Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Getting Over A Break-Up

Having recently gone through my own very painful break-up I'm still sometimes winded so deeply within my solar plexus that I have to stop, breathe and remind myself life goes on. What I've realised over these past few months, is that it's never easy when a significant relationship ends. Whatever the reason for the split, it can turn your whole world upside down and trigger painful and unsettling feelings. Are there things that can be done to get through this difficult time and grow into a stronger, wiser person? I think so...

Why do breakups hurt so much, even when the relationship is no longer good? A split is painful because it represents the loss, not just of the relationship, but also of shared dreams and commitments. Romantic relationships begin on a high note of excitement and hope for the future. When these relationships fail, we experience profound disappointment, stress, and grief.

A split launches us into uncharted territory. Everything is disrupted: routine and responsibilities, home, relationships with extended family and friends, and even your identity. A breakup brings uncertainty about the future. What will life be like without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone? These unknowns often seem worse than an unhappy relationship. Recovering from a breakup is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. But healing takes time, so be patient with yourself.

Coping With A Break-Up
  • Recognise that it's OK to have different feelings. It's normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated and confused - and these feelings can be intense. Accept that feelings of anxiety about the future and venturing into the unknown are frightening  but are normal and will lessen over time.  
  • Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you're accustomed to for a little while. It's important to give yourself time to heal, regroup and re-energise.
  • Don't go through it alone. Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period. I believe the more you cry now, the less you will cry later. Let it all out, you'll feel better for it.

Give Yourself Time to Grieve 

Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and the breakup of a love relationship involves multiple losses:
  • Loss of companionship and shared experiences (which may or may not have been consistently pleasurable).
  • Loss of support, be it financial, intellectual, social or emotional.
  • Loss of hopes, plans and dreams (can be even more painful than practical losses).
Allowing yourself to feel the pain of these losses may be scary. You may fear that your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that you’ll be stuck in a dark place forever. Just remember that grieving is essential to the healing process. The pain of grief is precisely what helps you let go of the old relationship and move on. And no matter how strong your grief, it won’t last forever. To coin a phrase "feel the fear and do it anyway". You will be amazed at just how strong you will feel when you look the fear, grief and pain right in the eyes and wake up to a new day.
Tips For Grieving After A Break-Up:
  • Don’t fight your feelings – It’s normal to have lots of ups and downs, and feel many conflicting emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion. It’s important to identify and acknowledge these feelings. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only prolong the grieving process.

  • Talk about how you’re feeling – Even if it is difficult for you to talk about your feelings with other people, it is very important to find a way to do so when you are grieving. Knowing that others are aware of your feelings will make you feel less alone with your pain and will help you heal. Writing can also be a helpful outlet for your feelings.

  • Remember that moving on is the end goal – Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyse the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like blame, anger, and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward.

  • Remind yourself that you still have a future – When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams. It’s hard to let these dreams go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones.

  • Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup and depression - Grief can be paralysing after a breakup, but after a while, the sadness begins to lift. Day by day, and little by little, you start moving on. However, if you don’t feel any forward momentum, you may be suffering from depression.
Reach out to others for support through the grieving process: Support from others is critical to healing after a breakup or divorce. You might feel like being alone, but isolating yourself will only make this time more difficult. Don’t try to get through this on your own.
Reach out to trusted friends and family members. People who have been through painful breakups or divorces can be especially helpful. They know what it is like and they can assure you that there is hope for healing and new relationships.
  • Spend time with people who support, value, and energise you. As you consider who to reach out to, choose wisely. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who truly listen to you. It’s important that you feel free to be honest about what you’re going through, without worrying about being judged, criticised or told what to do.
  • Get outside help if you need it. Recognise that it's OK to seek professional help if you feel that talking to friends and family is not working for you. A counsellor or therapist will always be a someone who will allow you express how you feel without any judgement and may be able to help you find some answers.
  • Cultivate new friendships. If you feel like you have lost your social network along with the breakup, make an effort to meet new people. Join a networking group or special interest club (Yoga is ALWAYS a winner in these circumstances!), take a class, get involved in community activities, or volunteer at a school, place of worship, or other community organisation.  
Taking care of yourself after a divorce or relationship breakup: A break-up is a highly stressful, life-changing event. When you’re going through the emotional wringer and dealing with major life changes, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The strain and upset of a major break-up can leave you psychologically and physically vulnerable. Treat yourself like you’re getting over the flu. Get plenty of rest, minimise other sources of stress in your life, and reduce your workload if possible. Learning to take care of yourself can be one of the most valuable lessons you learn following a break-up. As you feel the emotions of your loss and begin learning from your experience, you can resolve to take better care of yourself and make positive choices going forward.

Self Care Tips:
  • Make time each day to nurture yourself. Help yourself heal by scheduling daily time for activities you find calming and soothing. Go for a walk in nature, listen to music, enjoy a hot bath, get a massage, read a favorite book, take a Yoga class, or savour a warm cup of tea.
  • Pay attention to what you need in any given moment and speak up to express your needs. Honour what you believe to be right and best for you even though it may be different from what your ex or others want. Say "no" without guilt or angst as a way of honoring what is right for you.
  • Stick to a routine. A break-up can disrupt almost every area of your life, amplifying feelings of stress, uncertainty, and chaos. Getting back to a regular routine can provide a comforting sense of structure and normalcy.
  • Take a time out. Try not to make any major decisions in the first few months after a separation or divorce, like starting a new job or moving to a new city. If you can, wait until you’re feeling less emotional so that you can make better decisions.
  • Avoid using "props" (alcohol, drugs, or food) to cope,as much as possible. When you’re in the middle of a break-up, you may be tempted to do anything to relieve your feelings of pain and loneliness. But using "props" as an escape is unhealthy and destructive in the long run. It’s essential to find healthier ways of coping with painful feelings.
  • Explore new interests. A break-up is a beginning as well as an end. Take the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. Pursuing fun, new activities gives you a chance to enjoy life in the present and an opportunity to look forward, rather than dwelling on the past.
Making Healthy Choices: Eat Well, Sleep Well and Exercise: When you're going through the stress of a break-up, healthy habits easily fall by the wayside. You might find yourself not eating at all or overeating your favourite junk foods. Exercise might be harder to fit in because of the added pressures at home and sleep might be elusive. But all of the work you are doing to move forward in a positive way will be pointless if you don't make long-term healthy lifestyle choices. 

Learning Important Lessons From A Break-Up 

In times of emotional crisis, there is an opportunity to grow and learn. Just because you are feeling emptiness in your life right now, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening or that things will never change. Consider this period a time-out, a time for sowing the seeds for new growth. You can emerge from this experience knowing yourself better and feeling stronger.
In order to fully accept a breakup and move on, you need to understand what happened and acknowledging the part you played. It’s important to understand how the choices you made affected the relationship. Learning from your mistakes is the key to not repeating them.

Some Questions To Ask:
  • Step back and look at the big picture. How did you contribute to the problems of the relationship?
  • Do you tend to repeat the same mistakes or choose the wrong person in relationship after relationship?
  • Think about how you react stress and deal with conflict and insecurities. Could you act in a more constructive way
  • Consider whether or not you accept other people the way they are, not the way they could or should be.
  • Examine your negative feelings as a starting point for change. Are you in control of your feelings, or are they in control of you?
It's important to be honest with yourself during this part of the healing process, no matter how painful or difficult. Try not to dwell on who is to blame or beat yourself up over your mistakes. As you look back on the relationship, you have an opportunity to learn more about yourself, how you relate to others, and the problems you need to work on. If you are able to objectively examine your own choices and behavior, including the reasons why you chose your former partner, you’ll be able to see where you went wrong and make better choices next time.

There was a time, only a few months ago, when I felt truly wretched and could not imagine how or when I was going to find my way out. But then, slowly, day by day, things started to get better. Of course, there is still those feelings of sadness and anger that come and go, but the intensity has dissipated and I'm left feeling positive and happier than I have for some time...