Whether it’s after a month, a year, or a decade together, dealing with a breakup is universally difficult. Even if the split is amicable, there are still feelings of loss, grief, and profound sadness to grapple with.
Heartbreak not only affects our mental and emotional state, it can also impact our bodies and our health. “Experiencing chronic painful emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and helplessness can impact us on several levels, including tissue, organs, systems, and right down to the cellular level within our bodies,” says Dr. Gary Brown, Ph.D, L.M.F.T., F.A.P.A., a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles.
If you’re wondering how to deal with a breakup, you might be tempted to sustain yourself with unhealthy, momentary comforts like sweets, staying in bed all day, or even using substances to cope. Hey, we’ve all been there. But these types of instant gratifications only lead to further stress on our bodies (which only draws the healing process out even longer). Here’s a list of ways to stay healthy after a breakup, so you can get back out there stronger than ever.
How to Stay Healthy Through Heartbreak
Just one of these tips should help accelerate your emotional rehab. But combine some or all and you might break a rebound record.
1. Journal your feelings
Unresolved painful emotions can cause an array of physical symptoms like gastrointestinal issues, bodily tension, disrupted sleep, a weakened immune system, traumatic thoughts, fatigue, and difficulty breathing, Brown says.
It’s important to resist suppressing these negative emotions, and instead work through them (no matter how painful it may be). Studies show that writing down your feelings and thoughts in a journal can be hugely beneficial for reducing stress and processing your emotions.
You can even choose journals with dedicated heartbreak-healing writing prompts to get you started, or just jot down some thoughts as they come up throughout the day. The point is to get them out of your head, and on to the page.
2. Stop following your ex on social media
One of the best bits of breakup advice is to unfollow your ex on social media. With the amount of personal information shared on the web, it can be tempting to see if they’re totally happy now in their new life without you while you sit at home sobbing into buckets of Ben & Jerry’s. But anything you see will only foster greater anxiety and anguish.
In fact, a study from Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking showed that surveilling an ex’s social media accounts caused more distress, negative feelings, and longing, with less personal growth. This includes Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, but if you really want to take care of your mental health, you should probably stop texting your ex, while you’re at it.
3. Remove reminders of your ex
Brown says if you don’t want to throw reminders of your ex away entirely, you can take all memorabilia such as photos together, concert tickets, and gifts, box them up, and store them in a closet or garage. These reminders are just triggers for negative emotions and painful memories. Don’t forget to change that cute kissing photo on your phone’s wallpaper, too!
4. Practice meditation
Studies suggest that meditation can help with anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and pain management, all of which may apply to someone going through the emotional rollercoaster of a breakup. Take a break from racing thoughts and painful woes with a mindfulness practice dedicated to freeing up that brain clutter. You can try guided meditations on YouTube or Spotify, meditation apps, or finding a local meditation class to get you started.
5. Get into a routine
“The vast majority of my clients, family, and friends have found that the sooner they can resume their normal routines — and especially healthy routines — the more they can speed up their process of recovery from a breakup,” Brown explains. He suggests getting up at the same time every day, making your bed, establishing some self-care rituals, and having a set work schedule and a set exercise routine so you can get back to a level of normality in your daily life.
6. Get moving
It’s normal to feel lethargic, unmotivated, and fatigued after a breakup. But getting physical, whether it’s 30 minutes of cardio, strength training, yoga, or even a 10-minute walk around the block can be hugely beneficial in getting you back on your feet (no pun intended).
“When our bodies are active, we release a whole host of neuro-chemicals that enhance our mood,” Brown explains. “The more you are moving, the more of these ‘feel good’ chemicals are produced, and the more your positive feelings will have a chance to re-establish themselves after your breakup.”
If exercise is particularly difficult for you to manage on your own, get a gym buddy. Not only will the accountability help you get moving, but it’s a chance to spend time with a friend or loved one, who can offer emotional support during this time, as well.
7. Fuel a better mood
“Sometimes the heartache of a breakup can cause us to eat too little or too much,” Brown points out. “If you find yourself not eating, feelings of sadness can become worse, in which case you need to embrace good nutrition.” Foods that are high in magnesium, probiotics, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. Hydration is also key, as even just mild dehydration can cause anxiety, fatigue, and tension.
8. Find your passion (or return to old ones)
By finding new hobbies or getting back into the passions you used to enjoy, you get to explore things separate from the relationship that make you happy. You’ll also develop a new social circle, which can help those who might have lost some friends to the breakup. Plus, after the proper amount of healing time, you may even meet a new crush whom you already know shares similar interests!
9. Try the Mend app
Have you ever wished for a 24-hour best friend service, that wouldn’t get tired of listening to you go through every detail of your heartache? Mend, the No. 1 breakup app, dubbed “a personal trainer for heartbreak” by the New York Times, just might be the daily boost you need. The app provides daily audio trainings, tips, interviews, journaling, and community support for those seeking comfort.
10. Get some sleep
“We know that too little sleep or too much sleep can impact our mood. Establish some healthy sleep routines that work for you, and your mood will likely improve,” suggests Brown. Research shows that sleep reduces stress, helps you better control your emotions, and helps you focus. Without it, you might be more prone to cranky feelings, which can only exacerbate your already low mood.
If you’re having trouble sleeping during this difficult time, try setting up a schedule so you can fall asleep at the same time every night, practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual, and avoiding naps during the day.
Figuring out how to deal with a breakup can be exhausting, all-consuming, and painful. But with these tips, and the support of family and friends, you should be on the road to recovery, and bouncing back in less time.