How To Get Over A Breakup: All The Tips You’ll Ever Need


Krati Mehra

Author:

December 28, 2023

Krati Mehra

By Krati Mehra

mbg Contributor

Krati Mehra is an empowerment coach, host of Experible podcast, speaker, and writer. She has a Masters from University College London and a Bachelors in Psychology from Panjab University.

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Image by Lyuba Burakova / Stocksy

December 28, 2023

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Endings are always painful, and breakups can be profoundly devastating. A breakup marks the conclusion to one of life’s more important chapters, the pages of which carried some of your most cherished memories, most deeply felt emotions, and hidden within its folds, a much-desired future.

The end of a romantic relationship can hurt your self-image, as well as derail your plans, break your heart, and leave you questioning what you once took for granted. Even when it’s for the right reasons—and even if you’re the one who made the decision—a breakup invariably leaves an emptiness in its wake.

“People expect grief to get smaller with time, but actually, your life grows around it. You don’t just ‘get over it.’ It changes form,” says registered clinical counselor and psychotherapist, Ronald Hoang, adding, “Time on its own is not a healing agent. We need to give it shape and meaning.”

Every breakup is unique, and healing happens in its own time. While there’s no universal guide to hasten your recovery as you get over a breakup, the following suggestions from experts can help.

How to get over a breakup

1.

Lean into the experience & feel your feelings

Immediately following a breakup, especially an unexpected one, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. It’s also pointless to try for healing when your feelings are so raw. If you were the one who initiated the breakup, you’re dealing with sadness mixed with a heavy sense of guilt. 

So, before doing anything else, take the time to sit with your emotions. It’s OK to cry and vent. Stay in bed and binge your favorite shows, eat comfort food, or do something else that soothes you. This initial period of emotional indulgence is not only understandable but necessary.

As Callisto Adams, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist, explains, “There is a common misconception when it comes to moving on from a breakup—that burying emotions does the trick. Not only does it not work, it intensifies the pain. Think of it as making popcorn in a pot; the lid may be closed, but the kernels are still very much popping.”

Trying to move on in the initial days would demand a degree of repression and forced positivity, neither of which is healthy. It will also delay the recovery process. On the other hand, spending some time feeling your feelings will allow you to get that negativity and heaviness out of your body and attain some much-needed mental clarity.

2.

Reach for the old reliable sources of joy

In the early days after a breakup, when making even the simplest of decisions can be a struggle, revisiting familiar sources of joy and happiness can be a relief. 

Escape from your reality into the comforting pages of a beloved book. Let your favorite music lull you to sleep. Watch an old favorite movie. Set up a tent in the living room and relive childhood days with a bucket of ice cream and nonstop cartoons. Do activities that bring back smiles and laughter, even briefly. 

If there were interests that you gave up to do more coupley things, now is the perfect time to reengage with them. These activities, though simple, can provide a sense of calm and familiarity in a time of upheaval.

3.

Find acceptance through understanding

As hard as it is to accept, breakups often happen for the right reasons, and once the relationship is over, its progression, experiences, and events leading up to the break can be hugely informative. Licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, LMFT, recommends doing a “relationship autopsy” to sort through your thoughts and feelings. 

Such exercises can help you pick the right partner in the future, be a better partner yourself, and learn more about your attachment style, boundaries, and needs in a relationship. Most importantly, as a study1 published in the journal Emerging Adulthood confirms, a narrative that helps you make sense of this abrupt ending begins to emerge when you examine your relationship more objectively. 

Now, as you sob over the happy memories, you also start to remember the dysfunction in the relationship. You see how you contributed to the breakup, and while it doesn’t end the heartache, it gives you a more helpful perspective. You can make peace with the event and find acceptance and closure once you understand what led up to it.

4.

End all contact with your ex 

Hoang notes how much better it was when people could break up and never see their ex again, but thanks to social media, that is no longer possible unless you take steps to make it so. “It’s almost as if we’re intentionally retraumatizing ourselves,” he says, noting that the “continuous exposure keeps us stuck in the grief process and prevents us from being able to heal.”

Ceasing contact in real life and online can significantly aid your recovery. If you don’t wish to unfollow your ex, consider limiting their access to your content and use the features offered by most social media platforms to hide their updates from popping up on your feed. 

While ending all contact can be difficult, limiting contact, particularly for those who are co-parenting, is an option. Those who want to be friends eventually can reestablish their connection after they’ve both moved on and healed. 

Consider it self-preservation 101. If you were not the one to initiate the breakup, learning about how they are moving on and even dating again can create a lot of emotional turmoil and jeopardize your progress.

