In another instance, a man divorced his wife, whom he'd met in the fiction writing workshop at the University of Iowa, after she threw in her artistic career for a high-paying job in a public relations firm.
Sometimes people divorce because they grow apart. A couple from the Chicago area spent 20 years in a very traditional marriage–he went off to work, and she stayed home in the role of homemaker. They had it all, from the two kids to the house in the 'burbs to the cars. But when the youngest child left for college and the couple had untold hours to spend together focusing not on child- or family-oriented issues, but rather, on each other, they found they had little common ground. His involvement in the politics of advertising was simply boring to her; and her interests in gourmet cooking and international travel were not things to which he could relate. Their taste in movies and even friends had become widely divergent. There were no affairs, and no long-simmering anger or resentment. It's just that when both reached this new crossroad, marked by the departure of their children, his arrow pointed East and hers, West.
Younger people with relationships of much shorter duration often reach this juncture as well. When people get married too young, they may find they have gone through enormous changes during the relationship and have grown apart; they've simply gone through more personal development, have a stronger sense of identity, and in light of that, would not make the same marriage choice today. Frequently, in such cases, the decision to divorce is mutual. Often, these people can walk away from marriage without feeling particularly angry, especially if they don't have any children. They both just throw up their hands, shrug their shoulders, and say "This doesn't work."
Point of No Return
How do you know when you've finally reached the point of no return, when putting your relationship together again is simply too much of a stretch? In the end, of course, the answer is personal. But if your answers to the following questions are irrefutably yes, it may be time to let go:
- Does every situation, no matter how seemingly trivial, evolve into a fight?
- Do you or your spouse continually refer to hurtful events in the past?
- Is all the respect gone from your relationship? Do you feel it is impossible to build that respect back?
- Have your goals and directions changed while your partner's have stayed the same? (Or vice versa.)
- Is your partner no longer fostering your individual growth?
- Have you and/or your partner both changed so much that you no longer share moral, ethical, or lifestyle values?
- Have you and your spouse lost the art of compromise? When you disagree, are you unable to forge a path together that is acceptable to both?
- Do you and your spouse have a basic sexual incompatibility? Do you feel completely unattracted to each other? Despite help from professional therapists, have you stopped making love?
Be Sure You Want to Divorce Before You Set Your Decision in Stone
The decision to divorce should never be made in the aftermath of a fight. Divorce is final and should be considered carefully, not just for its impact on you, but also for its impact on your children. When you divorce, what ramifications will reverberate through your life and the life of your family? Will you have enough money to sustain your lifestyle, including such details as trips to the movies, piano lessons, or the weekly ritual of take-out Chinese food? Are you ready to leave the family house for a tiny apartment? Are you ready to divide the impressionist paintings you've collected over the last 20 years, or your mint collection of rock n' roll singles, or the living room set you bought from the furniture master in Milan?
The answers, for many, may be straightforward: The emotional relationship with their spouse is largely negative, for one or more of the reasons listed previously. Why, otherwise, would divorce be in the air?
Nonetheless, there are sometimes positives that couples in conflict can miss. For instance, if you have a child, have you considered how difficult it might be to have total responsibility, on the one hand, or restricted visitation on the other? Will you miss your in-laws? Friends who may have to choose your spouse over you? Or neighbors you may have to leave? Have you considered the stress of the singles scene? And perhaps most important, will you be relieved or paralyzed by the state of solitude you may be subject to, day in and day out, once you and your partner have split?
Do take some time to consider your losses–and generally, there are sure to be some–before you set your decision to divorce in stone.
Somehow women have learned to expect that the birth of a baby automatically produces exhilaration and joy. They are led to believe that the period following childbirth should be the happiest time in their lives. In truth, it is one of the most stressful and anxiety producing periods in the life cycle of a family. More than half of the women who give birth each year experience some negative change in their mental health. For 10 to 15% of those women, the period following childbirth becomes a nightmare as they experience sleeplessness, confusion, memory loss, and anxiety during the already stressful adjustment to motherhood.
New mothers are especially vulnerable to depression anytime within the first year after delivery. Along with the overwhelming demands of caring for an infant comes a loss of time with one's spouse, the loss of adult friendships, and a loss of freedom and familiar routine. This is also a challenging time for the entire family, as they attempt to adapt to a new way of life, while knowing that their lives will never again be the same.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a biological illness caused by changes in brain chemistry that can occur following childbirth. During pregnancy, hormonal levels increase considerably, particularly progesterone and estrogen, and fall rapidly within hours to days after childbirth. Also, the amount of endorphins, the feel-good hormones that are produced by the placenta during pregnancy, drop significantly after delivery. Even the thyroid gland can be affected by the enormous hormonal changes that are associated with pregnancy and childbirth, leaving women more at risk for depression.
How do I know if I have postpartum depression?
Experts identify three broad types of postpartum mood disorders that are classified according to the severity and the duration of symptoms. The "baby blues" affects approximately 50 to 75% of new mothers and generally surfaces within a few days of delivery. Women with the maternity blues describe more tearfulness, irritability, and anxiety than usual with an overall sense of overwhelm. Because these symptoms usually decrease by two weeks without medical or psychological help, most women do quite well with added rest and extra help caring for their infant, along with reassurance and emotional support that their feelings are normal and temporary.
Psychosis is an extreme form of postpartum depression. Although it is rare, psychosis is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical treatment to protect both you and your child. If you have psychosis, you may be experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Hearing sounds or voices when no one is present.
- Feeling afraid that you might harm yourself to escape the pain.
- Having thoughts about harming your baby.
- Rapid weight loss and refusal to eat
- Going without sleep for forty-eight hours or more.
