Breaking Up, Not Breaking Down

Some bad news: More people will break up just before Christmas than at any other time of the year.

The festive season is over and, unfortunately, so are a lot of relationships. According to Facebook stats, December 11 is the ultimate breakup day of the year and break ups are most likely to peak around two weeks before Christmas and again at Spring Break (an ironic title in this context).

Right After a Breakup

Breaking up is gut-wrenching and soul-sucking.

After it happens, a lot of people feel as though they will not survive and maybe they’re not sure they want to and many wonder if the pain will ever go away. But, then, after a lot of heartache has washed over them, the oppressive, heavy sadness lifts just a tiny, little bit. This small shift supplies just enough energy to consider some new options.

Building Up after Breaking Up

Where to start?
Begin by framing this difficult time as a process that you are strong enough and resilient enough to handle.
You are sad but you are also strong.
You are bereft but you are not broken.
You can and will get through this.

No heroics but no nihilism either.

Need some ideas? Here are some to consider (but not all at once):

Keep the Comfy Coming

Soften your path. This is a rough and rocky valley you are trudging through so any small comfort can mean a lot. Schedule concessions and indulgences throughout your week and…

Ditch the “perfect self” myth.
   This is the mistaken belief that you should be able to do everything just like before and that you are weak and undisciplined if you don’t. Note: suffering and grief compromise your whole system so that everything takes more energy, which leads to the next idea…

Value self-compassion.
Treat yourself as you would a best friend—gently, kindly, and compassionately. If you are harsh with yourself, healing will take longer.

Balance energy in and out. Grief is the job you never applied for but got anyway. It’s hard and lonely work that you will have to do for way too long (it’s always too long). Purposefully avoid exhausting your resources. Rest more. Restore more.

Be social.
Don’t avoid people too much. If talking to others i.e., managing people’s responses and discomfort is too painful or tiring, hang around people you don’t know you but will share some space with you (like at a theatre or climbing wall).

Don’t hook up for pain relief.
This would also include not dating others for spite or revenge. Treat the people in your life with respect and respect yourself at the same time.

Learn to cry more, cry less, or by appointment.
If you don’t usually cry, let some emotions flow out of you via tears. If you’re crying more than you want, limit or schedule your crying. As counterintuitive as it seems, scheduling times to cry with a distinct beginning and end time can be a really helpful strategy.

Disrupt the new reality:

If your home feels empty… Fill it up in interesting ways. If all the furniture is gone, the living room floor can become your biggest canvas or organizational platform ever. Or, “stage” your home: create a very comfortable corner. Make an altar with sacred-to-you objects that increase connection to yourself, others, or faith.

If your home feels cluttered and too full of memories
… Clean out a cupboard or a closet or a storage locker. Start small with easy categories: keep, throw, and not sure. Put some things in boxes until you can deal with them with less pain and more efficiency.

If your days feel repetitive or pointless
… Learn how to do something, volunteer or serve someone. These actions generally produce meaning, purpose, and vision and will reduce the harsh, depressing inner voice that tells you nothing matters or that you don’t matter.

If your days and weekends stretch on forever
… Make plans, but resist ones that are too taxing. There are many hard hours to fill with many convincing reasons why you shouldn’t bother: too tired, don’t feel like it, can’t decide, can’t think of anything to do, don’t want to do anything. But ideas don’t have to come from you; check out city guides, goings on at your library, retreats, etc. You don’t have to do things alone if you don’t want to.

Re/Establish Rhythms

Continue. Keep the routines, rhythms, and rituals that you can still manage to do. Maybe dial down the intensity or frequency but don’t give up on all of them. A spin class might be too intense but a couple of laps around your block will keep you moving and avoid an awkward lunch with co-workers.

List and reflect
. Write out your strengths and resources and add to the list often. Use whatever collection process is most unfamiliar to you: paint an emotion instead of listing words; collect objects in a container instead of re-re-rehearsing thoughts. Reflect on the good parts of your life every day and, especially, just before sleeping.

Get outside
. Walk or sit outside for a minimum 20 minutes a day. This is guaranteed to increase your happiness by at least 10%, which is a lot. Create reasons to walk. Get off the bus a few stops earlier. Walk to the corner store for your almond milk.

Overall, remember this is a season, not a lifetime. You will get through this by going through it, even if it is one day at a time. But, if life is really hard for a long time, access more support and resources from people who are trained to help people through these kinds of things.

Peace to you,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC
Twitter: @gottasecond

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