Dealing with the aftermath of a break-up: Steps to mending a broken heart…

The phrase break up is exactly what it implies: the breaking apart of two things, and in the case of this article, two people. But, if you’ve been around and on this planet for several years, then you probably already know what break up means!

Whether your first grade crush checked “no” when you asked them to be your girlfriend or your partner of 10 years has just told you that they are leaving you, break-ups (unfortunately) are very real experiences that can become a part of our lives whether we want them to happen or not. Why is this? Because we are unable to control other people and people are often unpredictable. Of course my hope is that every person finds his or her ever-lasting match, but sadly, sometimes we must encounter disappointments along the way.

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“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”

― W. Somerset Maugham

When a relationship ends, the process of recovery and healing can be one of the most difficult experiences to encounter. I’ve heard individuals both professionally and personally referring to the aftermath of breaking up with someone as “feeling like my heart exploded” “feeling sick all over” and ultimately experiencing a deep feeling of loss, or grief.

After all, when a relationship ends, you are ultimately experiencing a loss of sorts. As I have written about many a time before in my blogs, humans are patterned creatures. When a relationship dissolves, we must reset our routines and patterns to not include a person that may have been a part of our lives for months and even years. And when the individual who is no longer a part of your life is truly out of the picture, there can be almost an uncanny feeling of absenteeism, a feeling that something is missing in your life. I liken it to having your right pinky finger being missing, you may be able to function just fine without it, but there’s a strange feeling of knowing that a piece of you is missing.

“i felt her absence. it was like waking up one day with no teeth in your mouth. you wouldn’t need to run to the mirror to know they were gone”
― James Dashner

The process of recovery from a break up takes a different amount of time from person to person. There is no clear-cut formula to when you feel better and often the process is not linear. There may be days where you feel confident and sassy, and others where you don’t want to leave the house and will happily park yourself on the couch for a Netflix binge session of The Office.

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Many people ask me, how do I get through this?

1.      Stay busy reconnecting with yourself.

We are most vulnerable after a relationship ends. Depending on the specifics of your break up, your self-worth and self-confidence can become a little damaged after an end to a relationship and as a result, you feel very fragile. During this vulnerable time, the key to your success is going to be getting to know yourself again. Reconnecting with hobbies and people that empower you. Staying busy engaging in HEALTHY activities.

Always wanted to try stand up paddle board yoga? Now is your time to do it. You see, every time we engage in sometime new, there are little chemical changes that happen in the brain. Typically, a release of dopamine, our “get happy” chemicals are released and on an emotional level, you feel empowered and a sense of confidence or “I did it!” occurs. Very healing for vulnerability and improving self-confidence.

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Speaking to the sense of loss that is often felt after a dissolution of a relationship, a common experience is anhedonia, which is a symptom of depression. Anhedonia is the experience of not feeling interested or deriving a sense of pleasure from activities that once brought you such.

Of course, it is realistic to allow yourself to have “down days” and maybe even a little two-hour pity party every now and again, but ultimately, it is up to you to bring yourself out of those feelings of despair. Remembering that you are in control of yourself and your thoughts is very powerful.

So you signed up for an art class when you were feeling good? Yet today is the day of the class and you feel totally down and depressed? This is the time to push through and engage in something that will bring you out of your current negative state of mind…if you don’t control your mind and your thoughts, then they will control you. Force yourself to get moving, take a shower, and attend that class. You may end up engaging in a creative outlet that inspires you to keep pressing on, giving you purpose throughout this time of discomfort after a break up.

2.      Take a break from dating.

I encourage individuals after a break up to take a time out. To take time to reconnect with themselves and wait a period of time before getting back out there. As stated previously, after a relationship, humans tend to be very vulnerable and this is when we are most often accepting of another relationship that is less than what we deserve—all so that we can avoid feeling lonely.

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The phrase “the best way to get over someone is by getting under someone else” is false! All that you are doing is pacifying yourself, giving yourself a temporary reprieve from the heartache you feel by becoming involved with someone new and opening up your vulnerable self before that sense of confidence and self-worth has been truly reestablished.

While human beings are biologically social creatures, you must be able to stand alone and be happy with yourself before becoming involved with another person. Being independent is probably one of the most empowering experiences you can have. To know that you don’t need anyone else is a testament to your ability to be self-sufficient and okay just “being”. Try it… Remembering that you must learn to look inwards and to your Higher Power for validation instead of relying on other people to give you your sense of self-worth.

“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

3.      Keep your lifestyle healthy.

In order to function at our best capacity, we must eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Refraining from using alcohol is also a necessity when you are already down.

Alcohol is a depressant and what most people do not realize is that when you drink, you are literally depressing your central nervous system! It’s no wonder people become emotional when they are drinking and even feel down the day after, you have just consumed a depressant.

So watch what you are putting in your mouth after a break up. If you’re feeling depressed, alcohol will only compound that feeling. Not too mention that inhibitions become lowered and you are more likely to engage in behaviors that you wouldn’t otherwise engage in if you were sober. i.e. texting/calling your ex to lament your relationship and ask that they come back, sleeping with someone that you wouldn’t otherwise want to sleep with, lashing out at a friend because you already feel sad and drinking just allows those mean comments to come out more easily— these are just a few of the many things that can happen when you’re under the influence.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to live a healthy life, eating healthy foods that will help nourish your mind and get plenty of rest to allow your brain to heal from the trauma of a break up.

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Bringing it all together…

With all of this information, I encourage you to find what works for you in your life after a relationship ends. Whether you were married and you’re at the divorce stage, or you dated someone for a year and thought they’d be the one, only to find out that they weren’t who you thought they were, take comfort in knowing that the pain you feel will eventually subside.

