Getting Through a Breakup
Dealing with Divorce Grief
Tips for Getting Through a Breakup is written by guest contributor Ken Fields. Ken is an online counselor with LiverPerson.
Part 1: The science behind recovering from a breakup
Eight Tips for Getting Through a Breakup
by Ken Fields
This is a list of eight healthy ways of responding to the despair a break-up can leave us with:
1) Exercise. There is such a close proximity of the word ‘exercise’ to the word ‘exorcise’ that one has to consider exercise as a way of exorcising the demons of chemical imbalance. Exercise has been shown to release neuro-chemicals that make one happy, even ecstatic, without being in love with someone. It is in fact the same chemicals, but produced in a different context, a self initiated context, one that is not dependent upon another person. Exercise not only produces these happy chemicals, it teaches us that we can generate them on our own; we become more autonomous, more stable within ourselves. It’s just a matter of doing it.
2) Proper Diet. Don’t eat junk. If there is any truth to the adage ‘we are what we eat,’ then if we eat junk, we are going to become junk, and feel like junk. If you have just broken up from a love relationship, you already feel like junk. It doesn’t help to compound the problem. Decide to eat well. Do your own little research project on what that would look like for you. Get to know your proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
3) Positive Focus. It’s often found that before a person fell in love, they were doing well enough in life. They held a job, had a variety of activities they enjoyed, good friends, interests, hobbies…..And then they met somebody….fell in love…..and lost all focus on the elements that had made up their life in favor of this one person. That positive focus needs to be regained. Those elements of one’s life gave it meaning, purpose and satisfaction. Reach out to friends, take up that hobby again, rekindle the interests that were enjoyable, fun and rewarding. It is an act of will and determination at first. But, you will soon find yourself in that good groove again. And, when you next find yourself in a love relationship, don’t forego these important elements of your life.
4) Talk story. If you have a close friend, relative, or even parent, who is supportive, caring and non-judgmental, share with them your story. You may have neglected them in favor of your now non-partner, but you can reach out again to them. Share with them your thoughts and feelings. It can be very helpful. If you do not have such a support person in your life seek out professional counseling. By talking it out, you can objectify what has happened to you and that can help you see things more clearly.
5) Meditation. Take time to be by yourself.
- A long solitary walk can do wonders for the soul. While walking, recall the blessings in your life, all the good things you have had, and have now. Breathe deeply and walk with confidence that you are a capable person able to meet the challenges that life brings to you around any corner.
- Sitting quietly alone, without music, television or other distractions is healing. There is a saying ‘feel it to heal it’ and meditation can be the perfect opportunity to do just that. This type of meditation is not about gaining a peaceful state of mind, it is not about obtaining insight or enlightenment; it is about feeling the pain, not denying or avoiding the hurt but rather acknowledging it, even honoring it, as a human experience we are all prone to. During this kind of meditation, upsurges of emotion are to be expected. If the urge to cry emerges, it is to be allowed. Crying is one of the best ways of releasing pent up painful emotional energies. Don’t be ashamed, don’t be shy…let the healing balm of salt-water tears cry out….
- Visualization is a form of meditation in which we see, clearly, in the mind’s eye, with detail, an image of our choosing. Visualize yourself healthy, happy, friendly, understanding, strong and stable. Add affirmative statements to your visualizations that reinforce your worthiness and value as a person. Be aware that the mind does not register negative goals. That is, if you say, “I will no longer think about (name of person), the mind only hears “think about (name of person).” It does no register the ‘I will no longer’ part. So, you would rephrase it to say something like ‘I now think clearly about my immediate tasks at hand.”
6) Masturbation. This can be a sensitive topic; however, there is enough objective information based on decades of research to say it is both normal and healthy, for both sexes, at any time, not just after a break-up. As the writer/director/film-maker Woody Allen said in his classic movie “Annie Hall,” “Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with somebody I love.” Masturbation may be a necessary component of the ‘withdrawal’ from sexual activity with a partner. Furthermore, it is known to produce happy chemicals and reduce sexual stress and tension. If you are inhibited, anxious or concerned about this very common behavior, you may need to do some research and reading. There is plenty of reputable studies and sound advice out there.
7) Future Orientation. The mind is ‘teleological’ by design. That means it is goal directed. If you continue to think about the past, the mind will tend to take you in that direction. You will repeat old patterns, maintain old thoughts and beliefs. If you think about the future, where you are headed, the mind will focus in that direction. You will generate new thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and strategies to get you moving that way. Perhaps you have heard it said that ‘the grass is greenest where it is watered the most.’ Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Focus on your goals, not on your obstacles. Focus on your successes, not on your mistakes or failures. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
8) Know yourself. Self-knowledge is a life long developmental task. Recognize the break-up or separation despair you feel now as part of the self-knowledge curriculum. And, consider the love you have lost, and the despair you have found, as a stepping-stone to an expanded self-awareness, and a greater capacity for compassion. There are clearly risks in a love relationship. You can be hurt, even devastated. And yet, new life does rise up out of the ashes. Although you may think your heart is broken and you can never love again, your heart can also be viewed as opened, for, indeed, a broken heart is an opened heart, and able to become more capable of loving, and being loved, than it has ever been before.
If you are working at getting through a breakup or dealing with divorce grief and would like to chat with Ken, click his LivePerson banner below. You can also send him a question in an email.
Read a grief counseling interview with Ken Fields.
Return from Getting through a Breakup to Journey-through-Grief home