Coping with a Breakup

Going through a breakup is one of the most painful experiences we can have as humans. Poets, musicians, philosophers and screenwriters alike, have captured the devastation of this for thousands of years. In part we have our neurobiology to thank for this. Our brains are hardwired to connect with a significant other for our most primitive survival (Please see article upcoming article, “ What is Your Attachment Style?”).  Unfortunately this system isn’t always discerning, and we can attach to people who aren’t the right fit for us.  Once this attachment bond has occurred however, it can be incredibly difficult to detach, even when it’s necessary.

If you’ve decided that your relationship isn’t working and it’s causing more harm than good, (perhaps you’ve read my article, “Ten Signs It’s Time to End Your Relationship”) knowing how to effectively cope with a breakup is they key to finding healthy resolution. The following are effective strategies you can use to keep moving forward in a positive direction.

  1. Process Your Feelings: It is normal and entirely healthy to experience a wide range of painful feelings when going through a breakup. If these feelings aren’t properly dealt with, for instance they are avoided or pushed away, they can perpetuate the pain over the long run and create problems such as depression. Writing, expressing feelings, sharing with others, meditating, labeling, and tolerating emotions are all effective ways to cope with difficult emotions.
  2. Adhere to Your Normal Routine: People find comfort in the familiar.  It takes mental and emotional energy to make changes. Because ending relationships typically involve transitions, it’s best to keep other areas of your life as familiar and routine as possible (i.e. work, friends).
  3. Stay Close to Your Support System: It doesn’t matter if you only have one close friend or several, spending time and sharing with people whom you trust is critical. Make sure the people you confide in help you feel good about yourself and have your best interest at heart.
  4. Continue to Engage in Activities you Enjoy Even if You Don’t Feel like It: It’s understandable to not want to do things when you’re feeling bad. If you restrict your activity level too much however, you run the risk of feeling worse over time. It’s best to continue to participate in things you enjoy even if you don’t feel like it. This doesn’t mean you have to start dating again right away, or hang out at the local hot spots, but if you enjoy yoga or grabbing dinner with friends, go for it!
  5. Limit Your Contact or Interaction with the Person: There is no doubt that hearing seeing, or touching, the person you are trying to detach from continues to activate one’s attachment bond to that person. Some people are able to eventually have friendships with their ex’s, but typically this involves a period of distance from the person. If you have commitments with your ex, such as children or work, limit those interactions to what’s necessary.
  6. Do Things that Make You Feel Good About Yourself: This is a great time to do things that empower you, nurture you, and build your confidence. Anything from learning something new, to traveling, to getting back in shape is a major confidence booster.
  7. Learn From Your Experience: It’s normal to feel pretty shaken by a breakup. People begin to doubt themselves, question their ability to have successful relationships, and are required to think about their own issues. Relationships are never a waste of time. They are an amazing opportunity for us to gain insight into our struggles, our strengths, and how our past influences our present. They teach us lessons, help us learn what we can and can’t live without, and reconnect us with ourselves. The only mistake we can make is to perpetuate unhealthy patterns by not taking the opportunity to reflect, be honest with ourselves, and grow.
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Dr. Liana Georgoulis