So you haven’t slept in days, you’re living on instant noodles, you can’t remember the last time you washed your hair (or even bothered to dry shampoo) and you find yourself in your PJs at your local coffee shop, crying into your cold brew. It’s classic post-breakup behaviour—and it really is okay.
Whether you were blindsided by your split, or you were the one doing the splitting, heartbreak is heartbreak. We get it. It hurts like hell and it can seem like you’re never going to feel good or normal again. “Romantic breakups can be a very big deal,” says Sarah McCarthy, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and relationships counsellor. “It really is a huge trauma to our physiological bodies as well as our emotions.”
The good news: You will get over it… Eventually. Here are six tips to ease you through this rough patch—and help your heart to heal.
It’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling
A breakup comes with a range of powerful emotions, which can include anger, confusion, resentment, sadness, regret and fear. Give yourself permission to feel them all, and the space to fully process the loss. Take the time to figure out what worked, what didn’t and why it ended. This can be particularly important if it was a bad or abusive relationship, because most people recreate the same patterns until they have enough clarity or self-awareness to break the cycle, says McCarthy. “Sometimes it means that you’re processing a lifetime of bad relationships,” she says.
Whatever went wrong, now’s the time to face it. If you don’t deal your emotions head-on, it can take even longer to recover from your breakup. “I have clients come in a year later and they can’t understand why they aren’t moving on, but it’s because they haven’t really processed it yet,” she says.
Talk it out
Sharing what you’re going through with trusted friends and family members is a key part of dealing with a breakup. They’ll help you work through your feelings, gain some perspective and hopefully a new understanding about what went down. Letting it all out will help to normalize what you’re going through, which can ease the pain. After all, these feelings aren’t totally unique – you’ll discover that most people have dealt with some type of heartbreak at one point or another.
When you get sick of talking, or you feel like your friends are sick of hearing about your ex, write it all down. Journaling is another way of downloading thoughts and feelings, and it can be really healing. And, of course, seeing a therapist is another way to work through the hurt.
Hit up a meditation studio
Self-awareness is key. “If you already know how tender you are, how raw you are, how much pain you’re in, it’s going to be a lot easier to prioritize getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously and all the rest of the self-care activities you require,” says McCarthy.
In addition to eating well, getting to bed on time and regular sweat seshes (which will release the feel-good endorphins in your brain that you so desperately need these days), meditation can help you find your equilibrium again. Take a class, download an app, or just take a few minutes to sit and do some deep breathing.
If you need some extra support to get you through this breakup, consider downloading Mend, a self-care app that provides a healthy breakup narrative to lean into while you reflect on and learn from the experience.
Don’t use your work wife as a crutch
It might be tempting to deep dive into your career to take your mind off your personal life, but consider whether extra projects, longer-than-usual hours or extra lunches with your work wife are keeping you from actually dealing with your breakup. Becoming a workaholic is just another way of self-medicating, like excessive drinking, overeating (Ben and Jerry are not good rebound boyfriends, BTW), gambling or even extreme exercise.
Keeping busy with a certain amount of healthy distractions—at the office, with a new book club, or at a yoga studio, for example—is positive, says McCarthy. Just beware of going overboard into avoidance territory. “I think there’s a ridiculously high percentage of people running marathons who are going through a breakup or divorce,” says McCarthy. Sure, joining a gym or running group can be a healthy distraction, but an intense new workout regime also has the potential to turn into a delusion about having a totally together single life, she says.
Face it: you (probably) can’t be friends
Even if you still love your ex on some level, or want to be around them, entering the friend zone is tricky. “There can secretly still be all of these urges for the things that were there in the relationship and this [idea of platonic friendship] is just a Band-Aid,” says McCarthy. “It’s just a way to not let go of things.”
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be friends with your ex, though. “I do think it’s possible, with proper self-awareness and guidance, to go through that process to truly let go of the elements of the relationship that made it intimate and transition into a friend relationship,” says McCarthy. After all, there are circumstances where you just can’t completely sever ties. If you have kids, for example, you’re going to have to figure out a way to remain friends (or at least friendly), for their sake. If – and it’s a big if – you remain connected, there will need to be a lot of boundaries established to keep it healthy. Bottom line: No matter what, they’re not your go-to text person anymore. Period.
Think twice about dating apps
There’s a fine line between entering a sisterhood and joining Tinder: You don’t want to wait too long to start dating again, but there’s also a danger of jumping in again too quickly, especially if you’re looking for love. “I’m not trying to be moralistic about this—I’m not saying you shouldn’t have rebound sex or something,” says McCarthy. “But you should know within yourself that’s not going to be a good place to be starting a new relationship from.”
So how do you know when you’re really ready to find love again? When you’re clear on what you need, what you want and you’re feeling emotionally stable again. “If you can do that, get out there,” she says.