Here’s a universal truth: breakups suck. Whether it took you by surprise, you pulled the plug, or it was that rarest of all breakups – the mutual breakup—someone who was a big part of your life is gone. Even if you know that the breakup was the right move, it’s still hard to accept the change and start the healing process. At some point, you might find yourself asking, “How will I ever stop thinking about my ex?”
Well, I’m here to help. Before we get to work, do us both a favor and take a deep breath—because we both know you’re barely breathing right now. One more breath and here we go. (You’ll notice that these steps aren’t numbered, because you don’t have to do all of them, nor do you have to do them in order. Go at your own pace.)
Feel and accept your feelings.
It’s normal for you to be thinking about your ex. They were a huge part of your life, and it’s natural for you to be experiencing some pain right now. Don’t read too much into those thoughts—the fact that you’re having them is not a sign that you should get back together. The number one healer after a breakup is time, but you cannot control time, so just accept that it is going to take a little while for you to stop thinking about your ex on a daily (or even hourly) basis.
In the meantime, allow yourself to feel those feelings. Let yourself cry. Give yourself time to process your emotions. After a while, the pain will soften and you’ll start noticing all of the amazing opportunities coming your way.
Lean on your friends.
How many times has someone cried to you about their breakup? Well, now it’s your turn. That’s what friends are for. Be sure to connect with people who love and understand you. If you’re used to talking to your ex every day, try to have someone on call to listen or provide a spontaneous pep talk. Make plans. Set up phone calls with the people you love.
However, you should avoid spending time with any mutual friends you shared with your ex, so you will be less tempted to “check-in.” If this is unrealistic, set hard boundaries to keep any discussion of your ex off the table. You should also steer clear of friends who might enable self-destructive or back-sliding behavior that will extend and complicate your healing process. More on that below…
Take care of you.
Your self-confidence may disappear after a break-up, so counteract that tendency by dialing up your self-love. One great way to do this is by prioritizing physical exercise. You don’t need to train for an Ironman or climb Everest—just find ways to get your body moving every day. Experiment with a few different things and see what feels best. Yoga, pilates, running, dancing, or even jumping rope can be great gateways to confidence and recovery.
Self-care also means being careful to avoid self-destructive activities, like getting drunk every night, sleeping with toxic people (the ex before the ex!), or negative self-talk. Instead, try to find things that make you feel GOOD. Maybe this includes hiking, cooking, meditation, or making art. If you’re not in therapy, now might be a great time to start. A regular weekly appointment (or Zoom) with a professional who has studied human behavior will give you something to look forward to, and help you develop coping mechanisms and self-care practices to better deal with your grief.
Write it out.
When you don’t feel like talking to anyone, try journaling. Writing down your thoughts can be a great way to check in on your emotions, understand your feelings, and track your healing process. It also helps you to catch yourself when you’re experiencing euphoric recall, a psychological term for when people remember past experiences in a positive light while overlooking negative experiences. (This is super common when it comes to breakups.) Write down all of the things you DIDN’T like about your ex and bookmark that page. Anytime you’re feeling too nostalgic, refer back to your list for reassurance.
While journaling, you might also start to discover new things about yourself or learn new reasons why the breakup was a good thing. Don’t be alarmed if some days feel more depressing than others. Breakups aren’t always linear, and you’ll likely experience a broad spectrum of emotions as you make your way through the healing process.
Avoid your ex.
It might be tempting, but please don’t talk to your ex. And by talking, I mean don’t TALK, DM, EMAIL, TEXT, SLACK, FACETIME, SNAPCHAT, and whatever other way you used to communicate. It’s going to be hard to stop thinking about your ex if you two are still communicating. Instead, give your mind the opportunity to reset and refresh. Try to go at least 30 days with “no contact” and ask your friends to help keep you on the path with reminders.
Remember: No contact also means unfollowing them on social media, including things like LinkedIn and Venmo. Avoid checking in on their profiles “just to see.” In almost every scenario, it won’t help.
Invest in your pleasure.
Another way to increase confidence? Masturbation. Seriously, once you start taking your pleasure into your own hands (literally), you stop associating sex with your ex and start to regain control of your sexual power. Discover new erogenous zones. Consider buying yourself a new toy. Take the opportunity to learn more about your sexual needs and desires.
Rebound sex is a bit tricky, so it’s important to check your intentions if this is something you want to explore. Do you want to have rebound sex to get revenge or make your ex jealous? Probably not a good idea. Do you want to practice being with a new partner, or learn more about your needs and desires through a fresh experience? Much better. Just remember to be honest with yourself and whomever you choose to date about where you are at emotionally. The pleasure doesn’t need to stop just because you’re single. In fact, it might even get better.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas and gets you motivated to try a few of them. Remember, as you work through your healing process, you should go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. After a breakup, some people become obsessed with how long their pain is going to last or compare their journey to previous breakups or the experiences of others. There’s no one right way to heal, so don’t put any added pressure on yourself to stop thinking about your ex right away.
Be patient with yourself as you work through the pain. it may feel difficult right now, but it won’t be this way forever. Promise.