Have you been in a situation where you have not moved on from a breakup but your friends - and possibly your family - are all “over it”?
It is one of those things where you know breaking up was the best decision for your emotional and mental health (or maybe you don’t know that and that’s one of the reasons you’re here, checking out Therapy for Breakup Recovery)…and yet.
Yet you are still stuck on the 7th track of an Adele album; your friends, meanwhile, are ready to sing every song in the Shania Twain catalogue and mingle with all the other singles.
It is a truly horrifying realization when you finally catch it: you have regurgitated every painstaking detail of what could have been, what actually happened, and the trajectories you both are on in the future with such clarity and exactness that exactly nobody wants to hear any other detail---any more word vomit---from you on this topic ever again.
So, it begs the question: where do you go now in your breakup recovery? How do you actually work to get over it? Is the answer a rebound relationship? Copious amounts alcohol or other substances? Binge watching? Sleeping? Signing up your ex for all the obnoxious spam phone calls known to humanity?
Right, we can generally identify unhealthy coping mechanisms when we are talking about them.
But what about substituting them with meaningful alternatives. Can you call up those tools with the same ease?
If you can’t, or if you’re just looking for a boost in your toolkit, we’re here to chat with you.
Here are 4 healthy ways to cope after a breakup from a Chicago Mental Health Therapist:
Develop a hobby.
Even better, develop two. One you can do alone. And one you can do in community. Chicago, and really most mid- to major-cities these days have an abundance of groups that cater to various interests, talents, demographics, and more. Whether you’re looking to run the next Chicago marathon or find other exercise groupies for Fitness in the Park, or tour the restaurants of Greek Town or Chinatown, or just have picnics on the steps at the Mart or anywhere along Lake Michigan….you can find it in Chicago.
Maybe start with Facebook or even the handy ole’ “Meetup” app. There, you’ll surely be able to find groups for sports, hiking, writing, karaoke, travel, food tasting, bird watching, and more.
And why do this? Gaining a group of friends who never knew you as part of a couple can be a great cathartic release. Create new memories with new people, and the word vomit will surface less often.
And a solo hobby can occupy your time and your hands, directing your mind away from the memory reel and away from the social media stalking. If you’re not sure what hobbies you have already and are in the market for developing a new one, go take a walk through Michael’s or another craft store. See what grabs your attention. Maybe try a few different things. Puzzles; paint-by-numbers; wreath making. A hobby is about leisure time and enjoyment. This means you don’t have to be good at it. You don’t have to put up pictures on Instagram of your creations or turn anything into a side hustle. It’s just about something you look forward to doing for no other reason.
Identify which relationships from the past are worth your continued investment - and which might need a break.
A friend can be a friend from a distance; not all friends are equally skilled at helping you recover from a breakup - and that's okay. Sometimes, we need to recalibrate expectations of people and recognize we are asking them to carry an emotional burden they don't have the wherewithal to carry. Sometimes, we expect our friends to be therapists when they have none of the qualifications and zero objectivity. It does not mean they cannot help and do not provide support - it means you might want to redirect that need to our next point: an actual therapist.
Process with an objective third party who wants to see you grow as a person; typically, a licensed mental health professional will be the best solution.
A therapist can help you identify destructive patterns that can cause you to spiral - and that person can also empower you to break cycles, develop new coping mechanisms, and foster a sense of pride in yourself. The likelihood of working through a breakup with a therapist can even include what might seem unthinkable now: you grow into an even better version of yourself than before the breakup.
Maintain a routine.
A breakup is a grief event. It can wreak havoc on your day-to-day life, especially in those initial days or weeks. It can become easy to throw away the habits or lifestyle you once kept. Or, maybe if you’re feeling depressed or anxious after the breakup, it’s less a matter of choice and more a matter of inability to do the daily habits you used to maintain. The point is: make it as non-optional as you can. If you used to wake up every morning for a 60-75 minutes gym routine, maybe knock it down to 30 minutes and do something that requires less exertion. If you would come home from work and take your dog for a walk and then do a household chore, followed by making a quick dinner….do the same. Maintaining circadian rhythm, boundaries of time, and lifestyle habits that contribute to hygiene and self-care are critical to moving through that break-up grief.
Especially important in this routine you maintain, is maintaining your social routine. Dinner with the family every Sunday? Still go. Monthly book club: show up to it. You can cut down a bit, or not go as long, but make sure you’re showing your face around family and friends. It helps to get out of your house, and even if it is hard in the moment, being around the people who love you is critical to building yourself back up.
Let’s face it. Break ups are hard. And they can take a toll on our energy; our outlook; our relationships; our thoughts; and so much more. With the right tools though, you can manage that difficulty. It might not make it feel easy but that’s not what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to make it manageable. Trying to keep you healthy. Giving you tools to take the intensity and sharpness off of that grief. And keep you upright until that breakup grief washes back out to the ocean and you’re feeling like you again.