Self Care After a Breakup: Five Things I Learned
I can safely say (and I am sure almost anyone would agree) breakups SUCK! Recently, in November/December 2018 I went through my first major heartbreak and it nearly broke me. In fact, for a time, it did break me. I couldn't focus on anything, had zero appetite, couldn't sleep and cried more than I ever thought possible. When I was going through it, I didn't think I'd ever get past it. It felt like the hurt, anger, disappointment and sadness would stay with me forever. In the months that followed the breakup, I managed to work on a few things that really helped me feel stronger than I had ever felt before. Self care after a breakup is possible and today I am sharing five ways I learned how to practice self-care.
The Breakup: Not as Funny As The Movie
In the past, I've been through different types of heartbreak, with my mom passing away 9 years ago. And then my family life kind of fell apart and that left me feeling angry and sad. But with this breakup, the feelings were different. When my mom passed away, she didn't choose to leave me. But when my ex broke up with me, he chose to do that. And that feeling, the feeling of not being good enough hurts like a MF.
When The Breakup Turns Ugly
The breakup itself wasn't amicable at all and definitely not as funny as the Jen Aniston/Vince Vaughn flick. And after being with my ex for 14 years (and living together for 7 years), it hurt more than I can put into words how cold he was towards me. It was as if I meant nothing to him and all those years of closeness (and thinking he was my best friend) were gone. I learned after the breakup the real reason for the coldness and it nearly broke me (it's a story I shared long after this post went public).
But, I think no matter what the situation is, breakups are tough. They challenge you in every way possible and make you second guess yourself. After you give yourself time to heal, the lessons are there and I have learned so much about myself (and others) in the process.
Practicing self care is important no matter what, but after a breakup it can feel near impossible, which is why I wanted to share what worked for me. If you have ever gone through something like this or are currently going through it, it is my hope that this can serve as a resource for you.
Gave myself time:
Time truly is the only thing you have that can get you through something. I learned this when I was grieving for my mom too. People always say "time heals all" and I couldn't agree more. It doesn't mean that the hurt and sadness just go away over time, they are always there. But over time, you can start to live again and it becomes a little easier day-to-day. It can be hard to remember this as you're going through it, but it really does help.
How You Choose To Spend Your Time is Equally Important
I will say that not only is it time that helps, but what you do with that time that matters too. As much as being surrounded by friends and family helped, I also needed time to process things on my own. I was so used to always having someone around and learning to be on my own again was hard. As someone who thinks of themselves as independent, I began to realize how much I relied on my ex. It was a powerful lesson for me to see that as nice as it is to have someone, that person didn't complete me. I was whole on my own and I was capable of so much more than I thought.
The time that I gave myself is one of the most valuable things I've ever done. In the last 7 months, I have grown so much. Even when I look at photos of myself from just 10-12 months ago, I feel and look like a different person. And it isn't just a physical thing, but a mental one. People always complimented me on my strength, but the truth is, I didn't feel strong. I think I was good at avoiding things that hurt, rather than truly dealing with them. But the time I spent on myself gave me the perspective to really look at my life, what I wanted and what I didn't.
Surrounded myself with friends and family:
WOW, can I just start by saying the people in my life who were there for me throughout my breakup, I love you! Friends that I weren't super close to offered to come over and just hang out so I wouldn't be alone. I had friends drive from 4 hours away to come and be with me on my birthday after I had arguably one of the worst days of my life. And I had family call me everyday just to check in on me, listen to me, let me cry and offered unconditional love and support.
Learn to Reach Out
It is really hard for me to reach out and ask for help. I prefer to do things on my own, but I had to learn that it is not only ok, but necessary to lean on people. These people are there for you because they care about you and they want to be there and you'd do the same for them. So lean on them.
I spend my days working for myself from home, so it is already a little isolating. So in the evenings and on weekends, I tried to spend time with friends. After spending one weekend alone, I felt myself getting depressed. I spent it inside and watched TV all day, cried and slept. There is nothing wrong with this, but it isn't healthy to do this all the time either. And I felt myself slipping into depression and so I made a promise to myself to reach out more. Self care after a breakup is much easier with friends and family.
Went to Therapy:
Around mid January 2019, I knew I needed to speak to a professional. Someone who wasn't a friend or family member that could offer an outside perspective. I've never went to therapy before and I was hesitant and a little embarrassed that I needed the help at first. But, this was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Therapy offered me the opportunity to look at my relationship in a different way. It allowed me the opportunity to talk about things in an open and honest way without fear of being judged or sharing too much with friends/family.
I would recommend therapy to anyone for anything. Of course, it may take a while to find the right therapist for you, but it is worth the time. If you find yourself dealing with heartbreak or anything else, please seek help.
Share That You Got Help
And if you have went to therapy, share it with others. I truly want to help end the stigma that getting help can still have. Everyone goes through things during their lives and there is nothing wrong with admitting you need help. Self care after a breakup is much easier when you have a therapist, trust me. The selfie below is what I took the day I finished my last therapy session (YAY!).
