Going through a relationship break up is one of those universal human experiences. Even though almost everyone experiences this at some point in their lives, people still have a lot of questions about the best way to cope following a breakup. The effectiveness of coping strategies will be different for each person, and finding the ones that work best for you is a process of trial and error. However, here are a few tips that can be useful to start with.
First, try to remember that feeling sad after a breakup is normal. All breakups represent a form of loss, even breakups that are amicable and those that represent the end of a toxic relationship. As with all forms of loss, it is important to go through the grief process. There is no “right way” to grieve, and no prescribed amounts of time you should spend feeling each associated emotion. It’s important to allow yourself to experience each emotion without running away from it; and remember that things will feel better eventually.
When a relationship ends, especially a long one, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve lost part of yourself. A big part of the coping process is re-discovering who you are as an individual. Therefore it can be helpful to take time out to do activities that you enjoy on your own (especially if the time you had to engage in these activities was limited within the relationship), and to remember the things you like about yourself that are separate from your ex.
After a breakup, most people just want to be alone. While it is important to take time to really feel your feelings, it’s also essential to surround yourself with helpful people. Friends and family can help give us an alternative perspective when we feel like everything is hopeless. Remember that different friends are helpful for different reasons: some can help distract us, some can listen to our problems, and some just be around us without saying anything. All of these things are valuable
Finally, it is important to take care of yourself. Often a breakup can make us feel worthless and the impulse for self-care goes away. Making sure that you’re getting three good meals a day, 8 hours of regular sleep and a bit of exercise will go a long way to improving your mood. But, it’s also important to indulge a little bit as well; so wrapping yourself in a doona and watching movies while stuffing yourself with ice cream and chocolate every now and then is OK too.
Ben Walters is a psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential www.cfhp.com.au.