13 Proven Ways to Help You Recover From a Broken Heart
The only thing harder than breaking up with your ex, is going through the breakup itself.
It's full of unpredictability.
And you never really know if you're going to burst out in tears during a work meeting. (Even if it's been a few months since the split.)
My name is Nancy, and I'm a Breakup Coach. I help men work though their thoughts and feelings during their breakups, while simultaneously providing a safe space to express themselves. Just like you, I went through a really tough time when I ended things with my ex. You can read about my story here.
Luckily, during that confusing period, I tested out a lot of traditional breakup advice, and today—I'm sharing with you what worked, and what continues to help the women I work with.
Maybe you're reading this after a fresh breakup, or maybe you're in the middle of a divorce after 20 years of marriage; wherever you are in your journey, it's never too late to take care of yourself, and to learn from others who have walked in your shoes. I'm going to share what gave me more hope, love, and motivation to keep pushing through my breakup. As they say, the only out of hell—is through.
1. Appreciate the Struggle (Because it's Real)
You might wonder to yourself, "why do I still feel so obsessed with my ex?" or, "why do I constantly want to text him," and this is because of what's actually happening in our brains while we're going through a breakup; apparently, we experience neural changes after a breakup. A study done at Rutgers Universityfound that participants who viewed images of their ex had parts of their brains light up associated with addiction and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This might also explain why our friends continue to say things like, "are we still talking about them?" Or, "shouldn't you be over him by now?" Our brains are looking to satisfy a craving similar to being addicted to a drug—and we just thought we were hurting from our hearts! Science provides more insight into what's going on behind the scenes during this painful time.
So what can you do about this? Well, firstly, understanding the enormity of the experience you're going through is the first thing. The second is to give yourself some much-needed compassion. Giving yourself permission to feel hurt, even after months since the split, is part of the healing process.
Providing self-compassion and letting go of self-judgment when you end a relationship will help you release those feelings that you "should" be over your ex. In my coaching, I help my clients find areas where they often judge themselves after their breakups, and together we work through letting go of those thoughts and building their self-confidence. Find out more by booking a free coaching call with me.
2. Self-Care Every Day is a MUST
I didn't know the importance of self-care until I broke up with my ex. I basically had no self-care until I realized the pain without one; wishful thinking had me feeling like being in my 20s meant I had ample amounts of energy, laissez-faire attitude, and could work 10 hours a day and recoup easily. This all started catching up on me when it all fell down like a tone of bricks.
Oh, and I also thought rest and relaxation was only for the weekend. (It turns out this is something we are societally conditioned to think.)
So, how do you start taking care of yourself outside of just weekends? Here are just a few ideas you can do every single day of the week:
Unplug from technology an hour before bed (a work-in-progress for me)
Meditate (even if it's just 5 minutes)
Drink gut-friendly teas (I did this every day)
Go for a walk in nature
Take a relaxing bath (a personal favourite of mine)
Create a morning routine (another personal favourite)
Say "no" more often
Eat more nutritious dinners at home
Set an intention every morning
3. Take Advantage of Your Newfound Freedom
I resisted traditional breakup advice for a long time, like "put yourself out there and try new things," as I often held onto thoughts and memories I desperately wanted to get back. This was a real setback for me given that I had completely stopped living in the moment and was always looking in the past at the things he and I did together (yet also not wanting to do those things by myself either). When I decided to try new things—like meeting friends off Instagram (yes, IG is a great place to meet people), accepting invitations to places I'd likely know no one, and attending more networking events, I started appreciating the new opportunities available to me. I realized how much I discovered about myself—and how much of a bubble I was living in before my relationship ended. That's the thing; relationships have the potential to keep us staying within our comfort zones, so being able to realize just how small my bubble was—was really powerful.
4. Give Yourself Dedicated Time to Grieve
I remember I would have huge bursts of intense emotions at very inopportune times. For example, in front of my then-boss, or simply walking down the street (followed by putting on my sunglasses)—those tears—along with feeling my voice choke up—were pretty much inevitable, until I gave myself time specific times in the day to grieve. In the evening, I'd put on this 9+ hour breakup playlist full of my favourite sad hits, so that my emotions wouldn't build up and come out during the middle of living my life. As we know, music is one of the fastest ways to change our moods, so this is a really effective way to get in touch with our emotions. (without sacrificing our work productivity.)
Not sold? It's like when they say if you're feeling nervous before a presentation, it's good to sweat that anxiety out during some physical exercise, so that you won't have all that tension built up in your body when it comes time to present your work.
