How to Deal with a Breakup: 7 Steps to Help You Heal
If you’re wondering how to deal with a breakup, firstly, I want you to know you are not alone.
Most of us have been there at some point in our lives.
A Northwestern study found that breakups cloud our sense of self, and the more serious the relationship was, the bigger your identity crises may be. If that rings true for you, know that it’s normal.
Sometimes we try and convince ourselves it’s not a big deal and was only a breakup. But because falling in love can be a scientifically addictive process, breaking up can be more serious than you first think.
“Emotionally, it can be quite a big deal, and [breakups] can be a risk factor for depression, which is no clinical condition to take lightly. There is a real analogy of the, quote, broken heart. There are some physiological rationales behind that thinking. [Breakups] can jeopardize one’s health.”—Brian Boutwel, an evolutionary psychologist at St. Louis University.
Yes, it sucks, but the good news is you will be okay. You will heal. And this list is going to help you.
What’s important is you don’t stay stuck in the past or blame yourself for mistakes you’ve made.
That means no playing the “if only….” game. If only I’d dyed my hair blonde, or gone to the gym more, or watched more Bourne movies with him.
Don’t do this to yourself. Chances are he wasn’t perfect either. Today is the day to move forward.
Forget trying to win your ex back, focus on winning yourself back. You are the most important person in your life.
Here’s how to deal with a break up in 7 steps.
1. Give yourself permission to feel & reflect
Before you do anything, it’s vital you give yourself permission to feel all your feelings. There are no right or wrong emotions. Here are just some of the ones you may be cycling through:
- Acceptance (especially immediately after the break up occurs)
“Grief does shape us in big ways,” says Lodro Rinzler, author of Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken.
These emotions are all part of the grieving process, and in order to heal, you have to go through this. Give yourself some alone time to mope around, to feel, and to cry.
Remember, don’t feel guilty for the way you feel. Stop thinking you should be over this by now, regardless of how long ago the break up was.
Why do you think you should? Breaking up with someone you love is a major loss, so it would be strange if you didn’t feel that in your heart.
Your feelings are always justified, and there is never a “right way” to heal from a break up.
Listen to sad music
You might reach for something to cheer yourself up, like a happy playlist of music. But did you know that listening to sad music can help normalize the grief you’re experiencing, and help you feel less alone?
Yes! According to a 2016 study, listening to sad music can be a source of comfort for some people. If you already know that mellow, tear-jerkers soothe your soul, then make yourself a break up playlist.
See a therapist
If you’re really struggling and want someone to talk to, consider seeing a therapist. Talking to your friends and family is one thing, but having an unbiased, outside perspective can offer new insight.
A therapist will never judge you. They’ll help you sort through your feelings, and figure out how you can move forward. If you’re feeling a lot of anger towards your ex, this can really help diffuse it.
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Research has also found that people who do a deep reflection on their past relationship have a stronger overall recovery. You can’t change the past, but you can learn and grow from it. So consider what the lessons are for you.
What mistakes did you make? What were the positive aspects of the relationship? And what can you take with you from this experience that will make your next relationship stronger?
Journaling can be a powerful tool to help you do this. Writing is a great way to feel our emotions, make sense of them, and release them. Turn your feelings into a structured story, so you can begin to make sense of them.
“‘Emotional expression’ and ‘account making’ (that is, coming up with an explanation for a traumatic event) are the two main psychological processes crucial for coping with a breakup—and this type of writing helps with both.”—Medical News Today.
2. Cut all contact with them
One of the most crucial steps in dealing with a break-up is to cut all contact with your ex initially. Maybe you want to be friends with him, and in the future, you can be. But definitely not right now.
The best move for you right now is to delete his number from your phone and block them on all your social media accounts.
This will stop you from sending that text when you’re drunk at 3AM and missing them like hell. The text you know you’ll wish you could take back the next morning when you’re sober and thinking clearly.
So do your risk management ladies.
Not seeing what your ex is up to can be really difficult at first, especially since you’re so used to being a big part of their life. Maybe you still care about their health and happiness and success, and you want to see them reach their dreams.
It’s a bit of a shock realizing you don’t get to be a part of that anymore. This disconnection can be tough, but it’s better this way in the long run.
No Contact Rule: 9 HUGE Benefits of Going Silent After a Breakup
Stay out of their way
Try and stay out of their way as much as possible. This is challenging if you both live in the same, small town. But if you know he’s going to a party, I’d recommend skipping it. And if you know he likes hanging out at a particular bar or club, steer clear of it for a while.
Seeing him flirting with other women, and moving on with his life will only make you feel worse. Yes, you both need to move on, but neither of you want that shoved in your face.
Don’t have break up sex!
Regardless of how lonely or tempted you are, do not under any circumstance have break up sex.
When women have sex, oxytocin is released in their bodies, which is also known as the “cuddle hormone.” This makes you feel more attached to your partner, lowers your defenses, and puts you at risk of falling back in love again.
Save yourself the heartache and be strong.
Don’t trash talk your ex
One final thing: avoid trash talking your ex to your friends and family. This might feel therapeutic to begin with, especially as your squad is likely to back you to the end. But it will only make you feel crappy. You’re better than this.
3. How to deal with a breakup: Detox
Now that you’ve cut all contact with your ex, it’s time to detox.
The first step here is to deal with any baggage from the relationship, physically and emotionally.
When we don’t do this, we tend to cart our issues around with us and bring that into our future relationships. Essentially, we set ourselves up for failure, and this can easily be avoided.
Were there a lot of arguments in the relationship? If so, what was the root cause of them? Can you see any patterns there? Who was the one picking the fight, and what usually led to the explosion?
It’s vital you take time here to reflect and recharge. Make peace with the past so that you can move forward.
Make sure you’re not doing anything to sabotage your healing right now. That includes heavy drinking, taking drugs, or excessive eating.
Clear out bad memories
Transform your home into your own personal love detox center. Throw out anything you’ve accumulated from the relationship. That includes that shoebox in the back of your closet—you know the one I’m talking about.
Get rid of the bad memories and reminders of what you’ve lost, because this is how we create space for new memories.
Rearrange the furniture in your house, and breathe fresh energy into your space. Take some inspiration from the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui to get good energy flowing again in your life.
Maybe take this time to have a massive clear out, and get rid of anything you no longer feel aligned with. Redecorate if you feel called to.
Blast an empowering playlist out while you do this, and give yourself permission to choreograph a matching dance routine. Because, why the hell not?
This is the end of an old chapter in your life, and the beginning of a beautiful new one. Embrace it.
4. Take care of yourself
Figuring out how to deal with a break up is really about learning how to take care of yourself during this emotional period of adjustment.
Even when you feel like sleeping in and hiding out from the world with a selection box, dig deep to find the motivation to get up and take care of yourself. You need self-care now more than ever.
That means checking off the basics. Get up at a reasonable hour, shower, get dressed into clothes that make you feel good, do your hair and makeup. Do whatever you need to do to feel put together.
“Prioritizing your hygiene and taking pride in how you look can often make you feel better inside.”—Kristie Norwood, licensed clinical psychologist.
Try and eat a balanced diet. Don’t diet or binge as a way to comfort or punish yourself. You don’t need cruelty right now, you need more kindness and compassion.
Opt for nourishing foods that make you feel good, and energize you. Stick to a plant-based diet as much as possible, and try out a vitamin supplement if you want an extra boost.
But don’t worry about indulging in some pizza or ice cream now and then. Listen to your body, and trust it.
Move your body
Keep your body moving, but don’t over-exert yourself either.
Exercise releases endorphins, which can lower your stress levels, improve cognitive functioning, and boost your mood. Plus, it’ll be a welcome distraction from your thoughts and worries right now.
Focus on moving your body in ways that feel good to you. A power class like kickboxing might help build your confidence back up, and help you feel physically and mentally stronger.
Try and practice self-care every day. It can take as little or as long as you like. Here are some ideas:
- Enjoy a relaxing bath
- Practice positive self-talk
- Let go of a toxic habit
- Get a massage
- Tidy your house
- Organize something
- Have coffee with a friend
- Watch an inspiring movie
- Treat yourself to a new sex toy
Getting enough good sleep is important right now for your health and happiness.
Try and establish a good sleep routine if you don’t already have one.
It’s little things like this that will help you feel like you’ve got your shit together.
