If you’ve gone through a breakup, you might feel heartbroken. You almost certainly feel lost. You may not even be sure who you are anymore. A breakup can cloud your sense of self, leaving you with an identity crisis. Even if the relationship was on the rocks, it still hurts. What will life be like now? Will you ever be happy again?
In short… yes. But there’s no magic formula to alleviate your pain. There are, however, several healthy and proactive ways to transition back into single life. As the clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson puts it, Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. The sooner you start taking steps toward moving on—however small—the sooner you’ll be back to your old self, ready to face the world, and perhaps even start dating again.
Accept your emotions
A grieving period after a breakup is normal—even if you were the one to initiate it. You might feel abandoned, in shock, and fearful for the future. After all, you’re faced with the prospect of reorienting your entire mindset- from we to me.
Immediately afterward, you may have a period of clarity, where you feel acceptance, even relief. Unless you’re genuinely happy the relationship’s over, you’re likely to feel shockwaves of denial, guilt, rejection, sadness, anger, humiliation, betrayal. It’s important to understand, that this is all part of the process of getting over your ex.
One highly effective way of channeling these emotions is to grab a pen and write them out. Jotting down your thoughts in a journal, or translating them into a more creative endeavor, can be seriously cathartic. It will clarify your thoughts about how you feel and what to do next.
2. Avoid negative coping methods
Romantic love involves many of the same physiological responses as addiction. So when your life has been centered around a singular focal point for so long, the ‘withdrawal’ can be intensive and all-consuming. When we lose the rock to which we were anchored, we can lose control, act out of character. You’ve molded your entire life around another person—so now you’ve got to stay strong while you figure things out.
There’s a lot of temptation to indulge at times like this, but drinking or comfort eating isn’t the answer. Negative coping mechanisms serve only to make you feel worse in the long run. And remember, excessive sugar, salt, or fat can actually increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol. So alcohol and junk food, far from easing your nerves, might just make you feel more anxious than before.
3. Get moving
We get it: you’ve been in bed three days straight, curtains closed, comforter up to your chin. The last thing you want to do is pull on your sweatpants, head out the door, and face the cold light of day.
But remember, exercise is nature’s antidepressant. Hit the elliptical, or go for a run, and feel those endorphins pump vitality through your body. Working out reduces stress, boosts your mood, and improves cognitive function, helping you stay grounded. The breakup might be horrible, but at least you can feel great physically during these tough times.
4. Rediscover what brings you joy
As the pain of your breakup takes hold, you may find yourself fixating on the negatives, unable to remember the things that have brought you happiness over the years. You can barely think about your next meal, let alone what’s going on with the rest of the world. And yet revisiting these joys is critical to the healing process. So treat yourself to a massage. Spend time in your favorite coffee shop. Throw yourself into a Friends marathon—preferably with your own friends right there with you. After all, laughter makes you feel better for hours afterward and can even improve your overall health.
Practicing gratitude will equalize your mood, and get you back into a positive headspace—or at least some semblance of that. As mentioned before, if writing helps you, then a gratitude journal could be the natural next step. You may struggle at first to think of all the good still in your life, but as you repeat the process, day by day, you’ll gradually find yourself feeling more appreciative for what you have—and more hopeful for what’s to come.
5. Craft your breakup playlist
Music speaks to us on a far more instinctive level than most people realize. It has the power to turn your mood on a dime. So for the difficult days and weeks ahead, there are few more reliable ways to moderate your emotions than compiling your own mix. Because whether you’re suddenly overwhelmed with sadness while sitting in traffic, or feel the urge to angrily deep-clean your entire apartment, music is perhaps the only thing you can always fall back on without fail. Your breakup playlist is your constant companion throughout the breakup, ready to support you emotionally at a moment’s notice.
And as for what to put on your playlist—well, it’s intensely personal. Surprisingly, some people do actually benefit from listening to sad music during a breakup, whereas for others that would be disastrous. If you know from past experience that happy, upbeat songs are just what you need, follow your intuition—and steer clear of that Adele album.
6. Detox from social media
Whether you’re obsessing over your ex’s profile or scrolling through old photos of happier days, Facebook and Instagram are dangerous terrains for the broken-hearted.
If you can’t stay off social media altogether, at least unfollow or block your ex. And if you’re following their friends and family, you might consider doing the same for them—although of course, this is complicated if you’re close with them, independent of your ex. At the end of the day, you need to avoid reminders of this person popping up in your life—because that will happen naturally enough as it is. You walk past the park where you met for your first date, and you suddenly can’t stop the tears. You see that restaurant with the questionable menu you pretended to like so they weren’t offended—and now all you can think about for the rest of the day is how fun that evening turned out to be.
So do what you have to do. This time is about you, and getting your house in order—no-one else’s.
7. Don’t be alone
Perhaps the single best way to handle a breakup is frequent face-to-face contact with friends and family. You need to be listened to. You need to feel able to express your grief honestly, without fear of judgment or criticism.
And if reaching out doesn’t come so naturally, you could try getting involved in community projects, taking a class, doing voluntary work. You’ll feel energized by the new activities in your life, and you’ll meet like-minded people along the way.
8. Look forward to your future
It takes time to work through a breakup. But however difficult things get—however awful your sadness—try to remember that you will get through this. Surround yourself with those who love you, and fill your life with all that’s good and meaningful, whether that means throwing yourself into your career, devouring every book on the shelf, or indulging all day at the spa—no expense spared.
And if the breakup was a bitter one, perhaps in time you can forgive your ex, too—not even for their sake, but for yours. You’ll know when you’re ready to let go. You’ll emerge from the breakup with renewed vigor, hope, optimism—and you’ll be far stronger because of it.
Maclynn International is a world-renowned dating consultancy based in New York. Our matchmakers are highly experienced in helping people who’ve been through breakups find love once more—and we can help you, too. Get in touch today to start your journey.