There’s no way around it — breakups are tough. Whether you’re the one cutting ties or the one on the receiving end of the breakup; whether the relationship lasted a few months or several years; whether the spark just fizzled out over time or one party made an unforgivable mistake, you’re losing someone who was once a large part of your life.
Lynne Szewczyk, a licensed counselor and life coach in Richmond, Va., says people commonly feel a sense of self-doubt after a breakup or divorce, which can lead to stress, anxiety and/or depression.
“Many times after a breakup, [my clients] realize the relationship may not have been healthy, but they have over-identified with the other and his or her issues,” Szewczyk says. “This can lead to feelings of abandonment with the possibility of codependent behavior.”
So, how do you avoid these feelings? Managing stress after a relationship’s demise can be tricky. While the wound is fresh, it’s often tempting to disregard responsibilities and spend a few days wallowing in self-pity. If your heart feels utterly shattered, it may seem worth taking the personal day from work to cry it out, but try to resist the temptation.
Instead, try to think about the breakup in a healthy, introspective way. Szewczyk recommends first acknowledging the painful and confusing feelings, then accepting them.
“Acceptance opens the mind and heart to being able to release, heal and grow,” she says.
It’s important to take care of oneself both physically and emotionally in times of stress, Szewczyk says. Although it might be tough to keep yourself together publicly, carrying on with your day-to-day can actually help you move on from the breakup in a healthy way. Keeping your mind and body occupied stops you from going down a crippling “What did I do wrong?” rabbit hole.
That’s not to say a healthy amount of venting can’t be beneficial. Confiding in a trusted friend or family member can get the weight of the breakup off your mind and give you an outside perspective on the situation. Just be conscious of how much time you spend talking about the breakup and, no matter what, don’t use your ex as a sounding board for your feelings.
In fact, it’s best to cut contact all together, or as much as you possibly can. The amount of necessary contact varies based on how serious the relationship was. For couples who have children together, a certain amount of communication is expected, maybe even on a daily basis. If you need to move out of a home you shared together, or collect personal property, that will take some coordination and cooperation, too. Bringing someone you love and trust with you to move can make the process easier.
But if you’re childless, or your only babies are of the furry variety, do yourself a favor and cut ties. That might even mean relinquishing control of your phone and social media accounts for a little while, but sending a wine-induced, late-night “I miss you” message will likely make you feel more regret than satisfaction.
What if the breakup was amicable and there’s even a chance of friendship down the road? Well, that’s great, but any breakup will still come with some pain, sadness and stress. It’s important to give yourself some time to move on from the romantic relationship before striking up a platonic one.
Instead of focusing on the relationship and all the good, bad and ugly that came with it, occupy your mind with healthy thoughts and your body with productive activity. Dive into a new hobby, spend time volunteering, reconnect with an old friend or plan a vacation. It doesn’t matter what you focus on instead, as long as you’re making an effort to move on from the breakup and avoid stress, depression and anxious thoughts.