5.

Get rid of all physical reminders

Just as it is essential to end all contact with your ex, so is getting rid of old mementos and physical reminders of your time together.

Looking at these items, whether gifts, photos, or personal belongings, can reignite old memories and emotions associated with the relationship, making it difficult to move forward. It will hinder your attempts at creating the distance and detachment necessary for healing.

Moreover, the act of throwing away such objects can be empowering. It symbolizes a fresh start and gives you control over your environment and emotional state.

6.

Draw strength from your support system

Spending time with friends and family can offer a healthy distraction. The presence of our loved ones and their willingness to come to our aid reaffirms our social worth, repairing some of the harm done to our self-image by the breakup. 

Additionally, these close connections provide a judgment-free, safe space to freely share our emotions and fears for the suddenly uncertain future. They balance empathy with practical advice and can encourage you to take constructive steps forward.

“Engaging with a support network is vital. Friends and family can provide valuable perspectives and emotional support during the healing journey,” clinical psychologist Zita Chriszto tells mindbodygreen.

7.

Write your heart out!

It can be therapeutic to pour out all lingering negative emotions, like resentment, humiliation, jealousy, and even guilt, on paper, especially if such emotions are causing intrusive thoughts and making it hard to focus. Unleash your feelings. Be as expressive in your writing as you would be if you could lash out at your ex without consequences. The exercise will be very cathartic.

According to Scott-Hudson, writing will help you connect with and understand your true feelings. “It will allow you to know what you genuinely feel so you can listen to yourself and validate your feelings,” she says. Research2 also confirms the positive impact of expressive writing on an individual’s emotional, social, and physical well-being during stressful times. 

You can also write a goodbye letter to your ex, reminiscing over shared moments, the good they brought into your life, and the hopes and dreams you had for your joint future. Of course, you need not send the letter. Simply writing it—or any form of journaling—can be a powerful strategy to rein in the chaos that’s unleashed after an emotionally traumatic event.

8.

Shift the focus to health & wellness

Research highlights the very real strain placed on your physical reserves by a breakup, underscoring the importance of consciously focusing on your health and well-being and remaining alert to any adverse health impact you may face.

As Chriszto points out, in the event of a breakup, the mind-body connection becomes apparent with symptoms like loss of appetite and disrupted sleep. “Addressing mental and physical well-being is essential for comprehensive recovery,” she notes.

Once you’re over the initial shock, push past the urge to wallow and force yourself to engage in activities that serve your mind and body. Establish new health goals, join groups, go for a run, and connect with nature. It will alleviate your mood and remind you that despite how dark and dreary life feels, the world is still a riot of color with a lot of light and laughter to offer. 

9.

Explore and establish your independence

View the breakup not as an ending but as the beginning of your journey toward self-discovery. Think of it as reconnecting with an old friend and getting to know them all over again. You now see who you are, not as one half of a couple but as an individual. 

“The best way to get over a breakup is to think of it as reclaiming a better sense of who you are,” says Daniel Boscaljon, Ph.D., research director and co-founder of the Institute for Trauma-Informed Relationships. “It begins a new chapter in your life. Exploring new contexts different from what you shared in the relationship is important in the messy, painful aftermath. This often means reclaiming parts of your identity lost in the relationship.”

Rediscover what brings you joy, what thrills and excites you, and what new limitations you can push past, and consider new adventures. Doing so can prove exciting and reinvigorating enough to help you release the heaviness and despair of heartbreak.

As you do this work, you may learn about how independently strong you are, a realization that will allow you to go into your next relationship with a stronger sense of self, guided by your desires, not necessity.

10.

Join a retreat, workshop, or support group

A breakup usually causes a decrease in social connection and bonding—workshops and retreats can help you fill that void and reduce feelings of isolation.

Attending workshops, retreats, and support groups will help you learn focused strategies and coping mechanisms and bond with others going through a similar journey. The empathy in such groups will act like a balm on your wounded soul. 

Such settings can also encourage self-reflection and facilitate emotional processing, leading to positive growth. And as Boscaljon explains, these practices will also free you from invasive thoughts by helping you understand that you are not what you think, and you are not what you feel. “Learning these techniques helps the recovery process greatly and supports healthy future relationships,” he adds.

11.

Try an “identity makeover”

“Breakups not only represent the loss of a relationship but also a lost sense of self. There is loss of a life to be had and a loss of one’s identity,” Hoang tells mindbodygreen.

