Breakups suck. Bottom line. It doesn’t matter which side you were on—dumper, dumpee—breaking up really is hard to do. You either feel guilty or like shit, or both.
In the aftermath of the breakup, you might still hold onto false hope that you and your ex might reunite. Not good. You also might be spending more time on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother ad nauseum. That’s not good, either.
While it’s good to feel your feelings, you want to recover from the breakup quickly and effectively. That’s why I enlisted Nicole McCance, a top relationship psychologist in Toronto, to help you on your journey of recovery.
What To Do Immediately After The Breakup
You’re heartbroken. You feel empty. Sad. Confused. Maybe even a bit angry. What’s the best thing you can do for yourself? “Call a buddy and go out,” says McCance.
“The worst thing you can do is hang out by yourself with your negative thoughts. You are sure to feel down and sorry for yourself. Get outside, change your environment. But make sure it is with a positive friend who is going to make you laugh and feel great about yourself.” So go on and call up the pal who always makes you bust a gut and grab a beer. You need to see sunlight.
What To Do During The Weeks After The Breakup
The weeks after breaking up pretty much run the emotional gamut. One day you’re brooding, the next day you’re obsessively thinking about all the things you should have said, or about all the things she said that you wished she hadn’t. All that furrowed browing can leave you feeling exhausted, but, according to McCance, emotional toiling isn’t what should be tiring you—it should be old-fashioned exercise.
“Hit the gym,” says McCance. “This will improve your mood and help release tension.”
After the gym, you should take heed of another tip from McCance and go out. “Be social. You may not feel like being around others but being outside of your home and all the cues that remind you of her is important.” But what about the hairbrush she left at your place? Or that photo of the two of you vacationing in Hawaii? Ditch them.
McCance advises to remove all memory triggers, including putting away any gifts she may have given you, so you can “see them with some emotional distance.”
And what about all of that obsessive brooding? “Write your feelings down,” says McCance. “I know this is not the first thing a man thinks about but writing down your thoughts and feelings, even on a notepad in your phone, will help you stop obsessing about her.”
What Not To Do During Your Breakup Recovery
Some of your friends might advise you to get back on the horse, but McCance actually advises against dating so soon. “Don’t go on a date,” says McCance. “You will just compare her to your ex and leave missing your ex more. Give it time. The grieving process cannot be sped up unfortunately. You have to go through it.” OK, but what about spending your nights with a certain someone named Jack Daniels? McCance nixes that too, as well as putting in extra hours at the office. “Try not to throw yourself into work or booze. Your emotions will just come up again later if they are not felt and dealt with.”
What About Reuniting?
You might want to backslide. You might think that you, or she, made a horrible mistake. You were meant to be, weren’t you? Or maybe you just need some clarity. So what’s the harm in grabbing an innocent coffee?
Well, a lot more than you think. “Sometimes we feel that there is unfinished business, something that you feel you need to say,” says McCance. “If this is the case and the goal is to get closure, then it’s ok to have one last conversation. Try not to have expectations on how it will go. Don’t expect her to understand you. She may not. With little expectation you will leave this conversation feeling like you were able to say your piece and her reaction is less important. This conversation is for you to get closure and move on.” And if you were hoping that coffee might turn into ex sex, McCance says forget it. “It may feel great in the moment, but the aftermath can be confusing and most of the time has you go back to a situation that is better off over.”
You Can’t Get Her Outta Your Head
It’s been a few weeks since Dumping Day, but you can’t seem to shake her. You’re looking her up on Facebook, checking out her tweets. You don’t eat, you can’t sleep. Exercise doesn’t work. Your funny friend can’t cheer you up. What to do? Seek help, my friend. “When [the breakup] is getting in the way of your sleep, appetite and functioning at work, a therapist can help you take an honest and objective look at your life,” says McCance. “When you’re coming from your own perspective and things remain the same, letting someone in on what you’re going through can shed a different light on your current situation.”
Oh, and remember: you will date again. Just hang in there.
Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine. You can follow her on Twitter @briannehogan.
Photo courtesy of Alice Barigelli.