5. Go For Intentional Coffee Dates With Friends
At the top of my list, going for coffee (or drinks) with people to specifically talk about what is happening in your life is really effective for treating a broken heart. For me personally, this has helped me create a healthy and open space to express myself, without feeling rushed to get everything out (in case the person I'm talking to doesn't have a lot of time to chat).
When I would preface texts or calls with "hey, I feel like I really need to talk about what's been going on with me, can we go for coffee?" this would signal to my friends what I needed from them. I realized this was was wildly more effective for receiving empathy than when I'd randomly start bringing up my ex in a casual conversation. By doing this, I'm making time to get my thoughts out in the open, and letting my friends help me through the process without them giving me advice I wasn't looking for.
6. Identify Your Empathetic Friends (and be Discerning)
In the beginning of my breakup, I would talk about my ex to anyone who would be within a 4-meter radius of me. This ultimately led to a lot of advice receiving, uncomfortable people, and frustration on my part. You've probably noticed how this might be going on with you, too. I wanted to talk about my feelings, but I also didn't want to come out feeling more overwhelmed and confused than when I first started talking. (Something that often happens when you open up a discussion).
I realized that by being discerning who I spoke with, I not only felt significantly more supported by the end, but I actually enjoyed my conversation more as I didn't have to keep repeating myself and justifying my actions. Not everyone is going to have enough empathy to give you empathy. Who in your life has listened to you speak without judgment? Who in your life listens to you, without an intention to reply? Gravitate towards those people when you're feeling like you want someone to talk to.
Of course, in the beginning of a breakup, you will want to talk to everyone, but after a while, it's good to find those empathetic friends who will help you through the process.
7. Get in Touch With Your Inner Voice
Over the course of my breakup, I found many days to be emotionally unpredictable. One of my biggest fears was not being able to know how I'd feel in a few hours should I attend an event. (I didn't want to have to leave an event because I started to think about my ex while someone was talking to me mid-cocktail.)
What I started to do was listen to the tiny voice inside of me that served as my guiding compass. I'd ask myself simple things like, "what do I need today?" or, "how am I feeling today?" To my surprise, this was really helpful when it came to deciding what I truly wanted to do. It would help me discern if I had the bandwidth to attend the event, or attend the next one when I'm feeling up for it.
I know it's silly to think that you would have conversations with yourself, but it helped me to listen to my intuition and what I needed in that moment, or for that day. Without it, I would just default to what I thought I "had" to do, or what was "best," which is more alienating than anything. This will help you develop the relationship you've always wanted with yourself.
8. Talk to a Coach (Even for Just One Session)
When I was going through my breakup, I was inspired to reach out to coaches who could help me excel in my life. If you haven't yet hired a coach, let me just share the obvious benefits from square one: their entire job is based on helping you feel supported, motivated, and excited to make changes in your life, or at the very least —work through the issues you're having in the moment.
Every time I'd hire a coach (and it would mostly just be one power session), no matter what for, it felt sogood to have an entire hour focused on me, where their #1 purpose was to help me through what I was working on.
I couldn't do that with friends and family—mainly because they didn't have the skill set, although their intentions were definitely there. I needed someone who could help me through things I didn't even know I needed help with.
I became a breakup coach after 3.5 years of working in the matchmaking industry and realizing that most people I interviewed hadn't sought any kind of help for their breakups. They didn't know where to look for empathy, understanding, support, and encouragement outside of hiring a therapist or life coach, which is often an expensive a long-term commitment. On this note, I created my coaching practice so women can get the support they deserve during a breakup, while not having to worry about their finances. Aside from divorces being very costly, getting breakup support shouldn't be limited to those who can afford thousands of dollars per month for coaching. Learn more about my affordable, online breakup packages here.
Read: Why Investing in Breakup Coaching Might Just be the Best Decision You Ever Made (And It's Affordable Too)
9. Teach Your Friends to Simply Listen
I'm sure you've learned by now that your friends want to help, and their way of doing so is by providing "sound" advice and approaching the situation "logically" (i.e "just stop texting him!") This can become frustrating as you are actually in need of empathy—which is having friends be present with you, and expressing yourself, without their giving advice.
Seeing as how I was a matchmaker when my relationship ended, my ego was on high alert when people would provide advice! This actually helped to my benefit, and I'll tell you why:
What I started to do was let my friends know in advance that "today, I'm hoping you'll help me work through my thoughts, and if you could do that by asking me more questions about what I'm talking about." When I made that small tweak in communication—I noticed I didn't need to talk as much about my ex, and I felt good after I had conversations. The conversation also felt really constructive. It's almost like our conversations were shorter, more effective, with a lot more satisfaction. And that came from the fact that I would preface with letting them know subtly that I didn't need their advice.
10. Journal — Strategically
I would get annoyed when all the online self-help articles suggested I would benefit from picking up a bloody journal—because I didn't really know how to do that in a way that worked for me.
