Ok. Deep breath. It is over.
Whatever songs the two of you had, whatever snacks you shared, whatever bathroom oddities you shook your head at in disbelief….They're gone. It's over. The relationship is over. But you are not; and, somehow, you have to remind yourself of who you are on the other side.
There are movies - entertaining movies - about how funny it is to cope with the heartache in a dysfunctional way. We might relate to Jessica Day's peppy optimism that breaks down periodically, or Monica's micromanaging, or the drinking in Bridesmaids. But, in real life, these coping mechanisms do not actually help your heart heal. That does not mean humor can't be a component to the process—it’s actually quite a powerful tool-- but it is one of many in the toolbox. Speaking of which…
Have you ever heard the expression:
"When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?"
It simply means a) one tool probably is not going to adequately address every situation and b) not everything needs to be hit to be functional - in fact, it doesn't usually!
So, with that being said, here are 8 Ways (or Tools!) from a Chicago Therapist to Boost Your Mental Health After a Breakup:
1) Take some time outdoors.
Try to soak up the sun. Quite literally, exposure to the sun gives us Vitamin D (The Sunshine Vitamin) which helps boost our mood and energize us. Even if it’s overcast, the fresh air can be revitalizing and a positive impact to your mental health and cognitive clarity.
This can also be a good time to check out new spots in the city—the Riverwalk; Lincoln Park Zoo; Humbolt Park---you know, all those places that exist where you live but you don’t go to as not-a-tourist. You could even drive outside of the city limits to a state park, nearby lake, or other cool spot you’ve always thought about checking out.
2) Explore new hobbies or interests without regard to what your ex would have thought.
I have a very vivid memory of a friend finally bringing out the red nail polish, softly explaining, "He only liked natural colors". Explore your preferences and try new things!
3) Go out.
Don't wait for the ideal date - just go out and try the new restaurant, or try the new hiking trail. Do not be afraid to travel alone if that is something you would like to do. Do not wait to have a good time for Significant Other to accompany you - you can create your own stories and build your own memories independently.
4) Hit the gym - but not to lose weight.
If you want to lose weight, by all means, go for it; but as you go, find the physical activity you enjoy doing. If you like playing pickleball, see if you can join a league; if you want to box and spar because it simply feels so good to hit someone, by all means, start boxing. If you love dancing, but something's always held you back, take those Zumba classes. The bottom line is that physical activity will signal to your brain that you're happy which will then give you a rush of dopamine.
Again I don't suggest you do this with the intent of losing weight necessarily. Other forms of measure - inches lost, lifting ability, endurance, balance, and more - will be more holistic metrics of your success than a scale that literally fluctuates as the day progresses.
5) Establish - and maintain - boundaries..
This is far easier said than done, but when we recognize we have power and influence to such simple phrases including, "I don't want to discuss that right now" or, "I can help with that an hour later, but I will not make it at this time" or even the famously simple, "No, I don't want to"... This is how we be find the strength to pick ourselves up and continue moving.
6) Keep a journal.
It will be sad at first because everything will remind you of that relationship. But, write it down anyway. Writing is a powerful way to process through something and is also a great way for your brain to get a break from ruminating.
7) Honestly address negative emotions.
It’s okay to not put on a happy face; in fact, attempting to do so all the time will actually drain you more, and stunt your healing process. It’s okay to let yourself feel sad, angry, or maybe even scared after a breakup. You can’t beat those feelings into submission. You can, however, find out what’s at the core of them, and turn them into things that aren’t so disruptive in the future. Maybe some trauma or codependent tendencies are surfacing. Maybe some modeling from childhood that isn’t so healthy or helpful is disrupting you. Therapy after a breakup can be a uniquely opportune time to address core issues—and move them out of the way for your next relationship.
8) Start Therapy
I’m sure you saw this tip coming….but it’s true. An objective perspective from a 3rd party can be powerful during the mental and emotional chaos after a tough breakup. A therapist can help you find some answers (they usually won’t be the answer you think you want/are looking for, but dang if it won’t set you up for better in the future), can definitely help you develop coping tools as you wade through heartbreak, and can certainly be a place you don’t have to worry “they must be so sick of hearing me repeat myself” like you might with friends and family.
Start Therapy for Mental Health in Chicago
If you live in Chicago and are ready to improve your mental health, we are here to help.
Whether it’s a breakup, work burnout, anxiety, depression, grief or maternal overwhelm that is robbing you of thriving in your life, our Marble Wellness mental health therapists can provide in-person or virtual sessions to help you. You can reach out to us on our website, request an appointment online, or give us a call today to get started. Please reach out to us and we will help get you started as quickly as possible.