Written by One Love staff member Nicole LePetri
Whether you and your ex amicably agreed to end things or not, breakups are hard. They can be especially complicated if you are healing from an unhealthy relationship. You may feel that your life has been interrupted or that you have temporarily lost some control over your emotional state. It’s important to give yourself grace during this time.
Here are a few immediate and long-term self-care decisions you can make to support your health through a breakup.
Establish physical and emotional boundaries with your ex.
It’s important to be clear about expectations for how often, if at all, you want to communicate and see your ex. These boundaries are necessary even if it’s a healthy breakup. Depending on the situation, you may find it helpful to temporarily mute their social media channels to give yourself space to process the breakup without recurring reminders of your relationship.
If it’s an unhealthy breakup, focus on concrete physical and virtual boundaries that have minimal contact with your ex. In the most extreme cases, a restraining order could be necessary to ensure your physical safety.
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Allow yourself to fully feel everything you’re feeling.
There is no right or wrong way to feel, and there is no standard timeline for moving through the pain. Experiencing heartbreak is exhausting, so living life a little slower and simpler with fewer commitments may provide you with more space to process your feelings. Focus on each day as it comes and your needs at the moment.
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Know that there may be days when it feels like your ex is still in your life, and days when you miss them, even if the relationship was unhealthy. Positive memories tend to come forward more easily than negative experiences. Journaling about the relationship in its entirety — both the good times and the bad — will help put the relationship into perspective.
Gather your support system.
Create a list of trusted loved ones and allow yourself to be fully vulnerable and supported by those people. This can include family members or close friends (don’t forget that includes your pets!).
Understand that some people may not understand what you have gone through and come across as insensitive or unsure of what to say. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, communicate what you need from them, and be honest about how their efforts are or are not helping you. If you’re not getting what you need from your inner circle, find a local or virtual support group to connect with other people with similar experiences.
Keep a routine and take care of your physical health.
Adequate sleep and healthy eating can go a long way in giving your body what it needs to process emotional stress. At the same time exercising and moving your body can help you release some of the tension you’re feeling and increase endorphins. Exercise does not have to be particularly strenuous — it could be as simple as stretching, gentle yoga, or taking a walk outside. Exercise can also help if you’re having trouble sleeping.
Other examples of self-care that you can try include walking in nature, listening to soothing music, taking warm baths or showers, using fuzzy blankets, receiving massages, or getting hugs from friends, family, or pets.
Re-establish your self-confidence and independence.
Feeling lonely is normal after a breakup. You may feel like you lost some of your independence while in the relationship and feel unsure about how to connect with yourself again. You may be struggling with your self-esteem, especially if your ex belittled or emotionally manipulated you throughout your relationship.
When you feel ready, fill the new time you have by doing something you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time for while you were in a relationship. take a class or learn a new skill — preferably something that you can put your heart into. Reconnecting with friends that you haven’t seen in a while and meeting new people can also help fill that gap.
Remember, learning to love yourself is a life-long journey! It’s important to try to be kind to yourself and forgive yourself along the way — no one is perfect and we all make mistakes.
Seek professional help for additional support.
Consider making an appointment with a therapist or psychologist if you feel you need more support and are emotionally overwhelmed by your situation. Meeting with a mental health professional can be particularly helpful if the relationship ended in a volatile way, if you find yourself constantly ruminating over how the relationship ended, or if you’re having self-critical thought patterns.
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If you find yourself feeling unsafe or suffering from severe anxiety, flashbacks, or nightmares for a period of time after the conclusion of the relationship, you may be experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It’s important to seek help so you can begin to feel safe again.
It takes time to heal from a breakup, but it’s important to fully process before you move on to a new relationship. If you are struggling with your mental health after a breakup, know that you are not alone and it won’t always feel this way. Try any of the tips we’ve outlined above and don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if your feelings persist.