Breakups can be traumatic. The mental and sometimes physical pain we experience when going through a breakup can seem unbearable. The nights of crying yourself to sleep can feel like they will last forever. But we are here to remind you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that you are not alone. The number one thing to remember when going through a breakup is that the healing process takes time. To expect yourself to pick up the pieces in just a few weeks time (especially if the relationship was long term or very significant to you), will put more burden on your emotional well being.
To help you get through this particular challenging situation in life, we rounded up advice from our therapists on the tried and tested tips they’ve used and their clients have used to mend a broken heart.
1. Recognize when you focus on this person as being “the best” or “only match” for you. After a relationship ends, we tend to idealize our partners and fantasize about prior memories and the “what if’s” that didn’t pan out. This is a normal way of coping and processing, but often leads us to feel more pain. If we can recognize the times when our thinking patterns are creating this type of idealization, we can catch ourselves and then re-focus our thoughts in more healthy ways.
2. Keep yourself distracted with activities that you know you enjoy. This may sound simple, but distraction can be your best friend following a significant break-up. After a relationship ends, we feel a significant void in our lives. We may feel a deep loneliness and emptiness because we no longer have a significant other to share our time with. To navigate these negative and expected emotions, be intentional about planning consistent positive and engaging activities for yourself. This may include frequent social plans with family and friends, volunteering with a meaningful organization, or increased self-care activities. The frequency is up to you–it doesn’t have to be everyday. Be mindful of what your schedule can allow. By keeping your mind engaged in meaningful, positive activities, you will notice improved mood and decreased loneliness.
3. Let yourself have sufficient time to process your emotional experience. Sometimes following a break-up, we think we must immediately put one foot in front of the other and carry-on with our life’s responsibilities. While it can be helpful to stay busy and “in your normal routine”, it is also beneficial to give yourself some time and space to recover from the relationship ending. Sometimes reflecting on the overall experience can be a powerful coping mechanism. Reflection can take many forms–some find that writing about the relationship is healing, while others prefer in-depth talks with close friends and family as a way to process what has occurred. Regardless of the format, giving yourself adequate time to “bounce back” from the break-up is an essential step in your recovery.
4: Create a new environment for yourself. This is especially true if you an your ex have lived together. Scan your living quarters and find items that remind you of your ex, and donate them. If you think you may want to hold onto certain valuables that were gifted to you or you don’t want to burn all the vacation photos that were taken during your time together, create a space to place them and stow them away while you are going through the grieving process. You’ll more likely than not want to look back at memories, even if you’re ex is in them.
5: Do not repress your emotions, talk to someone about your breakup. This could be a family member, friend, or therapist. Having an honest and open conversation about your breakup can be therapeutic, and getting an opinion from an outside perspective can help you heal. Since close friends and family can be bias, seeking out a therapist provides you a sound board and adviser that is a complete outsider with professional training.
6: Spend time with friends and family. Feelings of loneliness can magnify during breakups, so fill your free time up by spending it with those who are close to you. This will remind you that you have support and love in your life, even when you don’t feel like you do.
7: Allow yourself to feel. This is one of the most important words of wisdom to live by when experiencing a breakup or any challenging part of life. By allowing yourself to scream, cry, feel angry, or any other type of uncomfortable emotion, you are giving yourself permission to express yourself and your emotions. The worst thing you can do is try to repress your emotions, as they will eventually start to bubble up and will be released at most often than not, inopportune times.