Relationship breakups are tough. They are emotionally exhausting, and can be incapacitating. For some, breakups can start a spiral into depression if they begin to dwell in regret and sadness. 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 push ourselves forward.
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 isolation?
1. Make Plans
Social interaction is key to moving forward after a breakup. Isolation often leads to being consumed by emotions and thoughts that exacerbate our sadness and upset. Schedule 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 is the 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. If you find yourself falling into a new and exciting relationship “too soon”, you could be experiencing a rebound.
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, gardening, bowling, 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 push yourself to continue your daily self-care routines as before.
5. Don’t Overwork!
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 it 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. For some of us, we could spend months consumed by guilt and sadness if we allowed ourselves to. 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 is helpful for this. I would recommend no more than 20-30 minutes a day, and 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.” But breakups are painful! We put time, effort, hope, emotion, and much more into our relationships. Seeing a therapist to process the residual emotions and thoughts is a very 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 the more tools you have and the more your push yourself to move forward, the easier it will be to heal.