Breakups are not easy. Not for anyone. Whether the separation was the result of a casual relationship or a divorce, a breakup can be an extremely unpleasant experience, to say the least. But it’s a phase of life most of us have or will go through at some point in our lives or other. So then perhaps it’s best to learn to deal with the situation head on and learn to cope with it in order to make the transition as painless as possible.
The single biggest challenge most people encounter is how to get over someone after a breakup. And that is the primary focus of this guide. This guide will help you understand what exactly is happening to your mind and body while you’ve been through a breakup – especially where the breakup was not mutual. Having a good grasp of what’s happening to your body in such a situation will help you make practical adjustments to your routine and make the transition as painless as possible.
Even though this guide has been written from the point of view of someone who has been at the receiving end of a breakup, it would still make a good read for someone who chose to part ways with their partner. This is because it would help you understand and relate to their behaviour towards you. So for example, if your ex keeps texting or drunk calling you, you’ll be able to understand what is making them do that and handle the situation in a more mature fashion.
Let’s start by understanding the physiological changes that are happening to your body and its impact on your psychology. It might get a little technical at times, but we’ll try to keep it as simple as possible.
The Broken Heart Syndrome
Recent and extensive scientific studies on the subject have shown that a breakup can have severe effects on your health, drive up your stress levels, and in some very extreme cases even cause death. The research is quite surprising, eye-opening, and even disturbing at times, but it is all there. So, if you are feeling a lot more stressed, disturbed, or depressed during a breakup it’s natural, but it’s also not something to be ignored.
Broken Heart Syndrome is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. It is known as such because it can also be caused by other stressful or traumatic factors aside from a breakup such as financial loss, a death of a loved one, or even sudden good stress like winning the lottery. However, it is most commonly associated with the stress of a broken heart, hence the more popular term of ‘Broken Heart Syndrome.’
Studies by The American Heart Association have shown that the heart enlarges during the Broken Heart Syndrome and may cause tensed muscle or a muscle that has swollen due to trauma. This unusual enlargement can lead to some additional, rather disturbing symptoms.
These additional symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome include irregular heartbeat, a sudden chest pain that feels like something constricting the chest, and shortness of breath. All these symptoms are also present in heart diseases such as the onset of a stroke or a heart attack. However, a quick ECG test should reveal the difference. With Broken Heart Syndrome, the ECG records will show a heart functioning normally despite the outward symptoms. Blood tests should also show negative signs of heart blockage or damage, and you should return to normal after a few weeks to a month.
The Amygdala and Breaking Up; The Brain Takes Over.
The amygdala is the oldest, and perhaps the most primal part of our brain. It is the area of the brain responsible for triggering our ‘fight or flight’ complex. This means that it is this part of the brain that determines if something is threatening us or not, and acts accordingly. Because the amygdala determines whether something is threatening you or not, it naturally controls your level of anger or fear in any given situation.
Even if a breakup is not immediately life-threatening, it is a source of a lot of stress, and this triggers the amygdala to release all sorts of unpleasant hormones and neurotransmitters to your brain and your body. This in effect, floods your body with rage, anger, fear, anxiety, panic, and any other negative emotions you can shake a stick at. The resulting hormone and chemical imbalance in your brain and body will leave you wasted, depressed, angry, and not logical or sensible. The amygdala is one big reason why many depressed, dejected, and rejected exes resort to stalking, attacking, and other unpleasant actions. In many ways, they’re not themselves, and their brain has hijacked their sensible and logical behaviour, which is just as ironic as it sounds.
Breakups and the Cortisol Connection
Cortisol is defined as a hormone that the body releases during periods of stress. It is also known as hydrocortisone and is produced in the adrenal cortex. Essentially, it plays a big part in the body’s reactions to stress. At its best, it helps us get out of bed to face the day and keeps us alert. During moments of extreme duress, it also shuts down the unnecessary functions like reproduction or the immune system to deal with the source of the stress directly. Unfortunately, a breakup is anything but simple.
A breakup is obviously an extremely stressful situation, and for that reason, cortisol levels will spike. This sudden increase in cortisol brings out a host of unwanted symptoms like hair loss, high blood pressure, loss of appetite, skin allergies, and even weight gain. None of these symptoms will do anything to address the real problem at hand, and can even just make things a lot worse.
Breakups and Dopamine
Lucy Brown is a neuroscientist at the Einstein College of Medicine. She has done extensive work studying the romantic responses of the brain and concludes that a breakup is a real and painful thing, simply because it is tied into the more primal parts of the brain, parts that control rewards, satisfaction, and addiction.
She explains, “Other kinds of social rejection are much more cognitive,” she says. “[Romantic rejection] is a life changing thing, and involves systems that are at the same level as feeling hungry or thirsty.”
Researchers Lucy Brown and Helen Fisher conducted several brain scans on participants of another study who also had experienced a recent breakup. Before the scans, the participants admitted to still being madly in love and doing a lot of inappropriate actions to get their ex’s attention and to reconcile. This included several phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and other obsessive behaviour. In short, all of them were still clearly not over their exes and would do anything to get them back.
