Coping With Stress Amid Divorce
- Angelina Jolie, 48, has admitted to feeling overwhelmed with emotions amid getting a divorce from her ex-husband of five years, Brad Pitt.
- Jolie’s mom’s passing and her divorce had a major impact on strengthening her resilience in the face of adversity. However, in a recent interview, Jolie said the stress of her divorce led her to have Bell’s Palsey, which can be caused by “impaired immunity due to stress, sleep deprivation, physical trauma, minor illness, or autoimmune syndromes.”
- Bell’s Palsy, according to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is “a neurological disorder that causes paralysis or weakness on one side of the face” which “occurs when one of the nerves that controls muscles in the face becomes injured or stops working properly.”
- Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik previously told SurvivorNet that emotions will be fluid when battling cancer. SurvivorNet has other great mental health resources for you, as well as films that will inspire you.
- Cancer patients oftentimes find themselves navigating a wide range of emotions that impact their mental health. When it comes to dealing with anxiety and stress, psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin says it’s important to have a healthy relationship with your anxiety and get to know it rather than fear it, avoid it, or push it away.
The admirable filmmaker, who previously underwent preventative surgeries (removal of her breasts, ovaries, and fallopian tubes) to reduce her risk of breast and ovarian cancer, recounted in a recent interview about how she noticed changes in her voice during the filming of “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” something she linked to stress.Read More
Symptoms of this condition include sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the face, drooping eyebrow and mouth, drooling from one side of the mouth, difficulty closing one eyelid, the institute explains. Something that may lead to a person getting Bell’s Palsy is “impaired immunity due to stress, sleep deprivation, physical trauma, minor illness, or autoimmune syndromes.”
In Jolie’s recent interview, she looked back on the seven years of court filings and negotiation in regard to her and Pitt’s property in Provençal Château Miraval and winery, as well as custody of their children.
During those years, Jolie spent most of her time staying close to her family and thinking about her decisions.
Expert Resources On Coping With Emotions
- ‘I Started Making Creepy Dolls:’ How One Woman Is Dealing With Her Emotions During A Cancer Fight
- ‘Be Patient With Your Emotions’: A Social Worker’s Insights Into Handling a Cancer Diagnosis
- Fear, Anger, Anxiety: You’re Entitled To Your Emotions
- Responding to Stress: How to Cope With Complex & Changing Emotions
- SN & You Presents Mental Health: Coping With Emotions
She told the news outlet, “We had to heal. There are things we needed to heal from.”
Looking back on how the public views her, Jolie explained “Since I was young, people liked the part of me that’s pretty tough and maybe a bit wild—that’s the part that I think people enjoy. I’m not the one [who] you want to hear about my pain or my sadness. You know, that’s not entertaining.”
Since she’s been residing in Los Angeles, she hopes to move out soon and spent more time in Cambodia. Jolie told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s part of what happened after my divorce. I lost the ability to live and travel as freely. I will move when I can.”
She added, “I grew up in quite a shallow place. Of all the places in the world, Hollywood is not a healthy place. So you seek authenticity.”
It’s evident that Jolie has been through a lot, but we’re happy to see her moving on and coping well after dealing with so much stress.
Losing Her Mom To Cancer
Jolie, who lost her mom Marcheline Bertrand in 2007 after battling breast and ovarian cancers, previously went public about her mom’s death in an Op-Ed for The New York Times.
“I lost my mother in my thirties. When I look back to that time, I can see how much her death changed me. It was not sudden, but so much shifted inside. Losing a mother’s love and warm, soft embrace is like having someone rip away a protective blanket,” she wrote of her loss.
Bertrand, also an actress like her daughter, came to Los Angeles from Illinois, and studied with Lee Strasberg, a prominent actor and teacher. She reportedly met Jon Voight, Jolie’s father, in 1971, but they later divorced.
Jolie chose to undergo several preventative procedures, to minimize the chances that she would develop cancer.
In 2013, she decided to have the double mastectomy. She also underwent other major surgeries that involved removing breast tissue, placing temporary fillers, and breast reconstruction via an implant.
In 2015, she opened up about the procedures she had to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, reducing her risk of developing ovarian cancer – promoting the “Angelina Jolie Effect,” a term Harvard researchers used to refer to the “large spike in genetic tests for a gene known to increase breast cancer risk following Jolie’s op-ed.”
How to be Resilient in the Face of Adversity
Angelina Jolie has been hit with hardship amid the loss of her mom and a stressful divorce, however, the actress strives to maintain a positive outlook and make the most of her time through charity work and being a loving mom of six.
Resilience is an important trait to have in the face of adversity such as cancer, divorce, or a major life change.
WATCH: Resilience: Staying Positive Despite Adversity
SurvivorNet spotlighted this important cancer-fighting trait in the film “Resilience,” which is streaming on SurvivorNet. It follows the lives of three athletes who are living with a health challenge yet overcame adversity.
You can build resilience the way you build muscle through patience and steady exercise of the skill. Here are some lessons taken from the film.
