By YourTango expert Dr. Karen Finn
Major breakups, like divorce or the end of an engagement, knock you down in just about every way imaginable.
Along with losing your relationship, you lose your lifestyle, the goal of raising your children in an intact family, and all the other dreams you had for the future. Each loss feels like another blow that takes you lower and lower into the depths of breakup despair.
Although you know there are plenty of people who have made it through, you wonder what they knew about how to recover from heartbreak that you don’t. And then you think maybe your breakup is so much more horrible than what others have gone through, that what they did won’t work for you.
The problem is that the more you worry about it, the harder it is for you to recover — which just starts the cycle all over again. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps you stuck. But you can break out of it. You can stop the self-destructive thoughts. And you can get on with your life. All it takes is a willingness to work mentally, emotionally, and physically to achieve the goal of getting over your breakup.
Here are 18 steps to help you move on and be happy again, even after a serious heartbreak:
1. Know that getting over the end of your relationship is supposed to be hard.
Divorce hurts everyone involved just in different ways and at different times. You can easily know the truth of this by the amount of divorce information you find on the internet, the number of songs written about the end of relationships and the number of TV shows, movies and books about all kinds of breakups. Because this time is so difficult, be gentle with yourself. Showing yourself compassion as you work your way through the depths of your broken heart will help you get through it a whole lot more quickly than if you’re impatient with yourself.
2. Allow yourself to grieve, but don’t regularly throw yourself pity parties.
Being compassionate with yourself does include allowing yourself to feel sad about all your losses, but it doesn’t mean that you should focus on what is no more. Giving excessive attention to what you’ve lost only serves to keep you stuck in your heartbreak.
3. Ask for help.
Going through a divorce, in particular, is one of the most difficult things you can do. There’s no reason why you should go through it alone. Ask for help. Ask Google. Ask your friends. Ask helping professionals. Build a support structure for yourself with the goal of helping you recover from your breakup as thoroughly and quickly as possible.
4. Don’t dwell on the past.
There are three thoughts about the past that typically trip-up people healing from a serious breakup:
They want to understand exactly why their relationship ended.
They beat themselves up for what they could have, should have, or would have done.
They blame their ex exclusively for everything that happened.
Dwelling on the past keeps you there. Just like you can’t drive a car forward by staring in the rear view mirror, you can’t move your life forward if you’re focusing on the past. You can’t change the past. The best you can do is learn from it.
5. View the failure of your relationship as simply an important lesson you needed to learn.
You and your ex were in a relationship that didn’t make it. The relationship failed and you can learn from it — if you choose to. Once you decide to learn from the failure instead of labeling yourself as a failure, you will regain confidence in yourself and your ability to have a successful relationship in the future.
6. Stop viewing yourself as a victim.
It’s so easy to feel like a victim when someone breaks up with you. Yet that’s the worst thing you can do. (I struggled a lot with victim mentality when I got divorced.) When you view yourself as a victim, you deny yourself the strength and power you have and need to get over your heartbreak. Change your story, and take responsibility for what you did (or didn’t do) that contributed to the end of your relationship.
7. Neutralize toxic people.
It’s often your ex who’s poisonous, but there are plenty of others who can be toxic too. Learning how to step away from their drama (and hatred) is one of the most important ways you can move on from divorce or heal from a breakup.
8. Embrace change.
There are no two ways about it: Divorce = Change. Major breakups = major shakeups in your life.
The longer you fight the necessary changes, the longer you’ll stay stuck. This doesn’t mean that you should just roll over in your divorce negotiations. You should fight for what’s important, but who gets the music in the iTunes account isn’t worth fighting over. When you look at the necessary changes as necessary and just your starting point for where you’re going to go from here, life will become easier for you.
9. Accept the emotional mayhem as normal.
Nobody likes to feel out of control of their emotions and unable to predict how they’ll feel one moment to the next. But that’s how heartbreak is. No matter how it feels, you’re not losing your mind. You’re just dealing with a tremendous amount of stress. And stress does strange things to people.
10. Take time to relax.
Because divorce and breaking up are so difficult, you need to make sure you take the time to relax.
Relaxation is not the same thing as feeling too depressed to move. Relaxation is about purposefully taking time out of your day to chill and put everything else on pause.
One of the best ways to deal with stress (and the situational depression of heartbreak) is to exercise.
Your exercise can be as easy as taking a walk or as extreme as training for and competing in an Iron Man Triathlon.
12. Get enough sleep.
Yeah, sleep is one of those pipe dreams when you’re in the throes of heartbreak. But the more you can get your sleeping routine and schedule back to normal the better you’ll deal with all the stress.
13. Limit caffeine.
This can be really difficult to do when you’re not getting enough sleep, but too much caffeine can overstimulate you — all of you. You’re already stressed out enough dealing with the breakup, and adding the fuel of caffeine to the already raging fire of stress isn’t in your best interest.
14. Develop a strong, positive, and flexible mindset.
This is the real goal of everyone who truly wants to learn how to recover from a breakup. They know (just like you do) that it’s the habitual thoughts and inflexibility that will keep you stuck.
15. Choose to work on your recovery daily — no matter what setbacks may happen.
When you really want to achieve something, you set aside time to work on it daily. Do the same thing with your divorce or breakup recovery. The more focused time you spend on doing things to help you feel normal again, the faster you’ll feel that way.
16. Become emotionally intelligent about yourself and others.
The better you become at recognizing what’s going on with your emotions and why you feel like you do, the more quickly you’ll be able to calm down the emotional roller coaster ride you’ve been on. And the better you become at understanding the emotions of others, the easier time you’ll have avoiding their triggers.
17. Develop your confidence.
Divorce has a way of corroding your confidence. Regardless, you still have tremendous qualities that you can and should feel really great about. Figure out what you really like about yourself, remind yourself of these things daily, and you’ll be well on your way to building your self-confidence.
18. Don’t wait for an apology to forgive.
One of the toughest parts of this is forgiving both your ex and yourself for everything that contributed to the end of your relationship. The stumbling block that most people hit is equating forgiveness with either forgetting or approving of what happened. That’s not what true forgiveness is. True forgiveness is all about you releasing the past so it doesn’t control you anymore. You need to remember what happened so you can learn from it and make better choices in the future.
Originally posted at YourTango