When the participants viewed pictures of their exes, the scans revealed heavy activity in their ventral tegmental area, or VTA, the ventral striatum and the nucleus accumbens. Essentially these areas control the processing of rewards and motivation in our brains. They are also chiefly responsible for the transmission of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is the hormone in our brains that wires us to seek out pleasure, reward, and satisfaction. High levels of dopamine can be found in the brains of people in love and drug addicts. The comparison is disturbing, but the research validates it.
And speaking of primal urges and systems like rewards and addiction, these are all elements in the realm of dopamine. Scientifically, dopamine is the neurotransmitter in your brain that controls rewards and pleasure. Essentially dopamine is what manages your feelings of pleasure and a sense of being rewarded. While that is all good, the second part is where it starts to get tricky. Dopamine not only helps you spot situations where you get rewarded and motivates you; it also motivates you to seek them out in its absence. In some sense, this is very similar to the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.
Dopamine is very high with people addicted to something or in the throes of withdrawal. It spurs us to seek out the object that gives us that high or satisfaction, no matter what. It’s not any wonder then that there would be a lot of dopamine in the brains of people who are madly in love whether the love is just new, or after a breakup. In many ways being in love is like being dependent on a drug. The person you were in a relationship with validated you, rewarded you, and stabilised you emotionally.
It’s almost like depending on a drug. However, when the drug is suddenly not ingested anymore, the addict goes into withdrawal and begins to obsessively crave for it. It’s the same for the newly broken-hearted. If you are just experiencing a breakup, your mind is still very addicted to the highs your ex once provided for you and will spur you to seek him or her out, no matter how unpleasant or inappropriate it may be.
So essentially, when you were in love, you were getting rewarded. All those ‘I love you’ texts, terms of endearment, compliments, and all the other good things that come with love, all rewarded you and pushed your dopamine along. Now that you’ve broken up, all that is suddenly gone, but all that dopamine in your brain is still craving for some reward. It will have to find it in other, often unpleasant ways. These cravings can be strong and a very similar to withdrawal symptoms faced by cocaine addicts.
For many people, this manifests in them stalking their exes on social media, drunk calling or texting, or any other form of creepy behaviour. These behaviours are actually just your brain actively trying to get rewarded, as the old rewards provided by your ex are no longer there. And every time they do so, it gives them a temporary high. By no means is this kind of behaviour healthy, but it is the dopamine (and its related cousin discussed below) in your brain acting up.
At first glance, all this information can be quite disheartening. After all, it’s your brain that is actively moving and spurring you on to misery and sadness. It can’t help itself. After literally being chemically addicted to your ex, it’s but natural that your brain would suddenly convulse and recoil like this once the relationship ended.
Norepinephrine and Break-Ups: Memory and Stimulation
The emotional arousal that one gets from stalking, calling or seeing photos of your partner when you were together leads to release of Norepinephrine. Norepinephrine synthesised from dopamine and is the hormone that keeps you alert and stimulated.
Hailan Hu and his colleagues in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory ran tests on mice that had quite revealing results. They found that norepinephrine and emotional stress can indeed strengthen memory in mice. As mice brains and human brains share many of the same regions. In other words, it was found that Norepinephrine is responsible for increased memory for the new stimuli.
What this means is that you found a way to get your fix, and your body has found a way to “remember” how you got your fix.
A Drop in Serotonin.
Serotonin is a hormone that is responsible for stabilizing mood and stopping the obsessive compulsive behaviour. While all the other hormones shoot up, serotonin which is responsible for keeping you calm and balanced drops to dangerously low levels during a breakup.
Combine this information with the temporary high you get from dopamine, and the additional memory you developed in response to the stimuli, and it is easy to see why you can’t stop yourself from going back to get your fix again and again leading to this almost obsessive compulsive behaviour.
Over time of course serotonin levels go up to their normal levels, and the symptoms of this obsessive compulsive behaviour subside.
The Connection Between Breakups and Physical Pain.
A breakup is very similar to physical pain, getting over an addiction, or even losing a loved one to death. A very revealing study by cognitive neuroscientists at Columbia University used brain scans to observe the brain activity of people who had recently had a breakup. The brain scans of the participants who had endured a recent breakup were compared to the brain scans of other participants who had been given a hot and painful probe on the arm. The participants who had experienced a breakup were shown pictures of their ex, then pictures of their friends.
The results showed that the same parts of the brain that are active in physical pain were active when the participants were shown pictures of their ex. When they viewed pictures of their friends, these areas of the brain were inactive. The participants who were scalded on the arm experienced the same brain activity as those of the ones shown pictures of their ex. A breakup as painful as being scalded on the arm by some hot substance? Some would even agree that a breakup feels even more painful than that.
Researcher Ethan Kross who was one of the researchers who conducted the study, said, ‘We found that powerfully inducing feelings of social rejection to activate regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensation, which is rarely activated in neuroimaging studies of emotion.’ He concludes with, ‘These findings are consistent with the idea that the experience of social rejection or social loss more generally, may represent a distinct emotional experience that is uniquely associated with physical pain.’
The results of the study are very conclusive and significant. The brain’s pain regions including the anterior cingulate cortex and insula are very active during a breakup. Whether this is because the brain interprets the pain associated with a breakup in the same way as physical pain, or because the brain associates importance to the relationship is still under study and inconclusive. Whatever the case may be, this proves that yes, a breakup is very painful and the pain is at the same level as physical pain. The simple truth of it is, yes breakups hurt, a lot and there’s no way around it.
