How to Deal with a Breakup Like a Mental Health Professional
Did Cupid get it wrong this time? Here’s how to straighten him out just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Let’s face it, breakups are a bitch. You had a great time with this person, felt a spark and maybe even saw a future with them. But, at this point, it’s over and you need to move on. You could allow your sadness to turn into wallowing and maybe even depression, really soaking up your victim-hood . . . or you could acknowledge and feel your feelings while also finding your way forward to an even wiser and more confident version of yourself. Keep reading for my most effective tips on mindset, staying busy and living your best life as a single person. And because we like you, we’ve done most of the research for you and included loads of (mostly Chicago-based) links in this article–so just click on what you’re interested in!
Maintain your mindset . . . This is a BIG one.
- Practice Mindfulness.
As much as you can try to stay busy, your thoughts and feelings are going to find their way to the surface. This is not a bad thing; on the contrary, they need to come out. When they do, start by practicing mindfulness. That includes acknowledging and accepting the thoughts that are coming up. The last thing you need to do at this point is fight yourself and resist your own feelings. Breakups are hard enough without that, so remember to be kind and patient with yourself! Be curious about what comes up. Create awareness about any storylines or narratives you’re telling yourself, such as “I’ll never find someone better.” or “I’m unlovable.” or “Everyone I date is a jerk–I’m just a jerk-magnet.” Once aware of the storylines, question them–are they REALLY true? (Hint: They almost never are!). Practice self-compassion and give yourself a mental hug when you’re struggling. It’s a great time to practice being your own best friend.
- Practice Mindfulness.
- Flood yourself with positive messages.
- Law of Attraction. If you’re open to a little woo-woo in your life, check out the Law of Attraction books, especially The Vortex by Esther and Jerry Hicks, which focuses on relationships.
- EFT Tapping. Brad Yates on YouTube. Brad is my “self-help crush” due to his adorable and nerdy videos on love and other subjects. Try tapping along to his EFT (emotional freedom technique) videos for a mind-body boost. For a chuckle, check out his uber-cheesy (but still effective!) “Love Magnet” video and remind yourself what a hottie you are.
- Affirmations. Try the “Think Up” affirmations app. Load it up with all the things you want to be reminding yourself of. Choose from pre-written affirmations or write your own. The key is to notice how you feel when you read or hear each one. Choose affirmations that give you good vibes, feel believable and are a step closer to your goals than where you’re at now. Update them regularly when they start to feel “too easy.” Recording them in your own voice allows them to further sink into your unconscious. Once you’re set up, you just hit the play button and listen. Try for 10 minutes each day.
- Meditate. This is a great way to consciously spend some time feeling your feelings rather than avoiding them and slipping into full-time distraction. Do a simple breathing meditation and allow whatever comes up for you or listen to a guided track on Insight Timer.
- Journaling. Writing out your feelings is one of the best ways I know to get clarification. Maybe you’re feeling confused about the break up or want to focus on what you have learned and can take forward into your next relationship. If you’re not sure where to start, try writing out your questions or concerns and then answering them from the perspective of your higher self. What does that really wise, calm, confident aspect of you think?
- Gratitude/Appreciation Lists. It can be easy to focus only on how terrible everything feels right now. But gratitude and appreciation work. Remind yourself that not all is lost. Maybe you can spread out more in your bed now that you’re single again. Maybe you’re getting more time for friends, family, working out, reading or hobbies. Maybe you can just appreciate the life you’ve led up to this point and the opportunities you’ve had. There are always things to be grateful for and being on the lookout for them is the first step. BONUS TIP: When you’re ready for your next relationship, focus your gratitude and appreciation on the relationships already in your life and watch more goodness come your way.
- Flood yourself with positive messages.
- Ask for help!
Now is not the time to get stubborn and try to manage everything on your own. Go see your therapist, coach, meditation instructor, acupuncturist, energy healer, spiritual counselor, psychic, massage therapist and/or shaman. Pick someone you trust and go get some support. Humans are social creatures and getting help from a trusted professional can help you keep your spirits up, remind you you’re not in this alone and help you see the silver linings you couldn’t identify by yourself. If you don’t have one of these people yet, check on Psychology Today, ZocDoc, Yelp or ask your friends for recommendations.Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Lotus Center Therapists
- Candida Schwartz for Intuitive Healing
- Chicago Zen Temple for Meditation
Mindset is important, but so is filling the time spent talking, texting and cuddling with your boo. Remember that you were a complete person on your own before you even met them and you’re a complete and fabulous person now! This is one of those silver linings of your break-up by the way–now you get to focus on the activities and other people you love and that make you YOU! And if you have no idea what things you used to love or what makes you feel like your best self and all your friends are busy and have moved away–now you have the time to explore, make some new friends & figure it out! The following are some ideas to get you started. Follow your gut and see what you’re drawn to here. And get creative–these ideas are just a small sample of what you can do!
