Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.
Posted: July 07, 2014 by Jeff Guenther
Hello my name is Jeff and I am a licensed professional counselor. Today on mental help desk I am going to give you tips on how to feel better after going through a break up. I’ll focus on how you can start feeling better now, by working to change your thought patterns.
A relationship ending is one of the hardest things to go through in life. You may feel like you'll never get over the pain. Sometimes It's hard to imagine you'll ever be able to move on or be happy again. In these situations the more you want something, the more you suffer when you focus on the absence or lack of it. You get caught up in how painful it is to be single and alone. It’s incredibly difficult to try and pivot to better feeling thoughts when your mood is so low. Sometimes it's appropriate to just hang out with your depression and grief. You don’t need to feel like you should fight it if you don’t want to. Maybe you can reach out to some friends or family and get emotional support. It can help a lot to feel like others understand what you’re going through at this time.
It's common to forget for a minute you're no longer in a relationship and then when you remember it can just feels the worst. It's like a weird phantom limb experience. Or maybe you hear the cliche line "time heals all wounds." I can't stand hearing that crap when I feel horrible. I usually don't think it applies to me because time has gone by and I still feel miserable.
Every now and then you can find yourself in a place where you are feeling a bit more relief or just a tiny bit lighter and that's when you might want to try bumping up your mood just a tiny bit. The trick here is to not attach to thoughts that fantasize about getting back with your partner. It's about thinking thoughts that move you beyond the relationship.
Maybe thoughts that sound something like: “I’m not always sad because I do find myself focusing on other things sometimes.” As a therapist I'll always dig around here for a while with a client. My intention is to show you that depression sucks but when we are depressed we often are not depressed 100% of the time. There are times we can laugh and smile or feel content. And sometimes realizing that can be relieving. It's not always intense sadness.
Another relieving thought you might have is “even though I was in a relationship, most of my life was spent away from them doing other things.” When you're in a relationship you don't think about them all through the day, right? You think about work and hanging out with your friends and you're annoying sister and how your parents are clueless and what to eat and what shows you want to go to... Your life revolves around you. Not them. As it should be.
Thinking this way may not be a huge jump from where you were before but it should create at least a slight feeling of relief. If I can sense that a client is able to keep feeling a little more relief from the situation I might suggest a thought that sounds something like “I am glad that I had the time I did with them and someday I may even find another partner that I’ll love as well.” So here you feel a bit of gratitude that they were ever in your life and you also tap into the fact that there can be someone else that will be special to you in the future. Your ex isn't the only game in town. This can feel like a pretty huge jump from where you were before but it can be soooo relieving if it resonates with you. This thought is usually paired with a another thought like, “However, I am not quite ready to be in another relationship because a new partner can sometimes be a life changing experience.” Remember there is no urgency here at all. You don't have to rebound into another long term relationship. It's more about opening your mind than actually behaving differently.
Now just stay with these feelings of neutrality and stop here and hang out for a bit. It’s good to spend as much time as you need here before trying to feel positive, upbeat and optimistic about your situation.
Notice that all these thoughts are meant to create feelings of relief from where you were before. That's really the trick to feeling better after a breakup. You need to slowly move up the scale of emotions. From despair to anger to blame to worry to disappointment to frustration to pessimism to boredom to contentment. There is no need to force hopefulness, enthusiasm and joy. You'll get there once you go though the crappy feeling first. Promise.
I'm really sorry about your breakup. Take as much time as you need. However if you start feeling that the recovery process is taking to long you might benefit from seeing a therapist. A mental health professional can be really helpful in these situations.