Now that you understand what’s going on in your body and why you react the way you do, let us look at how a breakup pans out for most people. In case you’re going through a breakup at the moment, it will help you prepare you to better cope with what you might experience.
The five stages of grieving in a breakup.
Ironically, the title above is a misnomer. No, I’m not giving you false information in any way. All the effects of a breakup on your mind are all real and meticulously researched with sources mentioned above. It’s just that there are no official ‘5 stages of a breakup.’ What there is are five stages of grieving over the loss and death of a loved one. Those are the five stages that were outlined, researched, and documented by Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross MD in her ground-breaking work ‘On Death and Dying.’ The book was published in 1969 but continues to be quoted and used for research purposes because of its clarity, objectivity, and eye-opening insights on the process of grieving.
In the book, Dr Kubler-Ross outlines five stages of grieving that everyone experiences when losing a loved one to death. The five stages are outlined in detail and explained with clarity and insight; they have become universally accepted as five stages everyone goes through when breaking up with someone. Yes, a breakup is that significant an event in anyone’s life that it is akin to losing someone to death. Is it any wonder that the process of breaking up with someone throws your mind off, and sets off so much chaos and turmoil? The five stages are listed below. Also, take note that many of these “stages” may overlap, occur together, or even that some reactions are missed altogether or even overwhelm the other at any time. It’s a real roller-coaster ride that will take you for a loop, so don’t be too hard on yourself, if you’re having a hard time coping. Anyone would.
This is the stage where the heart and emotions take over and cloud your better judgment. This is the stage where you entertain the idea of you and your ex somehow moving heaven and earth to get back together again. Of course, anything is possible, however when you’re in this stage, you truly believe that you will be back together again tomorrow instantly, against the odds, and as if nothing happened. Of course, the real possibility of that happening is next to zero, but you will not believe that, and fight against logic and reasonable thinking. This is the stage of denial.
Anger is what it is, anger. It is neither logical nor reasonable. It will simply rage on. When you’re experiencing the loss of a loved one to death or a breakup, there will be no logic, and a lot of anger involved. You will curse the heavens and life itself for being so unfair to you. This is also why it’s common for people to get angry at mutual friends who stay friends with their exes after the breakup, or some clients of counsellors and psychiatrists sometimes blame them for the breakup, or for taking sides. None of it makes sense, or is logical of course, but is anger ever reasonable?
Bargaining is a little less harsh than outright anger and sways towards denial more. In fact, many times, bargaining goes together with denial. This is where you will try to make a deal with the fates and destiny, just to bring you and the significant other back together. It often goes like promising to change just to get him or her back, begging them to stay for the kids, asking some friends to help you get back together again with them, or even praying and making a deal with the Higher Powers. This is all normal and to be expected, and unfortunately, so are the results of this bargaining stage. If the situation is like most breakups, it really won’t change a thing. Still, despite the futility of it all, it is expected and very normal for you to go through the stages anyway.
Perhaps this is the most serious of the stages mentioned. Depression can take on a whole host of nasty and unwelcome symptoms ranging from obsessive behaviour to addiction, to a lack of energy and other unwanted things. Most people who get into this stage, unfortunately, do not even realise that they are depressed and are often in need of professional help to have them cope with their current situations. Nevertheless, this is one of the most serious stages of the five stages a person goes through after a breakup and should be taken very seriously. People who are undergoing depression often make bad critical choices in their lives that end up biting them back in the future, whether it’s missing out on a huge opportunity to even losing their lives because of extreme apathy.
The stage where a person begins to accept what has happened and begins to slowly move on with their lives is the acceptance stage. This stage does not happen quickly, and a person does not come to accept their current situation immediately. They usually go through the depression stage for a long period before going through the acceptance stage where they begin to realise that there is no looking back and that there is no point in living in the past. This is also the stage where the person begins to act normally again as he or she would before the break up occurred. It is important that a person who just went through a break-up be surrounded with their friends and family so that they can undergo the depression stage much faster and can enter the acceptance stage more quickly.
While there are only five stages of grieving a broken relationship, there are also things to note regarding a person’s behaviour after he or she has separated with their spouse.
How long does it last?
What is wishful thinking is the common misconception that mending a broken heart has some kind of timetable depending on the length or intensity of the relationship. This just isn’t true, and there’s no scientific study to back this up. It doesn’t matter how long the relationship lasted. What matters is how much you valued the relationship. Whether the relationship was a few months or several years, or whether your partner thought it was casual but you didn’t, or even if you initiated the breakup, you are bound to feel immediate hurt. Hurt that won’t go away easily and has no clear timetable for recovery.
Having said that, for most people, the grieving phase lasts anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. But take that with a huge pinch of salt.
Change in behavioral patterns
Here are a few examples of what happens to a person’s behavioural patterns after a break up:
1. Strange and unpredictable:
A person after a breakup often acts very strange and do not do the things they are normally used to. A person who is averse towards dogs might want to have a dog after a fresh break up because of the need to be exposed to other forms of leisure or activity to try to forget the event as much as they possibly can. This often leads to new discoveries and sometimes, bad ones as well.
