Breakups are hard, both physically and emotionally. When you’re heartbroken, and missing someone you’ve spent so much time with, it can feel utterly overwhelming.
We humans are hardwired for connection. When that connection is severed it can bring up a lot of difficult emotions. When a relationship breaks down, the grief we experience can feel like a death.
You’re probably familiar with the five stages of grief. These stages are normal and help us to make sense of a tough situation. But while we’re busy processing the emotional response, our body is having its own response to the grief with a physical reaction.
Identifying some of those reactions, and looking after yourself through a tough time, can help you avoid running into long lasting emotional issues.
It can be alarming when our physical body responds to the separation. You might experience the following sensations:
- A hollow feeling in your stomach
- A tightening in your chest or throat
- A noticeable lack of energy
Other common physical reactions include:
- Changes to your normal sleeping patterns
- A significant loss of appetite or overeating
- A need for isolation and avoidance of any reminders of your ex.
When your body is going through these types of reactions it’s easy to think you’re never going to feel like yourself again. It will take time, but I promise you, things will start to settle down.
When you notice any of these sensations in your body try to remember it’s a natural state of grief and do the opposite of what you really want to do. Eat healthy, keep exercising, seek company and make getting a good night’s sleep your number one priority. Even if all you want to do is punch your ex in the face and fall in a giant heap, looking after yourself is key.
Fear, sadness, anger, hurt, loneliness, and even relief, are all normal responses when you’re going through a breakup. These difficult emotions can be overwhelming, but they will subside, it’s a necessary part of the process.
In the meantime, it’s important to honour your need to feel these emotions and ride them out. Of course, crying all day at work isn’t going to make you (or your colleagues) feel any better. Take some time off if you can or find ways to take your mind off things, at least while you’re at work.
The main thing is to be compassionate with yourself while you’re feeling this way. Let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling, and be gentle with yourself.
When we’re in a state of distress it can be easy to confuse our thoughts with our feelings. The thought process of something went wrong in the relationship turns into feelings of I must have done something wrong; it’s my fault!
It’s easy to go round and round in circles zooming in and scrutinising the part we played in the relationship breakdown. We start to blame ourselves and our negative thoughts continue to spiral.
The most common thought processes people have during a breakup involve disbelief, confusion and preoccupation.
Disbelief: there’s a sense of shock, which is the emotion, and, “I can’t believe it!” which is the thought. There’s an overriding feeling that you didn’t see it coming, that your brain can’t compute the reality of a future without the relationship.
Confusion: you might ask yourself “How did this happen? Why did this happen? What did I do or not do to make this happen?
Preoccupation: when there’s an overwhelming sense of hurt and anger, you might find yourself being preoccupied with the ending of the relationship. You might go over and over what the other person did or said. You might have little room for thinking about anything else other than the breakup, but this only increases the feelings of loneliness, sadness and anger.
Try to catch yourself when you’re starting to fall into one of these common thinking patterns and gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Practising mindfulness techniques like this simple breathing exercise will give you a welcome sense of relief from the overwhelm you may be feeling.
It’s important to remember that a separation is a transition – not a life sentence. You are simply moving from one phase to another in your life. Give yourself (and your body) enough time to process things properly.
Allow yourself to feel the emotions and take as much time as you need to heal the wounds so when you’re ready you can find connection again with someone else.
How have you looked after yourself during and after a breakup? Share any tips or practices that have helped you during difficult times in the comments below.