Getting Back in the Saddle After a Bad Breakup
If you’re going through a big breakup, then you don’t need us to elaborate on the heartbreak that you’re feeling. (We are sorry you’re going through this!)
When your heart’s in a million little pieces, you may be tempted to curl up with Netflix and ice cream. We’re not denying the soul-southing benefits of this pastime, but the fact is that there are better, more effective ways to heal your heart.
Instead of inundating you with clichés like, “Everything’s going to be ok,” or, “Better to have love and lost…” we’d like to offer you this list of strategies that will help you to get your heart back on track. Don’t feel alone; we’ve all been there before. Here are some tips that will help you to move forward and, as unlikely as it may sound, move on –for real.
Go easy on yourself! When you’re going through something as horrible and soul-destroying as a breakup, the last thing you need is for your own negative psyche to start beating you up about it. Yet ironically, this is often exactly what happens. Instead of telling yourself to, “Just get over it,” or feeling angry because you’re hurt, give yourself permission to grieve. Relationships leave an indelible mark on our memories, because so much of our lives are intertwined with another’s, there’s little we can do to erase every aspect of them from our lives. While this doesn’t mean that you should hold onto the past, it does mean that you should be honest with yourself. Recognize that your relationship was an important part of your life –and now that it’s over you’re completely normal to feel a sense of loss. Allowing yourself to grieve is the first step towards healing and the only way to let it all out. Plus it’ll save you from random breakdowns at work, or tearing up whenever the theme from Titanic comes on.
Let It Go
Chances are, your ex was not a great fit (or even a total jerk!), but it’s important to focus on moving forward, rather than passing the buck. “Thinking it through might mean understanding your role in the relationship and the breakup,” explains Dr. Susan K. Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This doesn’t mean pointing the finger of blame at yourself or your ex - it does mean acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes, and allowing yourself to move forward. You’ll be able to have new experiences, and make new memories, and before you know it your ex will become a distant memory –one you’ll be able to remember without welling up every time.
Think of your ex as something you are trying to quit, just like if you were an addict, advises Sara Altschule, Writer and Relationship Expert. Keeping in touch with them is only going to prolong your sadness. Just remember, there’s a fine line between having a clear out and being obsessive. “Each of our relationships becomes a part of who we are and removing that piece from your memory also takes away a part of your own identity,” says Dr. Whitbourne. Your goal is to focus on moving forward, not spending every waking minute trying to erase them from your life. So while this doesn’t mean frantically ridding your place of everything that reminds you of them, like that bowl that they ate cereal out of that one time, or the couch that they sat on, it does mean losing the mementos that are distinct tokens of the relationship. It also means deleting them off of your social media accounts, because let’s face it; it’ll be much easier to move on when you’re not forced to witness photos from their nights on the town or their Cancun vacation in your Facebook feed.
While going out may be the last thing you feel like doing, keeping busy is exactly what’s needed to help shift your focus. Try to get out of the house at least a few times a week, spend time with your friends, go to the movies, do whatever it takes to keep your mind off of things. Finding new ways to use your time will help you to feel better, and who knows, it may lead to new opportunities. “Right after we broke up, I launched a website to take my mind off things,” says Tim, 24, a Vancouver-based designer. “It’s now a successful part-time business.”
Find Yourself Again
Relationships tend to be all-consuming. If you’ve been involved in a whirlwind romance, you may have lost a piece of yourself along the way. Now is your chance to find and reclaim it once again. It’s also the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself, so ask yourself who you want to be –and then go make it happen. What do you enjoy doing? What type of life would you have if nothing was holding you back? What personality traits do you want to cultivate? This can be a fun and exciting part of a breakup, and inevitably will lead to a new and improved you.
You may have heard the saying, “Motion dictates emotion.” How you move really does affect how we feel. While you may be tempted to sit with your head in your hands, this is the surest way to feel miserable. But getting out, and getting moving will get you out of your slump, helping you to feel better. Plus studies even show that exercise can work like an antidepressant. Even a 20-minute walk can do wonders for your perspective. Joining a gym, signing up for a Pilates or kickboxing class, or even committing to a jog every morning can help you to feel better.
While many people seem to jump from one relationship to the next, you’ll want to avoid the rebound. Giving yourself a chance to breathe in between relationships is a far better solution, and will save you from making any rash, knee-jerk reactions. If you don’t give yourself a chance to heal, you’ll risk bringing all of that unresolved baggage with you into your next relationship, dooming it to failure from the start. Just like there must be a pause between breaths, so there should be a pause, a space between relationships says Rebecca Lammersen in her article, How to Recover From a Breakup the Healthy Way. “It is critical for a healthy recovery especially if I hope to meet a life partner,” says Lammersen. “I must be whole and healed first. I must pause between breaths.”
Learn to Love Yourself Again
Finally, the hard part: to learn to love again –yourself, that is. Being comfortable with your own company is a difficult part of the healing process, but with time, it will come. While you should focus on spending time with others immediately following a breakup, eventually you’ll want to learn to enjoy activities on your own –walking, cooking, or traveling, for example. As the saying goes, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” A tall order, but one that’s worth striving for!
It may seem hard to believe at first, but recovering from a breakup is less about your ex, and more about yourself than you might think. The good news is that you can use this time to rediscover all of those things about yourself that may have gotten lost along the way. Go easy on yourself, give yourself permission to cry, and then force yourself to get back out there and start having fun. Once you’ve picked up the pieces, you’ll be ready to move on –and learn to love again.
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