2. Anti-social behaviour:
Anti-social behaviour is extremely common with people fresh from break ups. They often do not want to be associated with anyone else other than their spouse’s right after a breakup. It may be difficult to talk or socialise with a person who had just broken up with their better half and will probably require a lot of effort on the person’s friends and family to try to get them out of that state of depression. Fortunately, people who are fresh from break ups respond well to repeated attempts by loved ones who are trying to stir them out of a depressive state. Most people respond well to different forms of activity and brain stimulation which is probably the best way to cope with a breakup.
3. Decreased work performance:
A person who had just broken off with their partner might have a difficult time coping not only with their everyday routine but at their workplace as well. Many studies have shown that people who have had fresh breakups are more likely not to show up for work on a certain amount of days depending on the severity of their mood swings. While others have still managed to plod through the pain and report in for their daily grind, decreases in performance are very noticeable. Only a very few rare people have been able to clock in for work and have no performance changes whatsoever after a fresh break up with their partner.
4. Mood swings:
As previously mentioned, many different chemicals and hormones are surging throughout the brain of a person who had just come fresh from a break up with their partner. Many of these chemicals induce different emotions and feelings; sometimes of anger and sometimes of deep sadness. Some people also feel completely apathetic about their situation and wish only to be left alone. Mood swings can make it very difficult for a person to cope with their situation as emotions usually play a pivotal role in how we live our everyday lives.
5. Possible food binging:
This is also a fairly common trait in most people as the brain looks for stimulating activity to forget the pain of the breakup. Eating food almost non-stop for a duration lasting up to weeks and even months often numbs the pain of a break up because overeating releases many different hormones into the brain as well that help it forget about the emotions that cause sadness. The obvious downside to this is that the person involved will probably struggle with weight problems and will make it even worse if they had already been faced with obesity before the breakup. Many individuals also over eat but not in the form of actual food. Other people like to smoke or overdrink to help them forget about their current situation. Smoking or drinking heavily is no better than overeating and is in some cases even worse than the former.
As you can see, there are many effects on a person’s body and mind after a breakup. It’s not merely as simple as crying over the broken relationship; the brain and the body undergoes a series of sudden changes that can impact the person’s life in a very negative way if not supported by friends and family. A person may not be able to act normally as they would and will need to be guided through the process of the breakup stages for them to survive the aftermath of such a devastating event. Understanding what goes on a person’s mind, body and personality will help people guide their loved ones through a very delicate stage in their lives.
Knowing all of this, is there anything you can do to get over a breakup?
Coping with a Breakup
Let’s face it. The painful truth of the matter is that just about everyone has, or will go through a breakup in their lives, and yes, it will not be pleasant. It will be painful, very painful. There’s no escaping that fact, but there can be ways of dealing and coping with the inevitable pain that comes with the loss. Over time, the pain can even be overcome, and you can even come out better and stronger after it. This is not wishful thinking. It can and has happened.
The Brain and Breakups: The Slow Path to Recovery.
Take heart. There is some hope. The same study at Columbia University cited above, showed that people undergoing a painful breakup also showed increased activity in the orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex and the cingulate gyrus. These are the areas of the brain that keep emotional responses balanced and nuanced, while also keeping a check on impulsive decision-making. It seems as if the same brain that has sabotaged your well-being during the breakup is also slowly adjusting so that you can cope with the breakup and come out a lot stronger than before.
It is only natural that the brain would react in such a manner. Perhaps the best way to describe how the brain reacts to a breakup and the process of recovery can be summarised by Dean Burnett, the author of ‘The Idiot Brain.’ In this small excerpt his very interesting work, he states;
“The flexibility of the brain means that, in response to all this deep and intense stuff, it adapts to expect it. And then it ends. Consider everything the brain invests in sustaining a relationship, all the changes it undergoes, all the value it places on being in one. If you remove all this in one fell swoop, the brain is going to be seriously negatively affected. All the positive sensations it has grown to expect suddenly cease, which is incredibly distressing for an organ that doesn’t deal with uncertainty and ambiguity well at all.”
“Addiction and withdrawal can be very disruptive and damaging to the brain, and a not dissimilar process is happening here. This isn’t to say the brain doesn’t have the ability to deal with a breakup. It can put everything back together eventually, even if it’s a slow process. Some experiments showed that specifically focusing on the positive outcomes of a breakup can cause more rapid recovery and growth. And, just sometimes, science and clichés match up, and things do get better with time.”
Ways to Slowly Cope and Manage During a Breakup.
Perhaps you’re wondering what this all means. Maybe you’re thinking, this is all well and good to understand how the brain works and comes during a breakup, but how would you put it to practical use? After all, it is interesting and relevant to ‘pick the brains’ of heartbroken people (no pun intended), but the hurt is real, and it’s there. You’re feeling it, so what can you do to ease it at least, or to cope? As it turns out, there are a lot of things you can do to make things better. They can’t completely erase the pain and hurt you’re feeling, but they can help you cope and manage so that your life is a lot more bearable during this very difficult time.
Give yourself room to grieve.
Aside from owning up to, and acknowledging your feelings of hurt and loss, you must also give yourself room to grieve. Your work output will naturally go down in this stage of your life. Don’t expect your best work at this stage in your life, although there are exceptions to this rule. There are still stories of people who have channelled their grief to produce their best work ever. Still, it’s best not to expect anything and take it as it comes. Don’t pressure yourself, and let everything take its course. As with any adversity in life, you must learn to ride it out, until it passes, which it definitely will.