While avoiding drastic changes like impulsive haircuts, tattoos, or anything too permanent is advisable, an identity makeover can be almost necessary. A vital part of how you’ve previously seen yourself (one half of a couple) has now been taken away. An identity makeover can help you remind yourself that you’re a different person now, and the old memories needn’t hold as much sway on this new version.

Consider subtle but meaningful changes. Experiment with your wardrobe, social demeanor, and interests. If you’re an introvert, be more outgoing and gregarious during the next social event. Try going to movies and dinners alone. Take risks. 

While your personal life undergoes this transition, be more ambitious professionally. Challenge yourself, observe your responses, and see what new aspects of your character emerge, and build upon them.

12.

Establish a recovery timeline 

As helpful as it can be, during the initial stages of a breakup, to give your grief free rein and feel your feelings, it’s equally important not to get stuck wallowing in emotions. 

Give your recovery structure by establishing a timeline to balance emotional healing with forward movement. Setting realistic goals and milestones can help you monitor your progress toward a healthier you. In the absence of any measurable change, you can make adjustments, try different techniques, and seek help where necessary.

Steady, measured progress will reinforce your inner strength and self-belief, creating momentum for continued healing. However, it’s essential to remain flexible with the timeline and refrain from using it to rush the recovery process.

13.

Create a new vision for the future 

In a relationship, a partner’s aspirations and identity get entangled with that of their spouse. When the relationship ends, it becomes necessary to envision and plan for a different future and let go of all those jointly created plans.

As this new future solidifies on your mental screen and begins to engage your emotions, it creates a renewed sense of purpose. It’s an opportunity to explore new possibilities and be excited by the knowledge that you no longer need to prioritize someone else’s interests alongside and sometimes even above your own.

It’s an empowering step that shifts the focus from all you have lost to actively shaping a future that resonates with your individual journey.

14.

Engage in physical and creative pursuits

Welcome new energy by engaging in something demanding and all-consuming, like a rigorous workout or a new creative pursuit.

Physical activities are known for their positive effects on mental and emotional health. Exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. Regular physical activity can also help regulate sleep and appetite and foster a sense of accomplishment and body positivity, boosting self-esteem and confidence.

Creative pursuits like painting, writing, or playing music can provide an emotional outlet. You can release your pain and anguish without having to put them into words, a task that may otherwise feel impossible while the wound is still festering.

Immersing yourself in such pursuits can provide a much-needed break from ruminative thoughts and contribute to overall well-being.

15.

Talk it out with a therapist

According to Boscaljon, a breakup can often trigger past trauma, reawakening negative memories of feeling unloved that we have been carrying along since childhood. “Working through this difficult material is vital for healthy adult relationships, but it is also incredibly difficult,” he explains. Thankfully, a therapist or a mental health counselor can help. 

If your struggles persist or you find yourself spiraling deeper into an emotional pit, consider reaching out to a professional. The nonjudgmental and supportive environment a therapist provides can make navigating complex thoughts and processing difficult emotions easier. They can also teach you coping mechanisms uniquely suited to your struggles. 

Therapy can also catalyze personal growth by helping you reevaluate your goals and desires and choose a path that aligns with these newly defined objectives.

16.

Plan it out with a coach

If you’re seeking a better-planned and more systematic approach to your future, think about working with a coach.

“Recovery is never linear,” Boscaljon rightly points out. “Thinking of it as a process of slow movements that grow into a new sense of self, rather than flipping a switch, is helpful.”

A coach will not just lead you away from the pain of heartbreak; they can also assist you in uncovering strengths and growth opportunities, challenging limiting beliefs, holding yourself accountable, and meeting the world with openness and optimism.

Group coaching is another good option that can also give you the added benefit of communal support. You can connect with others on this journey—people who will always understand and empathize with your struggles and provide consistent support and encouragement. 

17.

Forgive to release the weight of guilt & anger 

If you ended the relationship, you are probably battling feelings of guilt, and for as long as this battle rages, you will continue to reel from the aftereffects of the breakup. On the other hand, if you were the one rejected, then there is bound to be a lot of anger and resentment boiling within you. 

Forgiveness can help calm this bubbling cauldron of emotions. It can help you release the weight of guilt and anger. However, it’s not always easy to forgive.

Boscaljon suggests acknowledging the positive changes you’ve undergone during the relationship. “This allows you to recognize the two most important parts of getting over a breakup: knowing that the person left you valuable gifts and that the relationship is in the past,” he says.

So, do the work. Go through the healing steps, try different strategies, and when you are ready, embrace forgiveness and release the negative emotions holding you back. 

18.