Here's what I discovered: listing 3-5 things that were challenging about today, along with 3-5 things that were good about today, I felt a ton of clarity and progress (and the joy would start to creep back in).
If I just wrote freely, I felt like I could be there forever with nothing constructive coming out of it. I wanted to be constructive with this breakup tool, and turn my thoughts into positive ones.
This new method helped me stay focused on what was happening with me, without throwing myself a pity party. (And we know how easy it is to do that.)
Here's an example of how I'd journal using this method:
Biggest Challenges Today
Felt emotional in the morning
Someone mentioned [that restaurant] my ex and I used to go to all the time
Felt unproductive at work
What Was Good About My Day
Thought about taking a dance class to meet new people
A stranger complimented my top
This puppy video make me smile
Made plans to see my friends this weekend
While making these two lists, it's important to do your positive list second, so you can end on a happy note. You'll find it easier to start with the negative anyway (and that's okay).
While none of these bullet points seem like a big deal, it's really about acknowledging both sides of your day. Giving yourself space to talk about the hard parts, and also giving yourself permission to end of a happy note is a very healthy way to move through your breakup. Every day, you'll see small, subtle improvements, and will serve as a reminder that you can still enjoy each day as it comes.
11. Reframe the Story You're Telling Yourself
You might be tired of hearing, "look on the bright side," mostly because if you could...you would. It's not an easy process—especially if people keep telling you this. (Adding more pressure than is necessary, right?)
This is why turning to reframing is a great option for you. Simply put, reframing is the process of looking at the same facts, but seeing another perspective. This a great way to build your resilience and handle what life gives you. there is also an immense amount of wisdom to be gained through the challenges we face, and applying the reframing process helps us see the positive in our circumstances.
For example, maybe you've been holding onto the fact that your ex ended things with you, and you find yourself saying, "he'll never find anyone else like me."
You can reframe the situation by acknowledging that maybe he had to let you go in order for you to meet the person who's been searching for you, but hasn't yet arrived. With this shift in perspective, you go from feeling resentful, to feel grateful for your ex's actions.
Write down 5-10 things that make you angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, and reframe them to see the lessons. What positive side can you see out of what happened? Give yourself a few days to sit on this one. In my coaching, I help my ladies practice this way of thinking, and it's something that will develop the more you apply it in every-day situations. Talk to me about how to reframe your biggest breakup struggle.
12. Read When You Feel Stuck
This is hands-down the best recommendation I could give you for your breakup. If you've found yourself feeling "stuck"—as in your find yourself repeating the same thoughts or feelings and can't seem to shake them—it's great to pick up a book that speaks to that specific issue.
When I ended things with my ex, I created a breakup ritual that led me to the bookstore every Saturday morning to pick up a new book to read for the week. My mother used to tell me, "books were my best friend growing up" and I must have inherited that side of her because I have found a deep connection with each book I read.
If you've been feeling inspired to read, but are overwhelmed by the huge selection online or in-store, let's book a call and I can help you pick one that suits your needs in my 30-minute free coaching session.
13. Balance Your Bad Days With Good Days
I would get so wrapped up in my breakup pains that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Fortunately for me, I ended my relationship during the summer, which meant I could spend more time on boats, enjoying the sun, meeting new people, and having BBQs with close friends. Pulling myself (even if I had to drag my feet) out of the dark hole I had accidentally fallen into, helped serve as a reminder that brighter days can be had, even if I am really sad. And that's okay. I deserve to feel good, even when I'm feeling blue. (And so do you.)
If you're not a super social person, make every day count by giving yourself a little treat; maybe that's a whole hour in the bathtub, or maybe that's inviting your girlfriends to come over and watch a movie on a weekday, or maybe it's as simple as watching a movie alone. Create an intention to give yourself treats during this time, as balancing those hard days is going to be something you'll find very useful in years to come.
Getting over a breakup is one of life's hardest events. One thing I know for sure is that with enough self-love and compassion, you can pick yourself up and keep going. While these times can feel extremely emotionally draining, know that there is wisdom within the struggle. You've got this—I know you do.
So, to summarize, you're going to recover from your breakup by:
Appreciating how difficult breakups really are
Creating a self-care routine you can do every day
Making good use of your new freedom
Creating a safe space to express your feelings
Meeting for coffee with friends to express yourself
Leaning on your empathetic friends
Getting in touch with your inner voice
Teaching your friends to listen instead of just providing advice
Journaling with intention
Reframing your perspective
Picking up a book about your breakup
Adding more positivity to your day
Thank you for reading! XO
Be sure to join the HELLOBreakup community HERE!