Acknowledge and Accept What You’re Feeling and Going Through.
Although it seems simple enough, this is one of the most difficult things to achieve in the process. After all, a lot of us have a lot of unnecessary pride that gets us into a lot of trouble. A lot of people will try to put up a brave front and may not even acknowledge these chaotic feelings bubbling inside of them. This is the also one of the worst things you could do in this situation. Burying and repressing your feelings will not make them go away. If anything, this would only intensify them inside of you, and because you buried them, they will seek out other avenues to be expressed. You could end up irritable and prone to venting your sadness on other people who may not even be involved.
Therefore, it’s best to just acknowledge that such unpleasant feelings are inside of you now. Don’t condemn yourself, and understand that this is all part of a process that must be seen to its fruition for you to grow. You might not see it now, but if you see this through, you will come out better and stronger from it. Repressing your feelings will only stunt your potential growth and in the long run, keep you from moving on.
That being said, does that mean that you should text or call your ex back, even if he or she clearly doesn’t want you back anymore? Should you give in to your obsessive feelings and try to force the situation to get your ex back, even if it doesn’t seem likely to work? There’s a better way.
Correspond with yourself.
This may sound a little strange and paradoxical, but if you stick with it, it can go a long way in helping you deal with those nasty feelings of reconnecting with your ex and wanting him or her back.
It’s perfectly natural to feel this way, so as mentioned above, don’t repress your feelings, and accept them for what they are. When they do crop up, you can say everything you wanted to say to him or her, to yourself, and put them down on a journal. You can even e-mail yourself, even if it may seem strange to you. This is a great way to let those feelings out without embarrassing yourself or appearing like some creepy stalker. It’s ok to feel what you’re feeling, even if you’re a total mess. You just don’t have to act on those feelings and make them happen.
Quit ‘Cold Turkey.’
Cold Turkey refers to quitting anything abruptly and suddenly. If you smoke a lot, then just stop smoking altogether, and not gradually reducing the number of smokes you have a day, that is an example of quitting ‘Cold Turkey.’
It’s sudden, jarring, and it can be difficult. After all, as Burnett stated earlier, your mind is slowly adjusting to not having something that gave it constant pleasure and satisfaction namely, your ex. It will naturally go into a spiral of pain and withdrawal. Keeping that in mind, the ‘Cold Turkey’ method is the best thing you can do for your beleaguered brain now. Don’t linger and continue to pine over old photos of your ex.
All of his or her belongings, photographs, or anything that reminds you of him should be immediately discarded and not kept around. This may seem harsh, but at this very painful stage of the breakup, it’s the best thing you can do to keep your mind distracted and not concerned with your ex. Staring at his picture, or doing anything that remotely reminds you of him or her will only trigger the painful chemical responses in your brain and nothing good will come of it. You will only be left in the same spot again, with no way to move on.
It may sound hard to believe, but there will come a time when looking back at your ex, looking at his picture, or being reminded of him or her in some way, will not even be traumatising for you. When you’ve reached that stage, you’ll know that you’ve finally moved on. However, being in this fresh breakup, you’re still very far away from the stage of acceptance. You’ll get there with time and effort, but for now, go Cold Turkey.
The Big Stop Sign in the Sky.
It may sound a bit strange but Dr. Melanie Greenberg PhD and a practicing psychologist, recommends thinking of a giant ‘Stop sign’ in the sky that drops in and stops you, right when you’re thinking about your ex-significant other. When you find yourself thinking obsessively about your past ex, it’s time to whip out that stop sign. After all, your brain is prone to going around in circles and thinking over and over about them, as the research above indicates.
She goes on to say that now is the best time to get into any and all activities that can distract you. Maybe you haven’t fixed that closet in a long while. Well, now is the best time to do it. Or perhaps you can colour some adult colouring book, after all, they are all the rage today. Perhaps you can even call an old friend and reconnect. Anything is better than distracting yourself about your ex and spiralling down familiar undesirable behaviours and feelings.
Exercise, Exercise, and Exercise.
In a situation like this, there is virtually no reason not to exercise. Exercise is such a no-brainer that you should even exercise even if you’re not suffering through a breakup! Any exercise is a healthy activity that will get your blood flowing and your body moving. It will flood your body with positive chemicals, keep you distracted, and may even help you connect with other people. These are all great reasons to exercise, especially in such a trying time like this. It’s best to start a good routine going for yourself and your body. Your body will thank you, and it will help you on the path to recovery.
It’s also a good idea to supplement any physical activity with eating right. This is the best time to eat healthily and keep your body moving great. Do not go into destructive behaviours like binge-eating or crashing down on junk food or other foods that will not aid your body or give it nutrition. Good and healthy food can only help your brain and give you a better chance at bouncing back from this breakup.
What Makes You Calm?
Ask yourself, what makes you calm? Is it breathing deeply? Getting a massage or going to yoga classes? Even if you don’t do the aforementioned activities, now is a great time to familiarise yourself
with them and start doing them. Do anything that gets you calm, collected, and composed. Your brain will be hardwired for a super excited and hyper-stressed state. You have to combat it by doing everything in your power to be able to relax naturally. Get into the activities mentioned above, and even try meditating.
