I think we’ve all had that one relationship that completely destroyed our whole sense of self after it’s over. Whether the relationship was the best you’d ever had and the break-up seemed to come out of nowhere, or it was a catastrophe from right out the gate, it’s going to be hard to get over. And, unfortunately, there’s not much of a way around that.
Any time a relationship has a big impact on you, it can be easy to neglect your self-care – and sometimes it starts before the relationship even ends. Truthfully, these are always important, but in times of vulnerability, it’s always a little harder than usual.
Whether you’re going through a romantic break-up, a friendship break-up, or just getting close to a break-down, you should pay attention to these 6 areas. Working on them can make a huge difference in your life, and it might even make it easier to get over what’s going wrong.
1. Think of the things you have to be grateful for.
I’m not going to get into that whole “don’t be sad – someone else has it worse” spiel. Of course someone else probably has it worse. That doesn’t take away your pain, and the people who try to push you for that aren’t really making things better. But reframing your thoughts can make you feel better about things.
If you keep a journal, try to make a page of things that you are grateful for. I’ve got dedicated “gratitude logs” littered throughout my journal, and it’s really refreshing. After a couple of weeks of pushing myself to be grateful for the things I had (both material and non-material), I found that it was so much easier to think of the positive side of things.
It’ll probably be hard to think of things at first, especially if the wounds from the break-up are still fresh. But remember, the things you’re grateful for don’t need to have anything to do with the things that hurt you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at things a different way. Put on a little weight in the relationship? “I’m grateful that my weight is something I can control.” Found out that some of your friends weren’t looking out for your best interests? “I’m grateful that I’m learning who my real friends are.” Devastated by a drastic change in your long-term plans? “I’m grateful that I have a chance to move my life in a more positive direction.”
After a while, you’ll find that it starts getting easier to find things to be grateful about. Not only do you identify your blessings faster, but you also start looking forward to acknowledging your gratitude – instead of just feeling those positive feelings once, they’ll all flood back every time you pay attention to them again. It really is a win-win.
2. Create a routine – and stick with it.
Most of us try to stick to some type of schedule, and usually just creating a schedule will help commit it to memory so that it’s easier to repeat it. It might seem boring to do the same thing every day, but realistically, humans are creatures of habit. You’ll need to make sure those habits are good.
My daily self-care routine involves drinking a full bottle of water first thing when I wake up, brushing my teeth and hair, and squeezing a little exercise in before I start working. Many days, there’s coffee involved, and admittedly breakfast falls in a little less often (which I’m trying to work on). Creating positive habits is definitely not a one-time thing. In fact, most people believe it takes about 21 days to turn something into a habit.
The reality is that it’s a little deeper than that, though. It takes the body 21 days to start developing a habit – but that habit isn’t set in stone until about day 30. That means you’ve got to do something for an entire month before it happens without thinking about it. Many people give up too soon, which ruins the habit formation and makes your body more resistant to it in the future. This is because your brain tells you, “I’ve already done that before, and failed, why waste my time trying again?”
Deprogramming this thought process can be a difficult process in itself – but we’ll get to that in just a minute. Just keep in mind that it’s definitely not impossible, no matter what your brain tries to tell you.
3. Write it out.
Those of you who have read my posts before know that I am a huge advocate for journaling, and a lot of people might think that they’re “not good at journaling”. But, just with the habit thing, that’s 100% in your head. There is no such thing as someone who’s not able to work out their emotions. Maybe traditional journaling doesn’t work very well for you, but there are other methods that could help you more.
If it helps, you can try writing out a letter to whoever has you hurting, whether that’s your ex-best-friend, your first love, or even yourself, if appropriate for you. Writing it in a letter can help you center your thoughts and get closure, even if you’re not able to get “real” closure with the person. You don’t need to make it neat, or even logical – you’re not actually going to send this letter. It’s just for your own sanity.
I understand the idea of writing a letter to someone who broke your heart might sound like the last thing you want to do. But knowing that this person will never actually see the letter gives you the freedom to be completely candid in it – saying everything you were never able to say to his or her face. If drawing out your emotions is better for you, do that – just make sure you’re getting all the emotions out on the page.
4. Identify what makes you happy – and do it!
Sometimes, a relationship takes a huge chunk of your self-love out of the picture entirely, and for whatever reason, you’ll have a hard time remembering what makes you happy. That’s okay. You have all the time in the world. As long as the things that make you happy don’t interfere with anyone else and the way they live their lives (at least, not in a negative way), your self-care is too important for you to worry about meeting someone else’s deadlines.
Get a massage, or go for a walk. Read a book, or watch your favorite movie (as long as it’s not a sappy love story – right after a break-up is probably the worst time to watch chick flicks). Draw, color, or look up some inspirational quotes. I find affirmations to be helpful in my own life, but I understand that not everyone will respond well to them. (I think you have to believe in their power in order for them to work – but it may be hard to differentiate between cause and effect here.)
You should try to avoid any happy things that involve food or shopping, as these have a potential to cause their own problems. Instead, focus on things that don’t cost any money, if possible. (Yes, I know that I put massages on this list, which can be quite expensive – but, hopefully, you’ve got a friend who’s willing to help out here, if it doesn’t fit into your budget. If you can afford it, though, a professional massage therapist is going to be able to make magic that your friends probably won’t.)
5. Forgive yourself – but learn the applicable lessons.
It’s so easy to start blaming yourself when a relationship ends, and realistically, you probably do have some faults. (Of course you have some faults in life in general, but every now and then a relationship ends where one person is definitely more “at fault” than the other.) Even if that person happens to have been you, it’s important that you forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Your ex doesn’t have to forgive you, and she probably won’t – at least for a while. But you do need to forgive yourself, otherwise you’re not going to learn anything from the experience.
This is a bit of a simplification, though. Before you can forgive yourself, you’ll need to acknowledge the things you did wrong. You have to identify your mistakes, then identify what you could have done differently. Then, you must forgive yourself for not doing the “better way” the first time, and give yourself permission to try it again the other way the next time the situation comes up.
It seems like a good time to repeat that your ex is under no obligation to forgive you, or even speak to you again. Try not to blame her if she doesn’t. You can’t ever fix the things that have gone wrong, and some people aren’t willing to wait around for you to try. You have to forgive yourself for this, too.
The important thing here is that you don’t make the same mistakes again. As relatively harmless as they may have seemed the first time, if you make the mistakes again, it’s significantly more likely to manifest itself as a habit. Try to avoid forming these negative habits, as preventing them is much easier than reversing them.
6. Remove all the deadlines from yourself.
If you haven’t done so already, get rid of any timelines you might have considered for your “moving on” process. There is no due date. Setting one will probably backfire, too. The mind (and heart) rarely work exactly according to plan, and setting either one on a tight deadline is probably going to make the entire process so much harder on you.
Instead of focusing on “when” you should be over the break-up, you should focus on how you should get over it. Do the things that make you happy. Let go of the things that don’t make you happy. Play around with new ideas you’d never considered – sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to move past a rough patch. Don’t get yourself stuck in a corner by painting imaginary walls around yourself.
And most of all, give yourself permission to move on. Tell yourself, out loud, that it’s okay for you to be hurt, and it’s also okay for you to be happy. Don’t make things any harder on yourself than they need to be.