Be gentle with yourself during this time. Recognize your strengths and the pieces of you that you could improve upon but watch out for those negative, self-deprecating thoughts! Seek out a therapist to help you through this time and to gain better perspective of who you are and what you have to offer the world.

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Although the length of recovery time differs from person to person, marked by periods of highs and lows, you will be able to recognize when you truly get your happy back. Practicing reconnecting with yourself, taking a break to stand on your own two feet and be independent, and living a very healthy lifestyle will all aid in your recovery process.

Always remember that no matter what, you are worthy of finding a partner in life that is your other half. A partner who treats you the way that you deserve and encourages you to be the best version of yourself. You are a unique being with plenty of characteristics and positive traits to offer the world.

Focus on the relationship you have with yourself, and the rest will follow.

Wishing you healthy relationships with others and most importantly yourself, today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

Anger Management: Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh tongue stirs up anger”.

–Proverbs 15:1

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How do you respond when you’re angry? What mentality overcomes you—the “turn the other cheek” philosophy or the “eye for an eye” mentality?

In situations where we experience anger, our reaction to the situation can often times be the deciding factor that either fans the flames or diffuses a situation.

When I worked in the inpatient psychiatric hospital setting, I taught a behavioral management course to incoming staff. Amongst many techniques, the technique that deescalated a situation almost every time was remaining calm in response to a heated situation. Remembering to keep your voice low in response to the angry person, body language relaxed, and eye contact continuous but not overbearing, were the key responses in bringing a person’s anger down to a reasonable and communicative level.

It is in our biological make-up to mirror the actions of another human being (i.e. mirror neurons in action!), especially when we like that other person. So by remaining calm and lowering our voices, it has the ability to cause the person that you may be in opposition with to instinctively lower their voice, and in turn, calm them down.

While you and the other person may not have a positive relationship, the key here is that one person’s reaction to the other has the ability to completely calm the other person down or oppositely, incite them. Next time you are in a heated situation, I encourage you to try this.

When we lash out at another person in response to their anger, it only adds the proverbial fuel to the fire. As in the Proverbs verse above, our response to a situation is very powerful. How we choose to conduct ourselves has great bearing on almost any situation that we are in.

Consider this scenario. Your child is misbehaving. They’ve torn the house apart and are not listening to you when you’re telling them to take a bath. You have two choices here. One, you can scream at them until the cows come home which will most likely result in tears and a spanking—and you losing your cool. Or you can take a deep breath, approach them calmly, offering choices and speaking quietly.

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A child’s response to the situation will become directly influenced by how you respond to them. While the first option I mentioned may be effective for the short term, it will most likely help your child develop a maladaptive set of behaviors and they will learn that “screaming gets stuff done”. The second option, although more time-consuming and requiring more patience, will inadvertently teach your child how to handle a tough situation. See the difference?

Second example. Your partner has just really angered you. They forgot to pick up milk and laundry detergent on the way home, are now totally engrossed in that “stupid video game” they like, and their dishes from breakfast are still sitting on the counter.

Once again, you have two choices. The first choice is to give into that disproportionate rage you may feel as a result of working all day, not getting enough sleep the night before, and feeling brain fried-lashing out at your partner and screaming “You can’t do anything right!! What a loser! You are so lazy!”. Or you can calmly make your way to where your partner is, sit down to ask them to clean up after themselves, and or ask them to go with you to the store to get the items that they forgot, turning the anger into a proactive response where you actually get to spend time with your partner reconnecting.

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I’ve seen the first reaction play out time and time again with the couples I work with in therapy and I will tell you that after a time, the angry partner ends up causing the other partner to shut down. When the screaming starts, the other partner either leaves or slowly begins to detach from the relationship—losing the desire to make their angry partner happy.

Remember: You have no control over what the other person’s response will be to your calmness. But by you taking the responsibility of staying in control of your emotions and reacting calmly and assertively to a situation, it will diffuse your own anger and allow you to become more approachable in the long haul. Not to mention, your blood pressure will stay at a healthy level and after continuing to practice peaceful communication, it will become second nature to who you are!

Developing and cultivating a calm response to situations takes time, energy, and practice. For many people, it is not an intrinsic response. Perhaps you grew up in a household where you watched your parents yell, fight, and slam doors to prove a point. Perhaps over the years, the only way you felt heard was to yell. Either way, when we continually exhibit a negative set of behaviors, they will become engrained pieces of our personalities—humans are patterned creatures with a propensity to gravitate towards the familiar.

Being the best version of ourselves and making healthy choices in responding to anger calmly can be very difficult! Especially if you feel that your newer healthy responses are not as effective as your previous angry self.

Anger has the ability to corrode even the healthiest of relationships. Disproportionate anger especially. Taking out our own personal stress on the people that we are closest to and not giving them a pass for those simple shortcomings (forgetting to buy groceries, leaving the bed unmade, forgetting to take the trash out) are the quickest ways to alienate your partner or children.

The next time that you can feel the rage start to bubble up, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” Seeking to understand yourself and what is causing you to react in a certain way is a powerful key in behavior change. I encourage people to use the Alcoholics Anonymous acronym HALT for a quick assessment on what’s going on. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and or Tired? If you answer yes to any of those questions, chances are you are not in a good place to begin with.

Attempt to alleviate the HALT issues that are occurring and then tackle your grievances—calmly.

Food for thought: if you have “lost your cool” today, remember that you are human and tomorrow is another opportunity to practice peaceful communication and anger management.

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“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” –Proverbs 12:18

Encouraging you to practice calmness and peace in your interactions today and everyday,

Rachel Ann