Reach Out to Friends and Professionals for Help.
There is an adage that ‘No Man is an Island.’ There was also an old song that went by the lines, ‘I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.’ Both situations are very apt for what you’re going through especially the latter example as the song deals with someone going through a breakup and reaching out to friends to endure. This is exactly what you have to do in this situation.
It is critical for your health and well-being to reach out to family and friends in this time of your life. Now is the best time to lean on friends and family for support and company. Maybe you can go out and finally spend some time with that distant sibling or relative of yours. Perhaps, your best friend can accompany you for coffee. And if they are not enough, do not hesitate to seek professional help if the pain and heartache are too much to bear.
A good psychiatrist or psychologist can do wonders to help you along the healing process. Also, don’t be ashamed to seek professional aid. Sometimes, there is a stigma associated with going to such individuals, and some would immediately think that there are mental issues going on, and so just not go out of shame. That is just not the right course of action to do. It’s not crazy if you have a hard time getting over your ex. And as the research has shown, it is normal for your brain to go a little crazy at this very sensitive and painful period of your life. Everyone could use a helping hand at a time like this, so don’t hesitate to go out and seek help.
Make New Friends.
Whether you already have a trusted group of friends that you can lean on or you’re just starting to cultivate your support group, it is always a good idea to reach out to new people. As mentioned earlier, this is not the time to just crawl into a rock and withdraw. This is the time that you must reach out to others to help you get through, so it is very advisable to go out and meet new people now. Humans are naturally social being beings, and now is the best time to reach out to others past your comfort zone. It is there where you’ll find help, and where you’ll get the strength that you need to endurea .
Noso a great time to bond with community groups that you may be active in. A church or a group that has shared interests with you will prove invaluable in this trying period. There are also several support groups of people who are going through a painful breakup or divorce. Do not hesitate to join these groups for the needed support you can get.
Put Yourself First.
This may sound selfish at first, but this is the perfect time to start thinking about yourself and your needs. In this stage of your life, it’s not a bad thing to prioritise your needs above everything else. After all, who else is going to take care of yourself now that you’re not in a relationship anymore? Learn to say ‘No’ if the occasion warrants it, or if you just don’t feel like it. Remember, you have to take care of yourself now, and learning to put yourself first is the best way to do just that.
Avoid alcohol, drugs, or food to cope with your loneliness.
This is probably the most tempting time just to get drunk, take sleeping pills, or just binge eats but you must resist these urges. These coping mechanisms aren’t healthy and will only dull the pain for a few moments. Long-term relief, however, will not be achieved by abusing yourself or getting addicted to any of these things. They will only hurt you and damage your body, and jeopardise your health in the long run, so it’s best to avoid depending on food, drugs, or alcohol. It’s best to do alternative methods to relieve the stress.
Avoid Idealizing Your Ex
It is a strange and funny thing, but it happens. Many people have experienced in the throes of their breakup that they tend to idealise their ex. They suddenly only remember all the good things that their ex had and was all about. His or her good traits, the good times that you both had, the good points of the person are all remembered. Unfortunately, like some one-sided mirror, it’s only half the story, and the distressed person can only see one side.
The other side of the person is mysteriously and magically forgotten. The person’s bad traits are glossed over, and often completely forgotten. It seems as if their exes were loved even more after the breakup than when they were in the relationship. They can’t remember a bad thing their ex ever did for the life of them, and they seem to have been glorified.
This is strange, but again very normal behaviour. Because of all the chemicals and hormones that your brain is releasing now, especially dopamine and cortisol, your perception of your ex can drastically change. Suddenly he or she is painted in a new light, where they can do no wrong. It seems like they were angels sent from up above, and all the blame of the breakup rests on you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are in the throes of this idealisation, you must not allow yourself to be swallowed by it. Always remember that your ex is just like you, a human being. As such, he or she had her good and also her
bad points. They were far from perfect, and they definitely had their share of the blame for why it all fell apart. They should not be vilified either, as the sole reason for the breakup. Both of you have equal responsibility for what happened, and chances are he or she is also struggling with it.
Do not idealise your ex and do everything you can in your power to get back to him or her, based on this false image. It’s just your brain adjusting to the traumatic experience, and it just cannot process or cope with it. Not now, at least. Remember just weather this storm, and things will get better, eventually.
You do not need to put your ex on a pedestal and feel bad about yourself. It’s only your brain reacting to the event. Remember that you both are responsible for it, and you must do all you can in your power to get back on your feet and act responsibly again. This will all pass. You just have to hang on and be aware that your brain is also doing its part to get back on track.
Avoid making important decisions.
You have seen it before. A guy goes through a bad breakup, and the next thing you know is he has quit his job, sold his car and bought a ticket to Thailand.
He decides that there is nothing left for him at home and because everything is a reminder of what has happened he decides to get as far away from it as possible. Now while this may seem like a logical plan, it is riddled with flaws.
First and foremost it doesn’t matter where you go you can’t leave your brain behind, and those thoughts and memories are there to stay. You will trigger memories in the strangest of places and believe me; it’s better to be around friends and family and in a stable job when those horrible emotions rear their ugly head than in the middle of a strange land with no friends, no job, and no family to hug. Yes you can drown your sorrows in the local brew and take a few one-night stands but soon enough the money will run out, and you will find yourself looking down an empty bottle alone in a dingy room somewhere.
