Manage Stress with an Abuser

By Robin Mullins Senger

Living with an abusive spouse is extremely stressful and contributes to premature aging and a whole host of serious health issues – psychologically and physically. While I was with Brian, the stress of the whole situation resulted in a complete loss of appetite.

I eventually only drank coffee and ate one bowl of popcorn for supper. My nerves were so tight I lived with constant headaches and fatigue. I became very thin and hyper vigilant. I could feel the stress aging me. One woman told me my face aged twenty years in the final six months I was with Brian.

Thankfully, getting away from him reversed the premature aging and my health was restored before permanent damage was done. Your health matters – not just for you personally, but for those who depend on and love you!

The following simple tactics helped me to manage stress while with Brian and contributed to an easier recovery after leaving. Remember, all you can do is all you can do. What I was able to do may be out of the question for you and is not meant to make you feel guilty! But please do try to care for yourself as much as you can.

  • Getting outside as much as possible – nature is free, and according to many researchers, the most powerful destresser available. I tend to agree that God meant it that way.

  • I physically worked. The work helped clear my thinking and made me feel good about accomplishing something. Whether painting a room a new color, or building a playhouse for the kids, I stayed busy making our home more cheerful and a nicer place to be.

  • I enjoyed time with animals, caring for them and loving on them. This is a very pleasant way to reduce stress!

  • I kept the children and myself on a quality multi-vitamin and gave us extra B-complex, which is important for fighting against the effects of stress. I also kept us on Omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are crucial for mental and emotional health.

  • I absolutely refused to touch alcohol or drugs. Those make a bad situation worse and I refused to go down that road. Brian tried to pressure me to join him in his drinking and drugging, coaxing me to try “just one sip” or “just one pill to calm your nerves.” This was a line I refused to cross and am very thankful I never did. God was my help, not a substance.

  • I didn’t sit in front of the television (or any screen). I knew that was a huge time waster and would only promote a negative and hopeless mindset. My time was spent learning and growing so that I was becoming a stronger and better person in the midst of my troubles. It paid off.

  • I stayed tight with God. I studied my Bible, and talked to Him about everything. Even when it felt like He was far away, I never turned from Him to unhealthy substitutions to soothe my pain.

  • It took a long time, but I eventually worked up the courage to tell someone about what was really going on in my life. The relief I felt was enormous. I was no longer alone. After that, even though I was closely monitored, I became more and more open with others, surrounding myself with a tight support system of people. I talked to them regularly and allowed myself to lean on them for strength, encouragement and comfort. God wants us to help each other.

  • I refused to develop a victim mentality. I owned my choices and refused to blame anyone for anything. I took responsibility for my life as it was and pro-actively worked to change it, whatever that looked like.

  • I put my kids first. I showered them with extra love, affirmation, time and attention in order the reduce stress in their little lives. Because I was very depressed, it was hard to do that sometimes. I was barely hanging on myself, let alone easily able to take care of anyone. But as mom’s we must muster up the strength to do so. Our children come first!

Where you are now is not the end of the road for you. There are changes you can make to improve your life and your health right now. Pick one thing that you would like to have more of in your life and focus on implementing it – even little steps in the direction you want to go turn into big changes over time. If you fail, give yourself the grace to shrug it off and love yourself enough to try again. You have enough negativity and criticism in your life – be kind to yourself.

Treat yourself the way you would want your daughter treated! It’s important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children, and have the strength to do what you need to do. You CAN have a good future – keep that in front of you and make choices that will bring that closer to you rather than pushing it away.