If you find yourself struggling after a breakup, you are not alone. Heartbreak, loss, and rejection are some of our most challenging emotions. As a therapist, most of my clients see me as helping them navigate challenges within their relationships or to move forward after one ends. They often tell me that they are feeling sad, having trouble enjoying what they used to, having difficulty with appetite and sleep, and crying more frequently. In addition, they are finding that they spend more time alone or distracted when with others. When we work together, I often start by sharing some helpful tips on how to navigate this new chapter:
- Stay busy: When feeling down, it is common to want to stay home and do nothing. We don't feel up to making plans or attending events. When we do stay at home, we often find ourselves ruminating about what went wrong in the relationship, what we could have done differently, and wondering about our former partner. Challenging ourselves to spend time with friends, resisting the urge to isolate, and engaging in meaningful and enjoyable activities can help reduce rumination and lift our mood.
- Avoid romanticizing the relationship: After a breakup, we often think about all of the great times in the relationship and fond memories with our former partner. We rarely spend time thinking about relationship challenges, painful memories, or dissatisfaction. We create an inaccurate view of the relationship and become fixated on what we have lost. When you notice these thoughts come up, challenge yourself to recall this memory accurately- the good and bad. Try not to judge yourself for thinking about the relationship this way, but gently remind yourself that the romanticized version of your relationship was not the reality.
- Challenge assumptions about yourself: It is difficult not to personalize a breakup. The truth is, no one likes the feeling of rejection. However, applying broad labels to ourselves or creating a narrative about why the relationship didn't work out is often inaccurate and unhelpful. As a therapist, I often hear people going through breakups share thoughts like, "I wasn't good enough" or "they wouldn't have broken up with me if I didn't do ____." These thoughts can be challenged to be more accurate and realistic- "we were not compatible" or "one event did not determine the course of my relationship."
- Prioritize self-care: Sometimes, self-care isn't glamorous. Sometimes, it means ensuring we get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and maintain good hygiene. All of these things may seem simple outside of the context of a breakup, but when we are feeling down, these daily tasks can become challenging. Focus on taking good care of yourself and giving your body what it needs.
- Talk with your support system, not your ex: Lean on close friends and family during this difficult time and share how you feel. Let yourself feel your emotions and permit yourself to cry if you need to. It may be tempting to reach out to your former partner. Remember, we need to give ourselves time to heal, and sometimes maintaining contact with a former partner is like re-opening a wound. And if you do, don't beat yourself up. It is common to want to reconnect happens all the time!
Ultimately, it is helpful to have a dedicated space to work through these emotions and learn skills to navigate this journey. A therapist can help with this. If you are going through a breakup and would like additional support, please get in touch with me.
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Ali Devine, MS, LPC
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1429 N. Prospect Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53202