Probably one of the things that rank highest in ‘most dreaded experiences’which are difficult, if not impossible, to avoid in a life-time are break ups and broken hearts. I want to talk to you about the best way to deal with the heartache involved and how to get through it without your world crashing (too much).
The experience of heart break can vary wildly from mild inconvenience to months worth of world shattering chaos. It depends on various factors such as personality, how the break-up occurred, duration or intensity of the relationship and more. In any event the feelings involved are very much real, and if not understood or dealt with properly can affect people for longer than need be. I have found that the following 5 steps help you focus on what you can do in order to move more smoothly through the pain.
Accept it’s over
The first and most important step is to accept it’s over. This can be one of the hardest things to do when the initial realisation of the break up descends upon you. You may be inclined to want to know what happened, ruminate over every little detail and analyse what went wrong, hoping for reconciliation. But consider this. Successful, happy, strong relationships need BOTH people in it to WANT to be with each other and to consciously work at making the relationship work. As soon as one person ‘opts out’, for whatever reason, it’s game over. I’ll repeat that. When someone opts out of a relationship, it’s game over. It doesn’t really matter what that reason is. At the end of the day you don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who does not prioritise you. Granted, it can be helpful to have an explanation to create some sense of what happened. You may need to talk things through and end things in a good way. However, the quicker you accept that it’s over, the quicker you will recover.
Hindsight Tip: Do things that enhance your self confidence, the more self esteem you have the less inclined you are to blame yourself and remain in a pit of pain.
Reach out to your friends and family
This is a time when you really need your friends and family. Reach out to your network for support and grieve the loss of the relationship. Talk about what happened. Create a narrative in your head that can help you move forward. Let friends and family pamper you with coffees and lunches or whatever activities you normally do together. Rejection by nature is designed to be painful, so our brains get flooded by stress hormones as well as experience withdrawal symptoms similar to that of a cocaine addict. The experience can be excruciating, even if it’s only for a moment. By getting your network to support you and give you a feeling of being a part of a collective alleviates the stress reaction and pain of rejection.
Hindsight Tip: Remember to nurture your friendships when you are dating/ in a relationship. Some people find it hard to reach out to friends because they have lost touch with them and feel it’s inappropriate to call upon them for support.
Allow yourself to go through the motions
In effect you have lost something. Whether it be a dream, love of your life, physical closeness, your best friend, lover, all of the above. It is individual how strong that sense of loss is but there are some typical (and normal) motions people go through when they experience loss. In no particular order people experience denial (or shock), anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Often most of the stages are experienced, but not always. The important thing is to allow for sadness, anger, fear and sorrow. Some of the emotions might only be fleeting, others more substantial, whatever the case, the best thing to do is allow time for the emotions to go through the system. What I mean by that is, don’t fight them when they appear. Indeed try to seek them out. You need to work through these 4 emotions to fully recover. Ask yourself what about the break up makes you sad, angry, scared and what is it are you longing for? By allowing yourself to ‘go through the motions’ you not only heal better, you will do so quicker and ultimately be ready for a new relationship. You may find it helpful to write a diary or talk to friends and family. One great exercise is write a letter to your ex expressing the different feelings and reply it on their behalf (for yourself, don’t send it). If things feel particularly devastating professional help from a relationship expert can be an option.
Hindsight Tip: Trust that you will get through this.
Fill your day
While you are allowing yourself to go through the motions, you also don’t want to ruminate and over think the situation. Say yes to every invitation that comes your way, whether work related or with family and friends, even if you don’t really want to go. Try and seek out things to do, whether it’s going to the pub that you have been meaning to visit, seek professional networking events or take up that photography course you had your eye on. Be careful not to throw yourself into a big project, private or work-wise, so as not to have any time at all to mourn.
Hindsight Tip: Join various networking groups, take up hobbies and interests, expand your network. Acquaintances are great for taking your mind off things as you are less inclined to talk to them about your private life.
Be kind to yourself
Part of saying yes to invitations and allowing yourself to go through the motions, is to be kind to yourself. The point of this time is to focus on healing yourself, your broken heart. This means giving yourself time, but also providing yourself with basic goodies like sleep, healthy food and exercise. Why? Because we have something called ‘ego-strength’. It is the battery power that provides us with energy for our self-control. When you are low on ego-strength then you eat that muffin or smoke that cigarette you have denied yourself all day. It’s when you lose your temper when you didn’t mean to. It is also when you risk sending a barrage of texts, long teary emails and make mid-night calls to the ex. Actions and words that you will inevitably regret.
Hindsight Tip: Well, you know, do the whole 5 fruit a day and all that. This is a good time to take a holiday, see far away friends or book a massage.
I know it sucks, the whole heart break malarkey, but hopefully you can learn and grow from it. I wish you a speedy recovery if you are going through one. You will be ok.
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