10 Tips for Surviving Heartbreak

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Heartbreak. It’s been a topic of interest for me for some time now. Primarily because although I have come a long way from where I was 2 years ago, I still have days where I have to battle the emotional demons that Mr X left in his wake.

There’s nothing new here, I’m sure everyone can recognise these techniques from a number of books and websites that promise to help you overcome your heartbreak. Some will even promise it will get you through it in just a few days, such a promise -I have found- to be entirely untrue (worse luck). There is always a low to follow the high and vice versa, it takes a while for the difference between the two extremes to diminish and settle into a relatively even flow.

Also, there are countless other techniques that I haven’t mentioned at all. These are just the ones I choose to rely on because they work (or at least, I anticipate they would) the most consistently for me.

In any case, when, for whatever reason, I find myself lamenting the failure of that relationship, bemoaning my circumstances and thinking I will never fall in love with anyone else ever again etc., I find I’m now getting good at implementing the following strategies to help me cope and prevent me from walking around looking like someone has just sucked the jam out of my doughnut (hey, I really like doughnuts, especially jam ones!)

1. If at all possible- do some exercise, immediately. When the final break up with Mr X finally happened, I was training for my first half marathon, and immediately after that I continued on to train for a marathon. Those long runs helped to keep me a little sane, I think. By the end of a 20km run I was less focussed on him, and more concerned with the pain in my calves, the fatigue in my quads, the sense of achievement and the general endorphin “high”. Mostly I was also concerned with napping and eating, especially after the long runs. These days, I’m not running those greater distances so, I find that more vigorous workouts are best. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is particularly good as it hurts so much and requires so much focus that you dont have time to torture yourself with daydreams about how you and your Mr Ex might finally get back together, (or with thoughts of what you did wrong and why he couldn’t love you even though he is clearly capable of loving -despite his claims to the contrary). Mountain biking is also good for this purpose, you really have to concentrate on what you are doing. If none of the above is possible, I find that a walk down to the dog park with my two furballs works for me, they make me happy, and making them happy makes me happy.

2. If exercise is not possible, do something. Preferably something that requires attention and focus, and gives you a sense of acomplishment. Reorganise your shoe closet, declutter your chill-out space, weed the garden, update your CV (this also has the benefit of making you feel good about what you have achieved, and while you’re at it you can knock up a cover letter and apply for a few jobs!).

3. Talk. For myself, this is perhaps not my most recommended technique, but I am certainly good at it. Some find that talking to someone who has been/is going through the same thing is helpful. To be honest, I don’t derive much comfort from someone telling me they understand what I’m feeling. First of all, it doesnt make me feel better to know that this is just some kind of twisted “rite of passage”, or that XYZ went through it but they are oh-so happy now (mostly because I’m not there yet). Second of all, when I’m in a heartachey kind of mood, the fact is, in that moment, in my mind- noone understands what I’m feeling. Realistically, I know this is not the case, but that’s just how I feel when I’m sulky, and I am kick-ass at sulking so, when someone tells me they understand, I simply don’t believe them (and expect a dramatic eyeroll or two). Ok, I realise that some people do like to talk to others and feel a problem shared is one halved. I have found that for me, the more I talk about it, the bigger it seems to become. Sometimes I can’t resist talking about it, but generally, I have learned that if I want to get over it, then one of the best things I can do is, shut up about it.

4. Avoid at all costs: Sad songs and romantic movies. Go watch a fast paced action film or listen to a bit of thrashy (but still tasteful) Greenday. That is all.

5. Do something to make someone else happy. There is nothing quite so uplifting as seeing a smile on someone elses face and knowing that you are responsible for putting it there. (NB: this does not work in reverse for your Mr Ex, that is, putting a frown on his face is not likely to help you make progress- even if there is a part of you that might find it amusing to hide a bag of prawn shells in is brand new Passat- apparently that’s not how grown-ups roll so, stick to the positive!)

6. Focus on what you do have, of the people you do have in your life who love you, and make sure you have them ready and on-call if you need them. If they really love you, they’ll also tee up some chocolate and maybe a drop of red (er…at this point I refer you to point #8…)

7. Subscribe to a hilariously funny blog (um-not mine, obviously!).

8. Alcohol is best avoided but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

9. Bubble bath! This is purely frivolous and I list it only because its been years since I lived in a house with a bathtub and if I had one, I would definitely use it. I’m certain that soaking in a pile of bubbles would cheer me up.

10. If all of the above fails- and sometimes they will, because sometimes the pain is so great in that moment that once your legs give out and you stop running, the pain comes flooding back to your chest, or the nausea stabs at your gut. Sometimes, even making someone else happy is just a bitter reminder that the one person you wanted to put a smile on your face, couldn’t -or worse- had no inclination to. When that happens, then really, there isn’t much you are going to be able to do. Sometimes you just have to feel it, and struggle through. During those times, in my experience, the only options are:

a) Sleep. Crying (or exercise as per #1) or both, tends to lead to exhaustion. Blissful oblivion is a good way to get through a tough moment/hour/day.

b) As calmly as possible, counsel yourself that it’s only temporary. Yes it hurts like hell, and right now you can barely see past your swollen eyelids, much less envisage a happy future a few years down the track. Do let yourself just feel what you have to feel but try to recognise that this situation, these feelings- neither of them are permanent. Whilst imagining a deliriously happy future with another man might be too much for me at that particular point in time, the thought that I may not be a weeping mess in years to come, is enough to make me feel a little bit better! (The significance of the fact that what can pull me out of depression is not the thought of finding blissful happiness with another man, but rather, not being unhappy without one, is not lost on me)

The sad reality is that no matter how much you wish there was a crystal ball to tell you otherwise, there is no set timeline. Some people might just have better coping mechanisms and can get over a particularly bad heartbreak in just a few months, some are lucky enough to fall into a mutually loving relationship soon after. 

Either way, for me its been 3 years since Mr X first broke my heart, and 2 since I finally walked away, feeling like I had been put through the wringer a few times too many. I like to think most days that I’m over it, but I’m smart enough to know that if ‘stumbling’ across a photo of his new baby son can still physically knock the wind out of me, then perhaps I’m not in clear water yet, but I’m certainly heading in the right direction and I know that one day, I will be.

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