5. Focus on something else
When you’re in a relationship for a long time, it’s easy to lose a sense of who you are without your partner. Now is the perfect time to reclaim yourself.
What hobbies have you always enjoyed? What’s something you haven’t done in a while but would like to? Think about the parts of yourself you may have pushed aside or let slip over the past few months or years.
Create space to do things you love. And even if you don’t feel like it, push yourself to get out there and do them. This is how to start enjoying yourself and your life again.
Go to a club with your friends, go to a local class or join a club, meet new people, head to a comedy club or an art gallery.
Focus on saying yes to invitations and opportunities, even if you want to stay home alone with your thoughts.
Take back control of your life
Break-ups have a way of making you feel like your life is out of control. There’s no better way to combat this than by focusing on another area of your life and kicking ass in it.
That might be your career, your friendships, your hobbies, or your side hustle. This will help you feel more confident and build your self-worth back up.
Another brilliant way to deal with a break up is to plan something fun to look forward to. Maybe a gig, a music festival, dinner at a fancy restaurant, or even a vacation with your girlfriends.
This is how we help ourselves move forward and heal.
Remember, every loss we experience always has a purpose. Perhaps it will help you explore and re-discover yourself on a deeper level than you ever have before.
6. Reconnect with friends
Wondering how to deal with a breakup? Go home. Return to that place where you are loved and supported by people you know and trust.
“Home is the place where when you go there, they have to take you in.”—Robert Frost.
Chances are, you have someone you can go to who makes you feel like you’re home. Whether it’s your sister, your best friends, or your mum. Maybe you’re blessed enough to have many homes you can go to.
There’s no place that feels safer than home does.
But be mindful about who you’re choosing to spend time with. What you need now is the energy of positive, uplifting people. Not Debbie downers. Seek out the people who look on the bright side, can make you laugh a lot, and make everything that’s heavy feel lighter.
Date your girlfriends
Now that you’re single, why not date your girlfriends?
Plan brunch dates, spa sessions, nights out, weekends away. Pour your time and energy back into the relationships you may have let slide a little while you were in a relationship.
Even if you don’t feel like having company or being social right now, avoid the desire to isolate yourself.
Experts have found that staying social decreases depression and helps you live longer. There are also numerous studies that have found social support in the wake of adversity or trauma leads to better mental and physical health.
So don’t be afraid to lean on your people right now. Stay connected. Share how you’re feeling. Allow the people who love you to walk through this by your side.
7. Start dating again (when you’re ready)
When it comes to how to deal with a breakup, the best thing is to avoid dating again until you feel ready.
Great advice Adam, but how do you know when you’re ready?
You’re ready to date again when your previous relationship no longer feels heavy to you.
“You have more mental space to think of other things outside of this one person. [You can] create new memories, develop new hobbies, and focus on yourself. This is when you can begin to know you are healed and can begin dating again in a healthy way.”—Dr. Tricia Wolanin, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist.
Don’t date to make yourself feel better
That means avoid hopping on dating apps when you get an urge to unless you’re actually ready. Some people say the best way to get over someone is to move on to someone else. But generally, this is bad advice and does not work!
Perhaps in the moment when you’re hooking up, you may not be thinking about your ex. But eventually, you will be. This will only leave you feeling worse than you did before. Plus, it’s not fair on the other person. They deserve more, and so do you.
You need to take this time to restore your trust and faith in relationships and open yourself to being vulnerable with someone again.
And the best way to do that is to preserve your energy and take care of yourself. So when you’re ready to date again, you’ll feel good about yourself, you’ll know what you want, and you’ll recognize it when you see it.
When you are ready to start dating again, be sure to take things slow. There’s no rush. Be gentle and patient with yourself. You’ve just come out of a long-term relationship, and that’s a big life event.
And that is how to deal with a break up
I’m not gonna lie to you. Breakups can be really tough, regardless of who broke up with who.
But follow these 7 steps and you’ll be well on your way to moving forward and healing from the past.
Trust me when I say you’re going to be okay. You are stronger than this.
Always remember that everything we go through in life is teaching us something, and shaping us into the highest version of ourselves we can be. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Have you tried some of the steps above to deal with a break up in the past? Or do you have some extra tips on how to deal with a break up that aren’t on this list?
Share them all with me in the comments below!