- Social plans. Get out (or stay in) and spend some time with your loved ones. This could be anything from watching a funny movie on the couch to a night out on the town. Groupon and Gold Star are filled with affordable ideas for fun outings. Social support is not only linked to our mental health, but also our longevity.
- Exercise. Try Daily Burn for a variety of workout videos at home or head to a group workout class in your neighborhood. ClassPass is a great option if you aren’t sure where to go and want to try a few places before committing.
- Retail therapy. I don’t recommend it as a frequent, long-term option, but one outing of retail therapy can be a fun boost. Maybe new purchases will guide you to a new, optimistic outlook?
- Dating. Don’t force this, but if you’re feeling intrigued by the idea of someone new, go strike up a conversation with the cute person in line at Starbucks or dust off your OKCupid profile.
- Help someone else. One surefire way to stop your wallowing is to get out of your own head and help someone else. It’s a great reminder that our personal struggles aren’t the only struggles in the world. And it’s also an important reminder that we have something valuable to offer to others. Find somewhere to volunteer or just help a friend or relative with a household project.
- Organize your house. Speaking of households, one of the quickest mental boosts you can get comes from decluttering and/or organizing your home. It’ll give you a greater sense of control and a more pleasant environment to be in on a day-to-day basis. You could even combine this with your retail therapy day and get a few new decor items to invite some fresh new energy into your life.
- Make a call. Sometimes you might feel unable to console yourself and just need to hear the friendly, loving voice of someone who cares about you and sees the best in you. Don’t hesitate to reach out–we aren’t meant to do this all on our own in this life!
Find a New Hobby
Hobbies are a great way to step away from the “to do” list, add more fulfillment to your life and just have fun. What have you been yearning to do but putting off for a while?
- Get your creativity on. Have you been wanting to learn an instrument? Or maybe you used to be a painter and haven’t made a new watercolor in years. Do you love writing and feel you have something to say? Take some of this time you have now and develop your creative outlets.
- Play sports. Join a bowling league, train for a 10k or find a recreational volleyball team. Physical activity helps you get some of those stress hormones out and can also offer some camaraderie or team bonding.
- Join a book club. Are you the intellectual type? Or maybe you could just use more mental stimulation? Discuss your latest reads with other bookworms at a local book club. Inquire at your local bookstore, library or meetup.
- Take an improv class. Improv is trendy these days! And if you’re local to Chicago, you’re in the epicenter of this form of comedy. Try out a class at Second City, IO or The Annoyance and liberate yourself from caring too much what anyone thinks.
- Check out some groups on Meetup.com. A quick glance at the app shows gatherings for LGBTQ spirituality, entrepreneurship, dog owners and film. If you’re looking to get out of the house and do something positive, there’s something for everyone!
- Take in some culture. Now’s a great time to check out local museums, live music, plays, and art installations. Stay on budget by visiting museums on the free days, try a Lyric Opera subscription or take in some blues at Rosa’s Lounge.
- Travel. Maybe a change of scenery will do you well. Go spend some time in nature, visit a friend or take a dream trip.
While all these ideas are meant to help you feel more confident and supported as you go through a breakup, there’s no substitute for feeling your feelings. Most people come to my office and have a good cry on their first session. I view this as a success for them in unlocking anything that was stuck inside, but 90%+ apologize to me (a therapist!) for crying. So, I propose, whether going through a breakup or just going through life–let’s start being kinder to ourselves about our emotions. Tears are not bad. There’s nothing to apologize for. We don’t need to hurry up and make ourselves happy. In fact, tears are biochemically healing and produce more endorphins than laughter. There’s some natural wisdom at work when we cry! Let’s try trusting that natural wisdom inside ourselves and tuning in to our feelings! That attunement is what is going to get you to the life that feels right for you–the work, the people, the hobbies, the creativity, and even your next love.
Learn more about Heather and how to schedule a session with her now!