I'll be honest, the thought of dating scared the hell out of me in the beginning. I had never done the online dating thing and I haven't gone out with anyone new in 14 years. I know how to be in a relationship, but I don't know how to date! Like, no clue, at all.
So I said no to dating. I wanted to give myself lots of time to really focus on me, I knew that eventually I would feel ready. There is no right time that I think you need to wait. Personally, it took me over 6 months to feel ready to start dating again. But now, I am in the right mindset and headspace to start dating. I am taking it slow, but so far, it's been pretty fun which surprised me to be honest. I am a pretty shy person when I first meet someone and it takes me a little time to open up, so I have had to recognize that this is ok. But it has also forced me a little to get out of my comfort zone and open up more.
Dating Requires Vulnerability and Openness
Dating requires a level of vulnerability and until you feel ready to share and be vulnerable, my advice is to say no to dating. Sharing from a scar is a lot different than sharing from an open wound. This is also why I had to give myself some time before sharing more about my breakup. I needed to really be able to look inwards and gain valuable insights so I can share that with others.
It's also important to note that you may not "feel ready" to start dating and you may need to push yourself a little. Because the longer you wait, the harder it will be to start. Go slow, but also know that dipping your toe in is better than nothing. Oh and dating can be fun, who knew?!
You can read more about what dating has been like over here. And also read more about my own sober curious journey.
Focused on Me + Worked:
For the first time in the last 14 years, I put my needs ahead of anything else. I wasn't concerned about what my ex thought anymore nor was I concerned about protecting or defending him to others. Instead, I focused on what I wanted and what I needed. I booked a trip in February with my friend to Sayulita, Mexico (see pics below) and took the week to just relax and have fun in the sun. It wasn't the type of trip I was used to taking but something I had always wanted to do.
Journaling And Gratitude
I also journaled everyday in the beginning of my breakup. I would just write and write and write. Sometimes, it was pages long and it would be a rambling mess but it felt good and that is what mattered. I also stayed consistent with my gratitude journal, where I wrote down three things I am grateful for everyday.
These things helped me stay focused on me and what I wanted and needed. True self care after a breakup needs to include lots of alone time with a focus on your needs and wants.
Work to Stay Busy
I also worked a lot more than I did before. Not in the beginning, but after a few weeks, I picked up the amount of hours I worked in a day. It helped me feel like I had a greater purpose and kept me focused throughout the day so that my mind didn't wander to my ex. Distraction can be a good thing I think as long as you are still taking time to check in on yourself.
When you fill your day with things that fill you up and feel purposeful to you, it can completely change your perspective.
Bonus: Mend + Music + No Contact
One app that helped me SO MUCH in the beginning of my breakup was the Mend app. This app is a game changer! I used it daily to check in, listen to a short lesson on a topic that I chose about my breakup and journal. You can also track how you are feeling and what self-care practices you implemented that day. The lessons are fairly short, but very helpful and to the point. They also have lots of articles to browse through on the app that I found very useful. I highly recommend this app to anyone going through a breakup.
Please Don't Stop the Music
Music has always been something that I love. I listen to music everyday and after my breakup, I definitely found new songs and albums that helped me through this period. Obviously everyone has their own musical preference, but for me, I am not into super sappy or sad songs. I like hip hop and things that make me feel like dancing. Although I didn't feel like dancing much, I would sometimes put on something I loved and force myself to dance it out in my condo.
The top albums I listened to and helped me through my breakup were Beyoncé's Lemonade, especially the tracks- "Don't Hurt Yourself," "Sorry" and "Hold Up." I think you can take a wild guess as to why these songs resonated so well. I also listened a lot to Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy, especially the tracks "Be Careful," and "Thru Your Phone." Again, the song choices here are representative of how I was feeling at the time. But Beyoncé's album was super therapeutic for my own self care after the breakup.
As hard as it was for me to do no contact because we lived together and had things to sort through, as soon as I could, I stopped all form of communication. That meant no texts, social media or anything else. It was hard at first to implement, but after the first few weeks, it got easier.
I had to set boundaries for myself to protect my energy and focus on healing. I would highly encourage anyone going through a breakup try and do no contact as well. That means deleting/blocking on all social media as well because it can be far too tempting to want to creep and see what they are doing. This is for your own sanity, trust me! No matter what the reason is for the breakup, I still think no contact is the best option in the beginning. If you are meant to be in each others lives as friends later on, it can still happen down the road.
Self-Care After A Breakup
This list is indicative of what worked for me. And I fully realize that everyone is different, but I hope that me sharing this and being vulnerable can help you if you need it. The last 7-8 months have been some of the hardest, but the growth I've experienced from it all is something that I truly feel I needed to go through. I am positive that the universe has bigger and better things in store for me and the reasons things happened as they did are part of the lesson and my journey.
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I'd love to hear from you, what helped you through a breakup? Share below or email me if you want, I love hearing from you.