Being dumped is a uniquely terrible facet of the human experience. We will all go through awful, tragic situations in our lives that are worse than being broken up with, but there is something powerful and particularly soul-crushing about having someone you care about look you in the face and say he or she doesn’t want to be with you. In the immediate aftermath of your breakup, you have to let yourself wallow as much as you need to: watch crap movies, eat ice cream, sing in the car, refuse to get out of bed. After a few days, however, it's time to start being a human (or human-ish; let's not be crazy) again: make yourself leave your room, take a shower, go to work, and start the slow, painful process of moving on. I’m not suggesting that you’ll never wallow again, but letting yourself soak in your sadness indefinitely is only going to make feeling better that much harder. The most important element of getting over a breakup is, of course, time. There’s no quick fix for a broken heart; it’s simply going to take a while for all those hurt bits of you to heal. But I know that when you’re right in the midst of heartbreak, the idea that you’re just supposed wait until things improve is maddeningly vague. Sure, you’ll probably feel better in a year, but what the hell are you supposed to do right now?
When you’re overwhelmed by bad emotions, sometimes simply having an actual, enforceable plan moving forward can make life seem a little brighter. Below are a few things you can do right now to pull yourself back to the land of the living and move on from your last relationship. These activities may not cure your broken heart all on their own, but they may help you find the road to recovery.
1. Make sure the relationship is really over
You won’t be able to move on if you still have one foot stuck in your old relationship, so the first order of business is to cut off communication with your ex. I know that it is so, so tempting to keep talking, to think that even the slightest bit of contact will make you feel better. It won’t. Every time you call or text or see your ex, it’ll be like ripping off a newly formed scab. I am a firm believer that exes can be friends, but not in the immediate wake of a breakup, and certainly not when one of you is completely devastated. You’ve got to heal yourself before you can start building a friendship.
Regular exercise increases serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep cycles; increases in serotonin levels have the affect of elevating mood. Simply put, exercise will make you happier. Chemicals aside, exercising regularly can also make you feel more productive and more in control.
3. Commit to a practice
Lots of gyms and yoga studios have programs or “challenges” that can help people to develop new habits. For example, you could sign up for a 30-day yoga challenge at your local studio and practice every morning, or you could join a club that’s training for a 10K. If athletics don’t appeal to you, try committing to a challenge that does. If you’re an artist, commit to painting everyday for a month; if you’re a cook, commit to trying at least three new recipes a week. These challenges will help you move forward by giving your life some structure and an achievable goal towards which to work.
4. Change your appearance
The “Woman Who Cuts Off All Her Hair After A Break Up” is a total cliché, but, as with most clichés, it exists for a reason. When you’ve gone through a bad breakup, it’s easy to feel like your identity is completely wrapped up in your failed relationship. Doing things that make your identity feel different, even in minor ways, can help you to feel less defined by your heartbreak. If cutting off all your hair is too extreme for you, have some fun changing up your style in less drastic ways: try a new look with make up, mix up your clothing routine, take up nail art. Whatever works for you.
If your ex spent a lot of time in your home (or lived with you), then your apartment might seem like a weird, sad shrine to the relationship in the wake of its dissolution. If certain aspects of your place constantly remind you of your ex, change them! Redecorate your bedroom on the cheap by repainting (if your landlord allows, obvs), mixing up artwork on the walls, and rearranging your furniture. You’ll be surprised how much a few simple changes can make your home feel like yours again.
6. Do something creative
Feeling rejected by someone you love is a surefire way to completely shred your sense of self-worth. (As an aside, this is why breakups are so difficult: You have all sorts of complicated, sad feelings about the ex, but what’s even harder to get over is how the breakup messes with your own sense of identity and worth.) Doing something creative—through making art, cooking, learning to sew, or building something, to name a few options—is a great way to remind yourself that you are a capable, powerful, interesting person. If you have the ability to actually make something—anything—then you have the power to get over your broken heart.
Sometimes a total break in routine can do wonders for getting out of a post-breakup rut, and what’s a better break than traveling somewhere cool? Traveling is also a great reminder that the world is full of possibilities—just like you are.
8. Ask for help if you need it
Sometimes the initial grief of a breakup can swing right into a lasting depression. If you feel like you’re really struggling to move forward—if you feel pinned down by sadness all the time—don’t be afraid to ask for help. A few sessions with a good therapist might make all the difference; sometimes simply hearing the right advice from a disinterested third party can do wonders.
Images: Mitya Ku/Flickr; Giphy (5)