How To Effectively Cope With Divorce Stress

divorce stressStress is unavoidable during the divorce process. But how you handle that stress will play an enormous role in how quickly you’re able to move on with your new life.

Dr. Kristen Lee Costa is the Lead Faculty for Behavioral Sciences at Northeastern University and author of “Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress,” which was named the Motivational Book of 2015.

Years ago, while working outpatient mental health at her own private practice where she provided divorce and marriage counseling for many individuals, Dr. Costa developed the RESET model to help people deal with their stress.

“What I found is everybody always wants strategies,” Dr. Costa said. “We really want to know what it is that we can do each day, what mindsets we can adopt, what kinds of behaviors are most useful. So (RESET) was born out of that practice while working with so many people who are facing really difficult circumstances.

RESET is a model known as conscious self-care and is an acronym based on the newest neuroscience and cognitive behavioral therapy principles. Essentially, it is conscious self-care and its principles are accessible to anyone.

Below, Dr. Costa explains each tenant of the RESET model and how each can be effectively utilized to help cope with stress.

Dr. Kristen Lee Costa
Dr. Kristen Lee Costa


In psychology, we call this perspective taking for appraisals. Appraisals have a lot to do with how we’re making sense of a situation and how we’re making meaning.

What I always like to tell people is that if you’re going through divorce, it’s not the best time for an in-depth analysis of your life. So you might have to buy a little time. Realizing is about taking that perspective.

Realizing that you’re feeling completely overwhelmed at a given moment is a very human and natural response to stress and you need to take a little time before your brain and your body are able to recognize the resources you have at hand to help you through the process.


Energize is about taking really careful care of our bodies and mind so it is able to rest.

Most of us have stressful jobs where we’re doing the job of multiple people. Energize is about making sure we’re putting things back into our bodies that are helpful and that we’re resting. We need to make sure we’re moving our bodies so that we’re not running on fumes.

Dr. Costa gives more tips to help cope with the stress of divorce. 


Our senses are very powerful tools in coping with stress.

Again, when we’re dealing with divorce and the everyday demands, we don’t actually take the time to relax and breathe, to drink our cup of coffee, to eat our meal. We’re running.

Soothing is about giving our senses a different message that things are going to be OK.

End unproductive thinking

Oftentimes we ruminate. Sometimes we play that broken record over and over again. When we try to process with those thoughts racing through our minds, we’re not really prepared to know what our resources are.

Thinking unproductively can waste a lot of our valuable time. So what we need to do is think about things we can involve our minds in that are productive that actually help us move forward.

Talk it out

When you’re going through a divorce or major life stressor, we can’t do it alone. Some of us are more verbal than others and willing to share and unpack things with people we’re close with.

But even if y oure more reserved, it’s important to access the many resources we have now. We have therapists, we have coaches, we have all kinds of professionals who care.

Just look around you. Look at your community. Look at your co-workers and people in your social network.

It’s really important that we have people we can trust and go to for support when we’re going through divorce.

Dr Kristen Lee Costa, Ed.D., LICSW, known as “Dr. Kris” and “America’s Stress Doctor,” is an award-winning behavioral sciences professor, clinician and author from Boston, Mass.

As the Lead Faculty for Behavioral Sciences at Norhteastern University, Dr. Costa’s research and teaching interests include individual and organizational well-being and resilience particularly for marginalized and underserved populations. Visit her website at

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