- Feeling as though your thoughts are not your own
- Feels like you are "going through the motions" of taking care of your baby without feeling much love.
About 1 out of 10 women who give birth will develop a postpartum depression. If you think that you are one of them, you might be:
- Crying more than usual
- Feeling sad much of the time
- Unable to concentrate and feeling in a fog
- Finding it difficult to remember where you've put things
- Unable to enjoy the things that you used to enjoy
- So exhausted but still unable to sleep even when your baby sleeps
- Tired most of the day
- Feeling like you will always feel this way
- Afraid to be alone
- Wishing you were dead instead of having to feel this way any longer
Frequently, symptoms go unrecognized because you may think they are part of the stress of caring for a new baby. You might delay in asking for help out of embarrassment, guilt, and a mistaken belief that a "good mother" should be capable of handling the overwhelming adjustment of caring for a new baby with little or no need for help. Also, weaning a baby from the breast and the return of menstruation are significant hormonal events that can alter the biochemical balances in the body and affect the timing of a depression.
Am I at risk for a postpartum mood disorder?
Although there is no exact way to predict a postpartum depression, it is possible to identify the factors that increase your risk. The most important risk factor is your personal and/or family history of a depression or a bipolar disorder. If you have had a previous postpartum depression, that also increases your chances of another depression. In addition, your risk increases if you have been depressed during pregnancy and have a history of premenstrual mood syndrome.
Stressful situations that include marital tension, health problems with the baby, a complicated pregnancy or delivery, and a lack of social support increase your risk for a postpartum depression. Among the psychological factors that predispose you to postpartum depression are a childhood history of sexual abuse or trauma, chemical dependency in your family, and confusing or negative feelings about the pregnancy and uneasiness about your new role as a mother.
What are the treatments for a postpartum mood disorder?
Decisions about treatment for postpartum mood disorders vary according to the severity of symptoms. Professional opinion, however, often supports the use of antidepressant medications in combination with psychotherapy from a qualified family therapist. Family and couples therapy is also effective, allowing the family and/or partner to better understand the depression and be a source of support for the mother. A marriage and family therapist may work with the couple to explore the history of each person's feelings, and will focus on solutions that the family can implement right away.
Group psychotherapy, involving the participation of other women who are experiencing a postpartum mood disorder, has also been found to improve depression by reducing the feelings of isolation that many women feel in the early months after childbirth. It is important to know that if you are breastfeeding, it may not be necessary to stop while taking antidepressants. Be sure to consult with your doctor about medication options that are appropriate for your particular circumstances.
Can I prevent postpartum depression?
Although a postpartum depression might not always be preventable, it certainly is possible to diminish the severity of symptoms, should they occur. Even before delivery, locate the stressors in your life and eliminate them. Put a support system in place during pregnancy so that you will feel less alone and overwhelmed after the baby arrives. In the months following childbirth, plan for free time, get plenty of rest, and do not deny your feelings or feel guilty for having them. Educating yourself about postpartum mood disorders is one of the best ways to ensure early diagnosis and proper treatment. Postpartum mood disorders are treatable, and seeking the help of a qualified therapist is essential.
The death of a loved one can be the most stressful event in a person’s life. A wide array of emotions can be experienced, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, and despair. Changes in sleep patterns and appetite can occur, as well as physical illness. These are all normal parts of grieving and the feelings can ebb and flow over time.
There is no "right way" and "wrong way" to grieve. Each person experiences grief in his or her own way, partly based on religious, cultural, social, and personal beliefs and partly because of the relationship with the person who died.
Bereavement has four basic phases which typically occur:
- Numbness and shock—usually occurs in the beginning and lasts a brief period. It is useful in helping people function through the initially funeral time period.
- Feeling of separation—when the feeling of loss or missing the loved one starts to occur.
- Disorganization—time period when the bereaved is easily distracted and might have difficulty concentrating or may feel restless.
- Reorganization—toward the end of the bereavement period when the person has begun to adjust to life without the loved one.
It is very important to seek out people who understand your loss. It may be friends, family, therapists, clergy, or support groups. It takes a long time to complete the grieving process, so you need to be patient to allow yourself the chance to grieve.
How can I help myself?
- Keep a journal—sometimes it is helpful to write down thoughts and feelings.
- Read books on loss—for some, reading about someone else’s experiences with loss can be very helpful.
- Start with an activity which was relaxing—this can help in the beginning to get back to a normal cycle, and it can provide some stability and familiarity.
- Talk about the person who died, if you want to—even though it may be painful, talking about particular memories can be healing.
- If helpful, go to a support group—many people find groups to be a helpful place to talk about their grief.
When should you seek help?
- If grief is lasting over a year.
- If there is a major change in weight (either loss or gain).
- If suicidal thoughts are occurring.
- If there are continual difficulties with sleeping.
- If there is prolonged emotional distress.
Stay connected to your health care providers. You need to remember to take care of yourself. You need to contact them right away if you feel like you are very depressed and not getting better or if you are thinking about harming yourself.
What type of help is available?
- Support groups for grieving individuals. Bereavement support groups provide a place to talk about grief, fears, and other feelings which can be there after the death of a loved one. Groups also help people learn from the experiences of others and are very beneficial for children and teenagers. If desired, contact your local hospice or hospital for information about a support group in your area.
- Family therapy. "Family" means many things people to many people. It can be people related to you or other people who are very significant in your life. The experience of a loss touches everyone in your family. Family therapists are specially trained to understand the impact of loss on a family and can assist you through your bereavement process.
- Books and journals. There are a wide variety of books available for people experiencing loss. Many people who are bereaved find these types of books to be helpful, especially those written by individuals who have experienced a similar loss themselves. Some of the books are mentioned in this brochure; check bookstores for other selections.