If you’ve ever had your heart broken, you know how easy it can be to neglect self care and fall into behaviors that do not serve you. Nobody wants to admit that another person can have such a powerful and devastating effect on us, but with vulnerability and honesty comes healing. Your break-up does not have to begin a downward spiral. It can, in fact, be the beginning of something beautiful.
First Things First- Make Your Break-Up Take A Seat
Fluff up the figurative pillows and get comfortable, because it is absolutely necessary to sit with these feelings. So often we’re encouraged to “just stay positive” and “fake it til you make it.” These strategies are valid, but unfortunately taken out of context pretty regularly. Before you can get to a positive point, even if it’s just faking positivity, you need a chance to feel your true reaction to an event, in this case, your break-up. And spoiler alert: break-ups suck.
Whatever your reaction to the loss of someone from your life is – be it with tears, anger, relief, or a combination – give yourself unconditional permission to feel those emotions. Think Carrie from Sex and the City (the movie) when Mr. Big stood her up at the altar. I have so much respect for the director of that film for the following scenes because it shows Carrie in mourning. It shows her puffy faced, unable to get out of bed, and basically a stranger to her friends for almost a week. The film shows grief. Denying grief from the healing process, or any repression of feelings, makes you susceptible for a relapse down the line.
Behaviors To Avoid
We all cope with dramatic life changes and loss in different ways, and that’s okay. In addition to giving yourself permission to feel, you must also give yourself the go ahead to cope how you see fit (to an extent). If it’s been months and you still feel like severely isolating yourself or as angry as you did at the time of the break-up, then you may need to explore other options. But I would encourage you to allow yourself to cope with the pain in whatever way helps you so long as it is not a self-destructive behavior. For example, these behaviors may seem tempting after a break-up but should definitely be avoided:
- crash dieting
- binge drinking
- abusing drugs
- dramatic changes to your routine
- impulsive life decisions (ex. packing up and moving across town)
- blaming yourself for the other person’s actions / choices
Some of these may seem obvious – restrictive eating, binge drinking, drug use. However, the really important things to beware of are seemingly positive strides that are actually symptoms of your pain. For example, while signing up for a new class on a hobby you used to enjoy would be a healthy change to your routine – committing to three new non-profit organizations and starting a pottery club all at once is not advisable. Relapses are the most likely to occur when your world starts to feel out of control, so it is a good idea to keep your routine somewhat stable as you can immediately following a break-up. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t explore new avenues, but take it slow.
Similarly, be conscious of self-blaming thoughts. Whether you were the person who made the decision to end the relationship or it was made for you, you are not responsible for your ex’s behavior. One of the worst feelings in the world is seeing someone we love struggling, hurting, and making poor choices. But you cannot allow yourself to be made guilty for his or her actions.
Surround Yourself With Care (And Don’t Forget Self Care!)
Even the strongest souls get tired, and relapses do happen. That being said, the best way to ward off another battle with mental illness is by removing triggers. Which means not engaging in destructive behaviors mentioned above and surrounding yourself with loving influences. While this next chapter of your life should be about you, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong support system. Cultivate relationships with your family and friends that make you feel inspired and cared for. Plan self care activities into your routine and make them a priority. You’ll find your footing, and be ready to step into something even better than what you left in the past.
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