Try casual dating

When you start feeling better, consider reentering the dating world with a relaxed mindset focused only on enjoying the experience. Don’t take on the pressure of finding a new partner. It doesn’t have to be about building a future or becoming, once again, part of a couple. Simply enjoy the process.

This approach will allow you to breathe easy, reengage with the outer world, flirt, and forge new connections. It will also reinforce your progress, bolster your self-esteem, and officially mark the beginning of a new chapter in your life. 

What not to do to get over a breakup

As you use the above strategies to aid your recovery, it will be advisable to avoid doing any of the following:

1.

Carelessly indulging in alcohol or sex to feel better

Drowning your sorrows in alcohol will not help. The pain will still be there, only now it will be accompanied by a wicked hangover. You also don’t want to run the risk of drunk calling your ex or sending a late-night text you later regret.

To forget someone old, sex with someone new might seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, the beating that your self-worth takes in the wake of a breakup will not be helped by a random hookup. The lack of a genuine emotional connection could actually deepen your loneliness and make you long for the days when you were a couple and enjoyed real, meaningful intimacy. 

Focus on healthy healing and recovery, not temporary moments of forgetfulness.

2.

Hooking up with your ex post-breakup 

Resuming a physical relationship with your ex will confuse your feelings and prolong your misery. Instead of detaching, time with your ex will anchor you more deeply in the past, hindering your ability to build a new life or establish new connections.

If the breakup was brutal and left you questioning your self-worth, returning to the person who caused you this damage, even for a fling, can be dangerous. 

Instead of revisiting a connection that has already proved hurtful, if you’re feeling lonely, seek solace elsewhere—perhaps with friends, family, and other trusted advisers.

3.

Cyberstalking your ex

Research3 suggests that romantic love shares many symptoms of substance or behavioral addiction, albeit positive ones, and a breakup can, therefore, cause feelings of withdrawal. 

In view of that, cyberstalking an ex, constantly viewing their photos and social media interactions, can be akin to seeking a “fix,” willfully staying hooked to something that’s causing you pain.

Perhaps you hope to find evidence that your ex is just as miserable as you are, but that knowledge will not help you move on. On the other hand, there is the possibility that you will discover that your ex has, in fact, moved on. (A revelation that will add salt to your wound and intensify your feelings of loss, humiliation, or defeat.)

“You must put your focus back on yourself. Do not call, text, or social media stalk your ex,” Scott-Hudson says, adding to block all their numbers and social media accounts if you must to remove the temptation and keep your compass trained toward your happiness.

4.

Lash out at your ex

Venting helps, but not this kind. 

You may want to scream and rant at your ex (a completely understandable desire), but unless you get an apology or a reasonable and helpful explanation in response to that outpouring, it will not help at all. In fact, it may worsen the sense of unworthiness that can follow a breakup.

“The most common mistake people make when trying to get over a breakup is to try to enter the victim-villain cycle of blame. Blaming the other person, or blaming yourself, are ways of staying stuck in an old relationship,” Boscaljon says, adding, “Both leave you feeling disempowered and tied to a relationship that only exists in the past.”

5.

Posting about the breakup on social media 

Social media therapy cannot help in dealing with something as involved, multilayered, and intensely personal and painful as a breakup. Not to mention, the internet is forever, so avoid creating posts that can become sources of embarrassment in the future or serve as reminders of how badly you handled a crisis.

Instead, confide in close friends or family members who respect your privacy and offer genuine support. This is even more important if there are elements to your breakup that can be potentially damaging to either your or your ex’s reputation, like instances of cheating.

6.

Try to get your ex back 

Our newly single status brings with it a lot of loneliness, and out of desperation, we may be tempted to pursue our ex and restore things to how they were pre-breakup. However, if the relationship ended for valid reasons that still exist, trying to rekindle the romance can be unhealthy at best and stalkerish at worst. 

Succumbing to this misguided idea can diminish your self-esteem, more so if you’re trying to reconnect with someone who has already caused you pain and disappointment.

Even if you succeed, the issues that broke you apart the first time will lead you back to the same place. This cycle not only prolongs your emotional distress but also forces you to restart the healing process, dealing again with the heartbreak and challenges of moving on.

7.

Make impulsive and long-lasting alterations to your appearance

It can be tempting to believe a drastic change in appearance will “snap us out of it” and give us a dose of new energy, but an external change, while powerful, is not enough. So, exercise caution before you make any irrevocable changes to your appearance. 

More importantly, the goal is to minimize the damage you have taken and not add any new regrets to the tally. Seek to make alterations to your appearance or inner self that align with who you desire to become: a new, stronger, and healthier version of your former self.

