How to Get Over a Break-Up, According to Experts
Breaking up is hard to do, and handling the frenzy of complicated emotions that come with it can be rough. As much as you’d like to snap your fingers and be over the heartbreak, getting over a split — whether a first love or a lengthy situationship — usually takes time.
“Because we are wired as humans for connection, losing someone to a break-up can feel devastating, like losing a part of yourself,” Dr. Naomi Torres-Mackie, licensed clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and Head of Research at The Mental Health Coalition, explains. It’s normal to feel rejected, confused, and angry. Even if you initiated the split, it’s okay to feel upset, emotionally exhausted, and sad that you couldn’t make the relationship work.
“When we form a romantic relationship with someone, we invest time, energy, and emotions into building that connection,” Dr. Sanam Hafeez, neuropsychologist and Director of Comprehend the Mind in New York City, adds. “When that relationship ends, it can feel like a part of us is lost. Even if you were the one who decided to end the relationship, it's natural to feel sadness, grief, and even regret as you adjust to the changes in your life.”
Unfortunately, there’s no set timeline for getting over a break-up, or way to speed it up. “Break-ups can feel like grief, and just like grief, the healing process is not linear,” Dr. Torres-Mackie explains. There are steps to closure, and yes, that might include sad movie marathons, Taylor Swift break-up anthems on repeat, and countless sleepovers with your besties. But these expert-approved tips can help you build back your self-esteem, reconnect with the things and people you love, and eventually, move on. Below, Dr. Torres-Mackie and Dr. Hafeez break down exactly how to get over a break-up, and one day say, “thank u, next.”
Let yourself feel all the emotions
Don’t bottle your feelings up. A break-up hurts, and it’s important to acknowledge the pain, let yourself get into your feels, and know that with time, it will pass. “Being upset after a breakup is natural,” Dr. Hafeez explains. “Allow yourself time to feel these emotions and express them in a healthy way, such as talking to a friend or writing in a journal.” Let off steam in a workout class, go on walks, blast break-up anthems, or watch Someone Great and Legally Blonde over and over again. It’s all part of the healing process.
Be patient with yourself
As bad as these feelings can feel, don’t try to rush the process. It might be days, weeks, or even a couple of months until you feel completely yourself again, and that’s totally normal. “After a breakup, try to avoid self-judgment about how long you are still in your feelings about it,” Dr. Torres-Mackie advises. “Healing is an individual process. It takes as long as it takes, and that’s ok.”
Spend time with fam and friends
After a break-up, it’s so important to surround yourself with your own personal fan club. Your family and friends love and support you, and are there to watch movies, grab brunch, talk through your feelings, and cry with. You’ll probably find that it’s a lot easier to laugh, smile, and process your emotions with your besties by your side. Spending time with people who love you will help you feel less lonely and remind you that you still have important people in your life who care about you.
Yes, give yourself time to wallow, but try to keep yourself (and your mind) occupied with other interests and activities. “Find activities you enjoy, such as hobbies or volunteering, to keep yourself occupied and distracted from negative thoughts,” Dr. Hafeez suggests.
You might return to a hobby that you didn’t have much time or energy for when you were with your ex. Maybe it’s time to finally do that closet clean-out you’ve been meaning to get to for months, or make a dent in your TBR list. You could join a sports team, sign up for a new workout class, or finally start that TikTok account you’ve been talking about.
Try something new
Starting a completely unfamiliar activity or hobby momentarily distracts you from any negative thoughts or emotions. “This can help you expand your horizons and give you a sense of purpose and excitement,” Dr. Hafeez explains. A break-up might even be the perfect time to finally book that weekend trip with your besties and travel somewhere you’ve never been.
Avoid the temptation to check their social media
It might feel impossible at first, but don’t keep tabs on your ex’s social media. Yes, you might want to know how they’re feeling or coping with the break-up, but constantly checking their TikTok or Insta won’t help you get over them.
“This can be a tempting behavior but can also trigger painful emotions and prevent you from moving on,” Dr. Hafeez explains.
To help, you could unfollow or block your ex (even temporarily) or quiet their posts. “Digital disconnection [might be] helpful when you are unable to resist your urges to engage with them online in a way you later regret, your ex communicates with you in a hurtful way, or a clean break would help your healing process,” Dr. Torres-Mackie says. But, as Dr. Hafeez points out, this measure might not be necessary if the break-up was amicable or if it seems too drastic.
Do a social media detox
This could be a good time to press pause on all social media. Logging off — and maybe even shutting your phone down for a night or two — gives you the opportunity to clear your head, focus on the things that make you feel better, and reconnect with people IRL. Plus, there’s less of a chance that you’ll see your ex pop on your mutual friend’s Insta post or story.
“Reflect on what you're grateful for, such as supportive friends and family, a job you enjoy, or a comfortable home,” Dr. Hafeez says. You might do this through meditation, journaling, or talking to loved ones.
Break-ups bring up lots of negative emotions and feelings of loss and abandonment, Dr. Torres-Mackie explains. Reflecting on all the good things in your life can help you feel less alone and heal.
Write your ex a letter — but don’t send it
A helpful step in processing your emotions is writing it all down. Your thoughts may feel discombobulating or overwhelming up there in your head, so put pen to paper. “It can be helpful to work through any unresolved issues from the relationship,” Dr. Hafeez says.
The intention isn’t to send this letter, but to let it all out. But if you give it some time and still feel a strong need to share your note, then you could ask your ex to have a conversation to address any lingering feelings or concerns.
“When a breakup is fresh, take time for yourself so that you can heal,” Dr. Torres-Mackie suggests. “Remember your self-worth is not tied up in whether someone wants to date you.”
This is a good time to focus on taking care of yourself. Schedule a spa day, watch your comfort movies, read your favorite books, or hang out with your friends. And try to get plenty of sleep, move your body each day, and even get outside and get some fresh air if you can. “Engage in healthy, distracting activities that feel good for your mind, body, and soul,” Dr. Torres-Mackie adds.
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