Breakups can be awful. Especially in the teenage years when it’s often the first love and first experience of an important relationship ending.
Below are the best tips and tools to help heal and move forward after a breakup.
1. Song Diary
Music can be very validating. I challenge you to set out to find the song that makes you think, “that is exactly how I feel right now”. Try not to add your favorite song, stick to songs that tell the story of your life. Save it in a playlist and keep adding to it over time.
After awhile you will start to see patterns in emotions. Highs and lows. There will be better times and worse times. When your heart is crushed and you can’t remember or imagine how it could get better, you’ll be able to look back and see how you pulled through it last time.
In addition to the perspective it can give, it’s cool to look back and listen to your life story. My list is 9 years long and it’s given me great insight and hope.
2. Use Your Mind To Beat Your Brain
Research studies using MRIs have shown that our brain registers the emotional pain of a breakup in the same way it feels physical pain. This could be explained through an evolutionary perspective. In the animal kingdom one’s chances of surviving alone are much lower than in a group. It was necessary for isolation and loss to initiate very intense pain as a reminder that it could be fatal.
This could also explain the obsessive ruminating about the ex-partner; Constant wondering about the other person, where are they? Are they thinking about me? Do they care as much as I do?
Dr. Helen Fisher’s studies have shown that while in love, neurotransmitters in the brain mimic those of someone with a psychotic addiction. When a breakup happens, our dopamine levels drop and we crave our ex in a similar way that drug addicts crave the drug.
What can we do?
College students report feeling significantly less distressed about 10 weeks after the breakup. You may experience an intense wave of craving for the ex. Don’t expect yourself to just get over it.
Accept that this is going to suck and let it. It’s going to hurt, and that’s ok. Don’t act on it.
You don’t have to do something to make it go away. Craving and pain doesn’t mean you should contact them and try to win them back. Just let it hurt and that’s ok. It’s going to take a long time. There is no such thing as right or wrong feelings, only right or wrong behaviors. We’re not in control of our feelings, they just happen.
3. Write a Gratitude List
Write a list of all the thing you are grateful to have learned from the relationship. Hobbies you found you enjoy such as eating Korean BBQ or listening to a new band. Also write down the hobbies you learned are not your favorite. List qualities in a person you’d like to find again that made you feel really good. Make another list of qualities you would like to stay away from that made you feel hurt or angry. Remember to include both positives and negatives.
Don’t let yourself twist reality to only see the bad or the good. See both. You can learn from both.
4. Speak Honestly
Consciously try very hard to speak honestly. Don’t yell at your ex if you get a chance, or be super nice if you’re actually very hurt. You’ll change your mind 10min later and have more to say and wish you had another chance. Or worse, regret what you said because it’s not even true.
Write a letter explaining how you feel and keep editing it until you believe it says exactly how you feel and asks for exactly what you want. Underneath anger is often sadness. Make sure you’ve gotten the rawest emotion. This can be very difficult. Especially if you’re young.
Trying to figure out how you actually feel and put it into words is not easy. There are many layers. A therapist can help by listening to all the different ideas and threads and help untangle the feelings, understand why you made the decisions you did, and how best to move forward to attain what you need and want.
5. Social Media
Stay away from posting anything about the breakup on social media. If you’re confident you want the person out of your life forever, go ahead and block them.
A less extreme approach is to fix your settings so you’re still friends and following each other, but none of their posts show up on your wall or feed. It’s only there if you go looking for it. Then you won’t be caught off guard and brought down immediately if you happen to be in a good mood.
You have an obligation to watch out for the other person’s self-esteem. Don’t rub salt in their wounds, and talk smack. That’s not ok. This is not Picture to Burn. Hopefully he does not tell everyone you’re obsessive and crazy and you will not tell everyone he’s gay. It is important to maintain integrity.
If people ask what happened, you don’t have to explain. You can just say “it wasn’t the right fit” or “I appreciate your concern”.
6. Fill Your Time
Find something to focus on. Create an immediate goal for yourself. Something you can work on right now and will ideally fill the gaps in your new schedule. Feeling too depressed to do anything? Make a list of a few books you want to read and read them. Watch the top 10 movies ever made. Exercise and spend time in nature. Go outside and play water balloons with your siblings or friends. Learn something about a field you may want to work in. What skills can you attain to become a better candidate for the job? Can you get an internship and volunteer?
Exercise is great for many reasons. It increases dopamine which will increase your mood. You’ll also feel more confident about yourself. (If you have no idea where to start for females I recommend looking into Kayla Itsines’ BBG and if you are male, P90X is a very tough workout). They are both easy to follow, effective, and goal orientated. Neither requires a fancy gym membership.
Set a time for yourself to wallow as much as possible. Depending on your situation and feelings, also choose a length of time from 20min to a few hours. Cry to love songs. Watch sad movies. Set an amount of stalk time. Go to all of their social media accounts and read the entire wall so there’s nothing left to read. (Let’s be honest…you’re gonna do it anyway. Might as well make it one sitting.) You must use up the entire time period you’ve given yourself. After awhile this will seem boring and you will wish you didn’t have to do it.
9. Spa Day
It’s time to get those nails done and have a massage! Spend an afternoon relaxing. It doesn’t have to be professional. You can have a spa day at home or with friends just as easily. Light some candles and play some music. Paint your nails, deep condition your hair, exfoliate your whole body, and have your mom or friend give you a message (for one in return, of course.)
10. Emotional Envelope
For all those times when something pops in your head and you just have to text or call the ex. For all the memories and inside jokes you’re dying to share, write them down. Create an emotional envelope full of all of these things. But don’t send it. The emotional envelope lets you take comfort in a hopeful future when you’ll be able to give your ex all the stuff you’ve been collecting. It helps ease the discomfort of disconnection without actual contact, which would make it much worse.
Now there’s all this stuff to deal with. Not quite ready to give it away forever, but don’t want to see it everyday? I suggest giving it all to your best friend to hang onto. Write a note that says I’m giving you all of these things from the ex to keep forever. But in the case that I want them back, I can ask for them and have them. Then you both sign it. Stuff is gone but it can be undone.
12. Don’t scheme to get them back, scheme to get yourself back
Follow the tips above and give me a call