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Letting Go to Move Forward After a Breakup
No matter what age you are…man or woman…being broken up with by someone you thought was the light of your life isn’t easy. And the longer they were your light, the harder it is, of course. Like the shadows cast by a real solar eclipse, for a moment (or much longer!) the sadness of your breakup may darken your mood and obscure your positive outlook.
How do you get past a breakup? How do you detach from that gravitational pull that special someone had on you and get back into the light?
How To Get Through a Break Up: Step-by-Step
Here are 8 recommendations for making the best of all the sadness, angst, and emotional roller coaster that is known as “breaking up”:
Go Deep Into the Emotions of a Breakup
1. To move forward after a breakup, allow yourself to grieve and go “deep” into the emotions it brings up. It is important to allow yourself to feel the pain of the breakup. Don’t try to bottle it up or pretend that you’re not hurting. Allow yourself to cry, scream, sulk, indulge in unhealthy foods, or do whatever you need to do to express your emotions.
Some people have found the “90-second rule” to be incredibly helpful as they balance daily life with the roller-coaster of emotions just after a breakup.
The “90-second rule” for handling negative emotions refers to a concept popularized by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist and author. According to this rule, when we experience a surge of negative emotions triggered by a specific event, the actual physiological response that accompanies the emotion lasts for about 90 seconds.
Watch Dr. Bolte Taylor talking about this below:
Dr. Bolte Taylor explains that when an event occurs that triggers an emotional response, such as anger, fear, or sadness, chemicals are released in the body, and we experience a physical reaction. These chemicals, like adrenaline and cortisol, surge through our bloodstream and activate the body’s stress response.
However, if we allow ourselves to fully experience and process these emotions without getting caught up in our thoughts or prolonging the emotional response, the physiological response tends to subside within approximately 90 seconds. This means that the initial wave of intense emotion gradually dissipates.
The key to effectively applying the 90-second rule is to be mindful and allow ourselves to fully experience the emotion without judgment or resistance. Instead of getting caught up in the story or analyzing the emotion, we can observe it with curiosity and openness.
By doing so, we allow the emotion to run its course naturally and avoid getting trapped in a cycle of rumination or prolonged negativity. It’s important to note that the 90-second rule primarily focuses on the physiological response to negative thoughts.
It’s important to note that the 90-second rule primarily focuses on the physiological response to negative thoughts.
Talk To a Therapist, Friend, Elder, Counselor or Coach
2. Talk to someone you trust.
Talking to a friend, family member, therapist, or anyone else you trust can be helpful in processing your emotions and getting support. One online resource may be helpful in finding some short-term, affordable therapeutic support to help you in embracing a brighter future without your ex. Be careful to choose a person (or total stranger) who can listen well, be truly objective and free from judgments or opinions (and secret agendas) as anything less may not be helpful just now.
Sometimes there is the power of silence after break up drama. It may be useful to keep the conversation with others (especially mutual friends of your ex) off the past breakup story you just experienced. Keep any discussions focused to your current state of mind: how you’re feeling, processing, and dealing with the breakup in the present moment. This may be a better alternative to looking back too much: re-telling, re-hashing, second-guessing or re-analyzing all those tell-tale private fissures that led up to the final breakup.
You may reveal all, of course, to your confidants. But instead of replaying all the gory details of “what went wrong” it may be more constructive to try to see the role you played in the breakup. Look at that relationship as a data-rich learning environment where you can take the lessons with you and move on to your next great love. Focus on compassionate self-care now and envision a future and love life that will soon feel better.
Discreet Online Therapy Options for Mature Romantics
Remove The Reminders of Your Ex For A While
3. Get rid of reminders of your ex.
This could mean a “love declutter” also known as deleting or filing away photos, putting away gifts, or (kindly) unfollowing your ex on social media. Surrounding yourself with reminders of your ex will only make it harder to move on and envision a rich love life ahead.
If this feels impossible, make a “deal” with yourself that you only must unfollow or put things away temporarily, just until you feel ever-so-slightly better. You’ll be allowed to put everything back within a reasonable time frame if you get “desperate” and if you so choose.
Chances are, by not having the reminders around, you can gradually embrace the present and enjoy your own new developing “stories.” You may not want to re-instate those mementos, keepsakes, and reminders later. Peeking at his or her social media accounts may become something you’d rather not do (because your own life is exciting enough, and you’ve got juicy secrets of your own now).
Practice Self-Care, Self-Love, and “Be Selfish” For A While
4. Focus on yourself now.
a) Make a list of all the things that make you happy to do – even simple things like more hot bubble baths, Thai massages or a hobby, treat, sport or activity you’d put away for some time.
b) Make that bucket list of things you’d always wanted to do but the relationship had prevented them from happening i.e. far-flung travels, joining the weekly fitness bootcamp at the beach or that tango dancing class.
Be Out and About Despite Your Broken Heart
5. Get out – Out of the house and into the real world.
Though it may feel very uncomfortable to dress up and get out when you’re suffering from then post-breakup blues: join a local, real-life, in-person networking or mastermind group, special-interest meetup, gourmets group, volunteering organization, or whatever interesting outings/seminars or events your locality may offer.
While online dating may not appeal to you just now, there is a simple way to move forward after a breakup: getting out of the daily rut of hiding at home and the unremitting feedback loop of breakup thoughts (and helping others who you may come to perceive as more “worse off” than you) is key.
This is your time to focus on your own happiness and well-being. Do things that make you (and others) happy. Spend time with people who make you feel good or inspired and take care of yourself both physically and emotionally.
Give Them (and You) Some Space
6. Don’t stalk your ex.
Among the things not to do after a breakup…is stalking. It’s tempting to check your ex’s social media accounts or see if they’re dating someone new. See #3 above. Avoid asking mutual friends how your ex is doing or what your ex is up to.
But if you must about your ex: ask them not to bring that person up with you until you feel truly over your ex-lover (or at least numb to the breakup pain). News of that person will only make it harder to move on. Avoid stalking your ex (i.e. “accidental” drives past their home or workplace for “just a glimpse of them”).
Focus to the max on optimizing your own life with daily increments of doing things that make you feel good and actions that will improve your outlook and prospects. Trust that news of that person will make its way to you when the time is right and you’re ready for it. The sooner you focus on living a full life now, the less it may “hurt” later if you find out that he or she has moved on into a new relationship.
7. Give yourself time to get over them but use the time wisely. There is no set timeline in which to move forward after a breakup. It may take weeks, months, or even years. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to feel better overnight. While you work your way out of the belly of the “negative emotions” dragon, you’ll be helped along by small daily wins.
Daily wins might be learning a new skill, getting more fit and healthy, helping those in need, being life coached, starting a side hustle or other modes of self-improvement. Later, when you look back on that period in your life, it may be gratifying to know you used the time so well as you prepared to be a fabulous partner to your next true love.
And Finally…Have Faith.
8. Don’t give up hope. Rather, focus on a strong belief in yourself that you can and will find a relationship that suits you far better than the last one. It may be hard to believe right now, but you will find love again, and sometimes it finds you without you even trying.