Relationship breakups are tough. They are emotionally exhausting, and can be incapacitating. For some, breakups can start a spiral into depression. Even the breakups that make the most logical sense are still emotionally painful.
And in fact, it is the emotional — not logical — part of ourselves that causes us to dwell in these relationships that we may logically know are not healthy for us. While a mourning period is expected after a breakup, it’s easy to get caught in an emotionally harmful pattern if we don’t actively move ourselves forward, even while we mourn and continue to process the breakup for as long as needed.
So how do we emotionally get through a breakup and also move forward without getting caught up in a spiral of depression and self-defeating behaviors, such as prolonged isolation?
1. Make Plans
Social interaction is important to moving forward after a breakup. Isolation often leads to being consumed by emotions and thoughts that exacerbate our sadness and upset. Try scheduling plans in advance to see friends and/or family at least a few times during the week and weekends (especially if you live alone), and be sure to follow through with them. If you feel you don’t want to be around anyone, which can be common after a breakup, this may be a time to act opposite of the urge and push yourself to interact with people and prevent a pattern of loneliness and depression.
2. Careful of the Rebound
Breakups are often a time of intense emotional vulnerability. Our emotions are seeking stability and when we feel we can’t internally create stability, it is quite possible to engage in unhealthy forms of new relationships that cover up healthy relationship mourning. While at first the replacement relationship brings a sense of euphoria, the emotions from the un-mourned relationship often return creating a more complicated and confusing emotional environment.
3. Utilize Hobbies
Hobbies are a great way to keep from dwelling in sadness and forming negative patterns. Whether it’s doing a puzzle, going to museums, martial arts, hiking, etc., allow yourself to enjoy the activities that bring you pleasure. Be sure to include social hobbies as well as individual ones.
It is important to remember to take care of yourself when dealing with a breakup. Go to the gym, jog, swim, walk, cook, etc. Some may feel less motivated to grocery shop, prepare meals, eat, or shower after a breakup. These may require some extra effort at times, but do your best to continue your daily self-care routines as before.
5. Careful of Overworking
Some might say that throwing yourself into work is a great distractor from a breakup. However, overworking is often an emotionally avoidant behavior. Overworking may allow us to avoid sadness or loneliness because we are busy, however this creates an imbalance in our lives as well as a negative pattern that in itself is tough to break (decreasing the work to regain more personal time later becomes difficult). Work as you would normally work, and reserve those other hours in the day for self-care, hobbies, and social plans that you’ll hopefully be continuing or increasing into your week.
6. Set a Daily Time Limit for Mourning
Each person mourns differently. There is no actual time limit for mourning. However there is a difference between healthy mourning and dwelling in regret and sorrow. Some could spend months consumed by guilt and sadness if not careful (mourning a relationship loss may take months, but that doesn’t mean you need to be paralyzed in your life for months). As we move forward, it is still important to acknowledge our pain and other emotions we may feel as the result of a significant breakup. Set a time each day that you will allow yourself to reflect, feel, and process your relationship loss. Setting a timer may be helpful for this. Take the set time you need, and try to schedule an activity immediately following.
7. Seek Professional Help
Some people feel ashamed and embarrassed that a breakup is consuming or impacting them in any way, especially when the ex-partner is considered “not worth it.” However, breakups are painful. We put time, effort, hope, emotion, and much more into relationships. Seeing a therapist to process the residual emotions work through the breakup is a healthy way to deal with a breakup, especially if you’re feeling guilt and regret or starting to dwell in sadness.
There is nothing easy about getting through a breakup, however having the appropriate resources will help you be able to heal.
Contact Nathan Feiles to inquire about therapy.