Then the realisation will set in that you now have no job and no prospects. Further depression will set in, and you will find yourself spiralling out of control.
The most important thing you should do is the following. I can’t stress how important this piece of advice is. It precedes all other advice, and even though it may seem simple it is probably the hardest piece of advice to take and even harder to follow through on.
Are you ready? Ok here it is.
That’s it very simply you need to do absolutely nothing.
- Don’t rush over to the ex’s house and play her a romantic guitar solo you composed while crying into you’re your vodka.
- Don’t rush over to your ex’s and throw a brick through her window.
- Don’t call them 50 times a day.
- Don’t storm into your office and tell your boss to stick his job where the sun don’t shine.
- Don’t drive your car into a river.
- Don’t do anything except chill out and remember that while the good times seem like they will never return you know in your heart they will.
The old annoying saying that there are plenty more fish in the sea is completely true. Also, try to think back and remember that the relationship probably wasn’t all rainbows and roses. The facts are that there were most likely a million signs that the breakup was coming and when you explore what has happened you will come to the realisation that maybe, just maybe the relationship wasn’t as fun or as awesome as you thought it was.
Take this time to think about what it was really like. Remember all the little annoying things that you no longer have to deal with.
The toilet seat that always has to remain up. The beard hair in the sink. The never ending bottles of beauty products (this goes for him or her) the cold feet on a cold night or the hot breath on a steaming summer evening making you sweat while you’re trying to sleep. Or my personal favourite (sarcasm) the dead arm as your partner snuggles in for the long night ahead not giving a thought to the blood flow they are stopping in your extremities.
Yes, you see it’s all coming back to you now and as it does you will crack a smile and realise that you can do better. You can make a choice now to stay alone for a while and live life your way and not answer to anyone, or you can choose to get out there and slowly find yourself a new love.
Now I said at the beginning that you should avoid making important decisions, but the one important decision you can allow yourself to make is the one that allows you to pick yourself up and move on in a rational manner.
Learn what lessons you can from the breakup, ask yourself were there any signs you may have missed?
Were there things you should have done but didn’t or things you shouldn’t have done and did. You will find that the more you think about it, the easier it will be to understand why the break up happened. You will slowly realise that there is no point in assigning blame because the truth of the matter is that in most if not all cases blame is on both parties. But by the time you have realised that it’s usually too late for that relationship but remember that it’s not too late for the next one.
Take some time to see how you could have been a better partner. Look at your mistakes and also your successes and use those lessons and memories to prepare for a new and happier relationship.
Also remember that you and your partner may not be the only ones affected by the breakup and where kids are involved it’s usually better to break up than try to keep holding on to a failed relationship. In the days gone by it was always believed that you should “stay together for the kids” but kids don’t need to see constant bickering and fake smiles. They will understand in time that mum and dad still love them and can give them a very happy childhood as single people just as much as they could when they were together and probably much more so because they don’t have to lie or be fake anymore or try to minimise the tension.
Kids are resilient and once they fighting has stopped they will quickly go about their lives and get to enjoy the fun and games of receiving more gifts and attention because mum and dad now have to buy separate gifts.
They will also be happy that you can give them more of your attention instead of spending all that time arguing and being miserable when you were in the relationship with your partner.
Keep a routine and stay faithful to it.
This is a great time to take a cue from man’s best friend. Dogs just love routines. From the scheduled walk in the morning to the sound of the doggie bag being opened to signal feeding time, it is proven that dogs respond much better to their owners if a constant routine is developed for your pet to follow. The routine gives the animal stability, comfort and security. As humans, we’re not that different regarding our need for a routine. All those things mentioned earlier that the dog gets from sticking to a routine; you get from a good relationship. Or at least you got, now that you have broken up.
A breakup is anything but routine or familiar. It throws off everything we have known and found security in the relationship, in essence tossing us into the wind, or throwing us into a harsh and unfamiliar world. This can be very traumatic and chaotic, to say the least. It’s no fun experiencing this, and you can immediately feel unsure and very lost.
Establishing a good routine, can give you a small sense of security. By no means will it solve all your emotional turmoil, but it is a step in the right direction. A good routine will help you feel just a little stable and secure again until slowly, you get back on your feet.
Pursue new interests.
Ever wanted to try rock climbing, but never really got to doing it because of your commitments to your relationship? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try that art class, but just kept putting it off. Or maybe you just want to try something completely different, something that is just not in your comfort zone at all. Well, this is the best time to do it, and nothing is holding you back.
Trying something new now, will give you a sense of beginning and starting over, even as the relationship ended. It will invigorate and energise you, as trying something new is always exciting the first time. It will also broaden your horizons and help you grow as a person. This could be a great way to develop and get something good from the breakup, so try something new now.
Travel to new destinations.
Just as the study above showed, now is the best time to travel, and people are taking notice. This is the best time to broaden those horizons and replace the sad memories with happy ones. Just to see how big the world is, and how other people live and interact in a completely different culture, can put things in perspective for you. There is a whole, wide world out there to see. Don’t let your negative feelings keep you from seeing it.
Remember the end goal is moving on.