- Be willing to learn. If one way doesn’t work, find a different way. If an obstacle lands in your way, build a path around it or over it.
- Spend time with people who inspire you.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Don’t push away or dismiss your frustration and sadness. Give yourself grace when your emotions run high.
- Be flexible. Understand there are multiple ways to accomplish a goal. If your original method does not work, find another.
- Lean into your community. Consider using your support group made up of your friends, colleagues, and family. Remember when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by a problem, their support can carry you.
How To Manage Emotions During High-Stress Times
Battling a mental health issue, cancer, or learning to move forward after treatment can be an extremely stressful time for so many people. How can you manage your anxiety or stress while dealing with so many other things?
Dr. Marianna Strongin, a clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy, has been helping the SurvivorNet community by sharing coping mechanisms and a structured way to think about handling these issues.
“The way that I define anxiety is that it’s an internal question that we simply can’t find the answers to,” Dr. Strongin previously toldSurvivorNet.
Dr. Strongin says that one of the main causes of anxiety is uncertainty about life, and a cancer battle can fuel anxiety for individuals because of the lack of uncertainty about the future.
Many people will turn to media platforms for answers, but Dr. Strongin says that individuals often end up with more questions as a result which leads to more anxiety.
The first step for coping during stressful circumstances is understanding one’s anxiety. To do this, Dr. Strongin suggests checking in with oneself everyday to see where the anxiety is manifesting and what questions are causing the anxiety. From there, it’s important to answer those questions and reassure oneself with positivity.
WATCH: A Guided Meditation for the SurvivorNet Community
“The answers are our coping skills,” Dr. Strongin says. “Some people are really good at always giving themselves answers…other people don’t have the coping skills to answer their anxiety and as a result the anxiety increases. … We are all facing the same questions.”
She continues, “Some are facing them much more than others and some are better at answering those questions than others. What’s really important is to pay attention to is what those questions are, what the frequency of those questions are, and how you’re answering them.”
Managing Your Mental Health in the Face of a Health Challenge or Major Life Change
It’s only natural for health challenges and divorce have some sort of effect on one’s mental health. Although Angelina Jolie appears to be coping well with all the changes, it’s important to note that the diagnosis of a cancer or disease or some external stressor like a troubled relationship can offset your mental health in ways you least expect.
Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik previously told SurvivorNet that emotions will be fluid when facing a diagnosis. SurvivorNet has some tips to help keep your mental and emotional health in a good space if you find yourself coping with a stressful situation.
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Struggling to leave bed in the morning because of your mood
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
- Inability to perform normal daily functions and responsibilities
Equally as important is recognizing the value of self-care. The National Institute of Mental Health offers practical guidance on how to boost your weekly self-care routine.
- Regularly exercising
- Eating healthy, regular meals
- Staying hydrated
- Prioritizing sleep
- Exploring relaxation programs or techniques
- Setting goals/priorities
- Staying positive
- Connecting with others
Battling cancer comes with a ton of emotions. These can range from “anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation, and PTSD,” SurvivorNet expert and researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center Dr. Shelly Tworoger says.
Psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin also shared some simple tips to help you maintain good mental health and reduce stress amid adversity.
When it comes to dealing with anxiety, Dr. Strongin says it’s important to have a healthy relationship with your anxiety and get to know it rather than fear it, avoid it, or push it away.
Dr. Strongin explained, “By learning more about your anxious thoughts and tendencies, one can begin to answer their anxious thoughts even in moments when there aren’t any answers. For cancer patients, the worry thoughts tend to be, ‘Will I survive?’
“It’s important to let those thoughts come in and really be able to tolerate them before answering them. This is a very powerful coping skill.”
Dr. Strongin suggests medications to help with anxiety and depression if other approaches are not as effective. She also urges cancer warriors to explore telemedicine.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you find yourself struggling with a diagnosis or helping a loved one cope with their emotions, consider asking your doctor the following questions:
- How can I go about improving my outlook/mental health?
- Are there any activities I can do to encourage positive feelings?
- When should I seek other interventions if I’m still struggling?
- What are the steps to finding a different therapist if the one I’m using is not working out?
Stress and Health
Many people believe that stress causes cancer and other health issues, which isn’t exactly true. But there is a correlation.
Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon and surgical oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, tells us that stress can decrease your body’s ability to fight certain cancers.
“There is no doubt that stress and your immune system affect your body and affect your body’s chance of healing,” Dr. Yeo tells SurvivorNet. “Many patients are very anxious and worried that they cause their own cancer through stress or anxiety. I always tell patients, you can’t look in the past and you certainly can’t blame yourself.”
Although many top experts including Dr. Yeo do not think that there is a direct connection between stress and cancer, stress can negatively affect the body. “Stress certainly decreases your immune system and it may decrease your body’s ability to fight certain cancers.”
When there is an excess of stress hormones going on, “your body has a hard time recovering and cancer takes advantage of that.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff