Most people experience heartbreak at some point in their lives.
I’m not a relationship expert, nor am I a psychologist. I’ve quite possibly majored in Breakups though. I know what it feels like when a loved one grows distant and hollow, or how excruciatingly painful it is to have to pull the plug on a person you still care about. Regardless of which end of the breakup spectrum you’re on, it’s difficult to emerge unscathed.
The science behind heartbreak
“Why does it hurt so bloody much?”
“It’s as if someone ripped my heart out.”
When you experience physical pain, such as a cut or bruising, your anterior cingulate cortex is stimulated. This same region of the brain is activated when you feel socially excluded or undergo a sense of loss, such as heartbreak.
If you are consumed by heartache, know that you are not alone. It’s common to be restless and full of countless questions and anxiety. As a coping mechanism, you press the playback button on your past and incessantly roam the interwebs for any signs of your ex (unhealthy, yet tempting and fully expected!).
It is said that “time heals all wounds.”
Sort of. Below are 5 steps to help speed up the healing process.
Step 1: Cry it out.
Assuming reconciliation is not an option, this first stage is a time to get in touch with your feelings. Your heart feels heavy, yet empty. It’s as if your emotions are trying to escape, but cling to the walls of your throat, making it painful to swallow. Morning or night, time stands still as you struggle to pluck out heartfelt memories that invade the pit of your stomach. The voice that echoes inside your head is bellowing, “Just. Move. On.” It’s as simple as that… if only. The truth is, no book, video, friend, or family member can convince you to move on, until you are truly ready. Cry it out. Shake it off. Throw darts at cupid. Surround yourself with friends. Whatever you do, avoid contact until you can breathe again.
Block your ex in the social media realm. Rename them in your contact list if deletion is too unbearable. Remove any reminders of them (their possessions or gifts to you) out of plain sight, into a box. After you’ve succumbed to countless nights of “crying it out”, you’ll need to transform your restless energy into a stream of take-it-like-a-man, logic.
Timing: According to the book “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz, it takes 21-days to rewire your brain to break a habit (e.g. moping around). If that’s the case, you need to cease all contact with your ex until at least 3 full weeks have passed so you can dispel any negative emotions about your breakup.
Step 2: Make “The List”.
Rationalizing why this breakup was meant to be and why your partner was not right for you is vital. You need to genuinely believe you’re better off without your ex. This is a time for you to make a list — The List — of all the reasons why this relationship had to come to an end. A mind map approach works quite well. Think of times when your ex disappointed you or made you question being with them. Sometimes it’s easier to think of examples of actual situations you were in. Identify toxic personality traits or a mismatch of fundamental values.
Any time you feel compelled to give them a call or text, whip out The List; seek solace in stirring up emotions of disdain so you won’t be tempted to reach out. No matter how angelic your partner was in your mind’s eye, there must’ve been something that irked you about them, nobody is perfect. Negative? Yes. Distraction tactic? Precisely.
Step 3: Create a wishlist.
This is a time to reflect upon your ‘ideal’ mate. The important question to ask is, how do you want them to make you feel? What was your previous relationship lacking? What personality traits do you find attractive? What have you learned about yourself post breakup? What are some fundamental values that he or she should have? You’ll need to be on the same page. It’s easy to describe an Adonis, but it helps if you know what you want in your mate, outside of their physical attributes. Go ahead, send feelers out there so you know what you’re looking for the next time around. Plus, who doesn’t want to dream a little?
Step 4: Pat yourself on the back.
By this time you’ve come to the conclusion that the breakup was justified, picked apart your ex, replaced him or her with your ‘ideal partner’ (on paper, that is)…now what? The breakup/withdrawal period has probably chiseled away some of your self esteem. Set aside your anger, trashy magazines, sappy movies, and empty chip bags. It’s time to pat yourself on the back for being you. How would your best friend describe you? Another list? Yes. List all of the reasons why you rock your world.
Step 5: Be your best self.
What? You’re not perfect? Okay, let’s face it, nobody is. However, you can aspire to become the best version of yourself. What did you learn from the relationship? Perhaps your mate brought to light some ‘issues’ you know you need to work on (e.g. a bad habit, negative attitude, or neglect for other areas of your life.). You may have lost yourself in the relationship, let your interests slip away after focusing all of your attention on ‘your other half’. How is your health/body? Your mental state? You can’t take a step forward without taking a step back and reflecting upon the big picture. Take a yoga class. Join a running group. Find or follow your passion. Pamper your body and mind. What are some classes or trips you can take to sharpen your mind or nurture your interests? Keep busy. Have fun finding yourself again, but remember to be true to yourself. In time, a naked chubby kid with wings and a crossbow will strike again.
If all else fails, take a couple of Tylenol pills and call it a day. According to Pyschology Today, acetaminophen can be used to ease the pain caused by heartache. Who knew?
The heart is a muscle. When it tears, it will repair itself and grow back stronger.