8.

Self-denigration 

Feeling rejected, even lacking in specific ways, is natural in a breakup. If you are not blaming your ex, you are probably blaming yourself for, to your understanding, your relationship’s premature and surprising end.

“What’s detrimental is how people almost immediately blame themselves for the breakup and start thinking in unhealthy patterns,” Adams notes.

Self-denigration and self-blame will only exacerbate your condition. Instead, you must become your ally and focus solely on moving forward. If you identify how you contributed to the breakup, use the information to forge better relationships in the future and not to self-flagellate.

9.

Rushing into a new relationship 

The loss of a romantic partner is not a vacancy to be refilled. So, don’t date someone new till you’ve fully processed the loss of your previous relationship. Rushing headlong into a new relationship may result in you carrying unresolved issues and negative patterns into it, leading to similar problems and conflicts.

“Breakups are supposed to hurt—it’s the breaking of an attachment. Evolutionarily, it threatens our survival, and the pain of a breakup is meant to drive us to regain attachment elsewhere,” Hoang says.

Rebound relationships, those formed shortly after a breakup, are created to fill a void and not out of genuine affection. Not only is it unfair to use someone else to get over your ex, but such relationships with their mismatched expectations and relationship dynamics prove unsustainable in the long term. 

10.

Shutting down & bottling up

It can be intimidating to express strong emotions. We fear what will come out, and if we let go of our control once, whether we’ll ever regain it. But locking down your feelings can be just as hard, like trying to contain a storm in a fragile space. 

As Chriszto shares, breakups have a profound emotional impact. To heal, we must process these emotions.

11.

Isolating yourself

Some quiet and solitude can be good for the soul, but isolation, when feeling lost and adrift, can further twist up your inner emotions, worsening the anger and shame many of us experience post-breakup. 

It’s better to take a few days to yourself but remain in touch with your loved ones. Let them remind you that there are people willing to take your back and share your load. When you’re ready, let them back in and use their love and care to heal some of your pain. 

12.

Obsessing over the past

It is natural to want to understand what led to the breakup, how you could have prevented it, and how you can protect yourself from similar hurt in future. Still, in trying to learn all this, you can find yourself obsessing over the past, dragging out each memory, and examining it repeatedly.

In pursuit of closure, don’t let yourself get trapped in a cycle of sadness and regret over the what-ifs. Understanding can help, but only if it leads you to acceptance. If not, even if you do it with great difficulty, over and over again, shift your attention to your future. If necessary, take it one step at a time. 

As Chriszto tells mindbodygreen, “Resist idealizing the past or demonizing the ex-partner. Realistic acceptance of the relationship’s strengths and weaknesses facilitates a healthier perspective.”

FAQ:

What are the 5 stages of a breakup?

Romantic breakups typically mirror the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, remember that progress can be erratic, and you may travel back and forth between stages.

How do I get over a breakup with someone I still love?

Go no-contact with your ex and allow yourself to fully feel and release all your emotions. Engage in self-care and wellness practices that provide healthy distractions while creating a sense of renewal and strength. Lean on friends and family. Learn from the breakup and why the relationship wasn’t right for you, shifting your focus from the past to the future.

How long does it take to get over a breakup?

According to research, someone can start feeling better in 11 weeks, but many factors, like the duration, intensity, and nature of the relationship, can impact the recovery period. Recovery and healing can also vary depending on the strength and sensitivity of an individual.

How do I stop overthinking after a breakup?

Seek to understand the factors that led to the breakup, including your role. Such insights can provide closure and help you move forward. You can also assign a fixed time and duration to overthinking. Consciously stop yourself from overthinking at any other time. When your attention wanders, remind yourself there is a set time to overthink, and you will do it then. Do activities that engage the mind. Start caring for yourself and invite love, laughter, and joy back into your life so you’re incentivized to look forward to the future instead of obsessing over the past. 

The takeaway 

As much as we dread the pain of heartbreak, the period of suffering that follows often results in profound growth and self-discovery. It may happen in its own time, but it is possible to heal and recover from a breakup and move on to a better-suited, healthier, and more compatible relationship.

But to do so, you must become your own biggest advocate. Let self-compassion lead, and allow forgiveness to soothe away your anger. Use the lessons learned to navigate future relationships and other complex journeys better. 

Suppose you manage to heal healthily and avoid falling into harmful patterns. In that case, your past relationship can transform from a source of bitterness to a cherished memory, frozen at its happiest moment. You’ll be able to look back with appreciation for the time spent together and then return to a life enriched by both the joy and the sorrow of that experience.

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