by Andy Greene
Breakups are often very difficult and emotionally taxing on a person’s mental health. Not all breakups are bad. Some are mutual and amicable; sometimes a breakup can be wonderful and freeing! It is also to be expected that large percentage of breakups are quite the opposite and are difficult to handle. As therapist Tonya Rhodes, who is based in Wilson, NC, points out, “Untangling the life that you had woven with a partner can feel daunting. It is often hard to remember who you were before the weaving began.” Whether you’re coping with an expected or unexpected relationship change, whether amicable or ugly, here are some thoughts and tips from the professionals on how to recover from a break-up.
Recovering from a breakup is a often easier said than done. It can be a slow, painful and even downright dreadful experience. The first thing to keep in check is your own health. In other words, prioritize self-care while you’re going through this rough transition period. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping in healthy ways, or at least as best you can. Joelle Shipp, another therapist who works in SouthPark Charlotte offers advice on how to cope with life transitions, particularly unexpected ones. “In working with clients, I hear that unhealthy life choices are made more often during difficult times. During these times, it can be more challenging to find the time and energy to take care of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.” Working to stick to your routines and prioritizing healthy self-care are both important ways to help you get through this difficult time.
Break-ups of any kind, whether they involve heartbreak or relief, can be destabilizing. Ms. Rhodes suggests, “taking some time to rediscover your former self. Acknowledge any recent ‘scars’ from the relationship, which is a part of the process of healing.” Likewise, Ms. Shipp offers that it’s important to acknowledge your true feelings about the situation. “It can be so easy to brush off negative feelings about situations and cover them up with how we think we should feel. Although remaining positive through difficulties is helpful, not being honest with yourself can be harmful. Naming your feelings can be vulnerable but it allows you (even if it’s only for a moment) to experience what you truly feel.”
You may find yourself feeling anxious, afraid or guilty after a breakup, especially if you felt like you were in the wrong somehow. Or you may find yourself feeling frustrated and angry, rather than guilty. As Ms. Shipp says, it’s important to process these emotions rather than ignore them, and you should do so in a healthy environment and in a way that feels safe to you.
For those experiencing heartbreak after a break-up, remember that this can lead to feelings of sadness and worthlessness, which can contribute to mental health conditions such as depression if left unchecked. Common mental health conditions such as depression can make a breakup feel much harder than necessary. You might feel intense shame, guilt, self-loathing or loneliness, particularly if the person you were seeing was a major support for you in your mindcare journey. Losing support like that can feel devastating. This is why it is so important to create a network of support – that is, to put it simply, not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Ms. Shipp suggests, “friend groups, faith communities, family members or therapy can provide mental and emotional support we may need during and after life struggles,” adding that these support systems can be good reminders that we’re not alone and others have experienced similar difficulties. She adds, “It is very easy to feel as if we are the only ones going through transition, but it is a very common part of life.”
Throughout this process, remind yourself that you’ll make it out the other side. Or, if you don’t feel capable of reminding yourself of this, then ask someone you trust to remind you regularly that you will get through this and will be okay. Meanwhile, let your feelings out and get it all out of your head, even if that means just writing it all in a journal at first. Visual arts, dance, writing and of course music are all different mediums you can use to express yourself while you’re going through a tough time. Picking up a new artistic hobby is – and always will be – a great way to both learn a new and fun skill and vent out your feelings and frustrations in a healthy and productive way! Don’t ever feel ashamed to express yourself.
Everyone processes these things differently. For example, it may take you a different amount of time than you expected, or you may find yourself processing your feelings in a way that looks differently than you imagined. This is also okay. It’s true that you will recover from a break-up! And in the meantime, be kind to yourself.
Read more on this topic in the article “How to Cope with Unexpected Life Transitions” by therapist Joelle Shipp.
Joelle Shipp, MA, LCMHC knows that different seasons of life bring different challenges. She became a mindcare provider in order to support people through those challenges, recognizing that it is helpful to have support during these seasons. Joelle works with people to identify issues, process harmful thought patterns and develop healthy skills in order to gain freedom and build confidence.
Tonya Rhodes, MSW, LCSW has always been in awe when people with a goal of self-discovery and enlightenment are willing to reveal their vulnerabilities with someone. As a therapist she has found that assisting individuals in their journey is both a privilege and humbling experience. Ms. Rhodes is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with a variety of patients with chronic mental health and substance abuse diagnoses.
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“Coping with Unexpected Life Transitions,“ https://www.mindpathcare.com/coping-with-unexpected-life-transitions/
“Is Broken Heart Syndrome Real?” The American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiomyopathy/what-is-cardiomyopathy-in-adults/is-broken-heart-syndrome-real
Nemeroff, Charles B., and Pascal J. Goldschmidt-Clermont. “Heartache and Heartbreak-the Link between Depression and Cardiovascular Disease.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 26 June 2012, https://www.nature.com/articles/nrcardio.2012.91