While being aware of your emotions, and acknowledging them are all well and good, it is also good to consider that you must always be aware of the end goal of all of this. You must be able to visualise a time when you will move on, and you will be better and stronger for it. You cannot just drown yourself in your sorrows, and let yourself be swallowed up by them. There is a big difference in acknowledging the negative feelings and just letting them run your life. You must work for the bigger goal which is a better, healthier, and more balanced you.
Look towards a better future.
In a way, breaking up is all about endings. It was the end of your relationship, and the end of all your hopes and aspirations for a better life spent together. It is about endings and finality. The dreams and the future that you both nurtured are now nothing but shattered dreams. While it is sad that your dreams and your future together have ended, you must now realise that you can work for another future, a better future for yourself. You must learn to see that you are still valuable, and working for your better future is just as good as the lost dreams that you both shared. You still have a future that is worth building, if you only realise that you must work for it. Take comfort in knowing that you will dream again, and there will be more things that you can now do for yourself.
Take Time Out for yourself.
During this painful time, refrain from making life-altering decisions like quitting your job or moving to a new city. Such important and long-term decisions require critical planning that can only be done with a level head, and emotional stability. Unfortunately, during this painful part of your history, you have neither, so it is best not to make any tough choices. If anything, it’s a lot better just to try to establish a routine for yourself. The routine will anchor you to something even a little familiar, to help you make sense of the chaos that you’re experiencing. You’re already going through a very turbulent time of your life. Making any big decision is sure to add some more turbulence and stress to your already overflowing cup of stress. It will be hard, if not impossible to make a calculated and good decision at this time of your life. It’s best to just wait until your head, and your heart are properly aligned, and you can make a better decision.
Practice all these ways to cope, and you will get through this very difficult period of your life. Remember that just about everyone goes through a painful breakup, and many people do get over it, and move on.
What Mends a Broken Heart on Facebook?
In February of this year, Facebook released the results of a study that they conducted on people who have recently gone single. The study was done to see how marketers could target this specific market of recently heartbroken individuals. Facebook also released a statement about it, saying:
“We wanted to know more about what it means for people to end a relationship in the digital age. As part of our Moments That Matter series, Facebook IQ explored how the break-up moment influenced the online behaviours of people across France, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom who indicated on Facebook that they recently went through a breakup. While we did find some broken hearts, we mostly discovered that people use this moment to lean on friends and family and, perhaps most importantly, reconnect with what matters to them.”
Some of the data that was found by the study seemed obvious and logical, while some of it was also eye-opening. The study discovered that people who have only recently experienced a breakup tend to be a lot more active on Facebook than they were before. The newly single also seem to be involved in a lot more social functions and gatherings than before. Facebook continued by saying:
“During the two weeks before and the two weeks after their break-up announcement, men and women accepted more than one invitation to an event 40% more than the 60 days before and 60 days after their announcement.”
It makes a lot of sense. It would only seem logical that once you’ve ended a relationship, you would be a lot more active on social media, and would go out more. With the relationship done, there is sure to be a huge chunk of free time that will be available for other activities, so it’s probably natural that people would want to go out and distract themselves. It’s also a lot better than staying home moping and letting your emotional brain get the better of you. These were the logical and obvious data, but there were other more eye-opening facts that the study revealed.
Surprisingly, the study discovered that men tend to post earlier about their road to recovery a lot earlier than women do. It’s surprising considering that men are often associated with stoic and unemotional behaviour. The males were most likely to use terms like “healing,” “detox,” “drowning sorrows,” “binge watching” and “suffering” in their posts to punctuate their ordeal. These terms were posted inevitably before they confirmed their breakup and made it official on Facebook by changing their status to “Single.”
Men have long been associated with the gender more likely to suffer in silence, or “tough it out” while the women were expected to be a lot more vocal in expressing their emotions, thanks to traditional models of manhood and femininity. The results of this study further confirm that many traditional stereotypes are being set aside in the broader and more tolerant Information Age.
However, the most eye-opening finding of the study was yet to come. The study concluded by saying that most newly-single users were more likely to travel instead of go shopping to cope with the breakup. The study concluded that people nowadays are more likely to want to gain more experiences and get a better perspective on things, rather than try to mask the pain with a material purchase. The statement of Facebook read;
“Gaining new experiences indeed seems to be more therapeutic than buying things. Of the 31% of survey respondents who said they bought new clothing or shoes, only 8% said it helped them move on. Meanwhile, 55% of survey respondents who indicated that they travelled after their break up had said it helped them move on.”
It does seem like behaviour towards breakups is really changing in the Digital Age, as more and more information becomes available. The study was very eye-opening, and revealing not only because it showed the more common behaviours of people in dealing with a breakup, but also because it shed some light on some positive ways to cope and deal with a breakup.
In the end, all you need to remember is that you are not the first to go through this and you won’t be the last. You will move on, and you will succeed in finding the partner you deserve so be good to yourself, take care of yourself, and before you know it, you will be in another relationship debating over whose turn it is to put the bin out.
Just remember though instead of screaming out that it’s not your turn and why doesn’t he get his lazy behind off the sofa an d bring out the trash maybe you could just spend that 3 minutes of your day putting out that bin and avoiding the brawl. You never know, maybe when they see you doing it they will get the little pang of guilt and next time not only will they put out the garbage they might just bring you a cup of tea on the way back to bed.