On a scale of 1 to torturous, getting your heart broken is a solid “absolutely awful.” Most of us have been there at some point left wondering how to get over a broken heart.
While there’s no surefire way to avoid heartbreak (unless you’re an unfeeling robot, of course), there is a way through it—even if, at the moment, you truly believe you’ll never be happy again. Here, three experts share advice for how to get over a broken heart.
1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
When somebody breaks up with you, you're going to feel a flood of emotions, says Rebecca Hendrix, L.M.F.T, a psychotherapist in New York City. “It's a trauma. It's a shock to your system.” And as with any type of emotional shock, “you want to be really gentle with yourself and you want to allow yourself to feel your feelings,” she says. After all, your feelings are there for a reason—they can help you move through difficult experiences, but only if you release them.
In the days following the breakup, allow yourself to cry and acknowledge that a breakup is like any other type of loss. With loss come five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. “You're going to go through those in your own way, in your own time,” says Hendrix. And during the process, validate your feelings by saying things like “why wouldn’t I feel like way?” and “of course I’m experiencing this emotion.”
2. But don’t become your feelings.
Though it’s important to express your feelings, it’s also important to stop short of becoming them, says Hendrix. So if you feel sad, let yourself wallow for a certain amount of time—say, an hour. Cry, scream, yell, journal, do whatever you need to do to let your emotions flow freely, she says. But when those sixty minutes are up, stop and move onto something else.
3. Cut off communication with your ex.
There’s a scientific reason heartbreak hurts so much: You actually go through withdrawal-like symptoms after a breakup because the feel-good hormones you got from your partner are suddenly gone, says Elle Huerta, founder of Mend, an app and online community designed to help people post breakup. “When your partner is no longer there, you start to crave those feel good hormones,” she explains. “If you give into this feeling and see your ex again, you'll struggle to move forward and find yourself stuck months and maybe even years later.” (That’s why Mend promotes a 60-day “ex detox.”)
Cutting off all contact in the beginning is healthy, agrees Hendrix. It allows you to break your attachment to your former partner. That said, there's no hard and fast rule about contacting your ex, she adds. Brief, occasional communication—like “Hey, could we talk for a few minutes? I'm having a hard time with this”—could be okay. Just be cautious that those “innocent check-ins” don’t become a habit. “Every time you talk to them, you open up another energy tie between you and your goal is to break those energetic ties, not to keep creating them,” says Hendrix.
4. Find a support system.
Call two or three people that you really care about and let them know what you’re going through, says Hendrix. “A lot of people love you and they want to support you, but often they don't know how because you're not telling them.”
Opening up to others may bring catharsis in return. “Most everyone has been on the receiving end of a breakup at one time or another, and commiserating with them, sharing experiences, getting counsel, being reminded you’re not alone, can be highly beneficial,” says Franklin A. Porter, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City.
Breaking a sweat may be the last thing you want to do when you’re wallowing, but trust: it can help. “The endorphins produced during exercise will help with the withdrawal symptoms post-breakup, and it also helps you build confidence in yourself,” says Huerta.
6. Remember what sucked.
A common response post breakup is to idealize the other person, says Hendrix. And while you don’t want to deny that there were good parts of your relationship, you also don’t want to fixate on them. To find the middle ground, write a list of all the negative aspects of your former partner/relationship and look at it on the reg. “This mental exercise helps counterbalance all the obsessive thinking you will probably be experiencing around what you miss about your ex and why they were so great—even if they weren't,” says Huerta.
7. Take care of yourself.
All three experts agree that taking care of yourself in the midst of heartbreak is key. Check in with yourself throughout the day and ask: What do I need?, says Hendrix. Maybe it’s a healthy salad, maybe it’s a hot bath, maybe it’s a phone call with a friend.
Also, know that feelings of rejection and diminished self-worth could trigger unhealthy responses like over or undereating or substance abuse, which could lead to a depressive spiral, says Porter. “Exercise, nutrition, and proper sleep will raise the floor on how bad you feel,” he adds.
8. Don’t judge the length of your healing process.
“Don't equate the time of healing with the time of your relationship,” says Hendrix. Even ‘almost relationships’ can cause enormous heartbreak, says Huerta.
“A lot of times people are like, Well, I was only with them for six months. Why am I devastated?” says Hendrix. “Because you fell for them in six months and you've gotten super attached and you started spending every day and night together for a while. Your six months is like somebody else's two years. So whatever you feel, honor that.” In truth, how long it takes to get over an ex depends on a variety of factors, including the narrative you tell yourself.
9. Don’t internalize the breakup.
In the aftermath of a difficult split, avoid thinking, I’m not good enough, there’s something wrong with me, says Porter. Instead, situate the problem in the relationship (if not in your partner), he says.
10. Identify and eliminate unhealthy behaviors.
Try to understand any impulses you may be having, like texting your ex, checking their Instagram every hour, or replaying every damn detail of your last weekend together. These urges are part of the natural withdrawal process that happens after heartbreak, but don’t let yourself overindulge in obsessive behaviors (like analyzing every aspect of your relationship until 4 a.m.), says Hendrix. If you find yourself spending significant time in this frame of mind, it might be wise to reach out to a coach or therapist for support.
11. Create new routines.
Realize that the breakup is likely going to cause voids in your life. Say you and your ex always went to the movies every Friday, says Hendrix. Now your Friday nights are wide open, but instead of wallowing alone, proactively call your friends and make plans.
12. Explore old—and new—interests.
Say you really enjoy the outdoors, but your ex didn’t, so while you were together, you cut back on your weekend hiking habit. Now that you’re single, give yourself permission to reconnect with that interest and also explore new hobbies. “The universe meets us at the point of action, and if we're trying to heal, we have to take steps to heal,” says Hendrix.
Take intentional steps to move forward with your life, like joining a new gym, signing up for pottery class, or booking a trip with friends.
13. Accept that closure is something you may need to find on your own.
Sometimes, you're not going to get the closure you need from your ex and you’ll have to find it on your own. If your former partner couldn’t explain the reason for the break up, create your own healthy narrative. And if that isn’t enough to provide closure, consider talking with a therapist, says Hendrix.
Also, if your breakup triggers thoughts and feelings about other losses in your life and you’re having a hard time processing it all, definitely seek outside help.
14. If you decide to date, do so cautiously.
After getting your heart trampled, it can be tempting to instantly download Tinder and search for a rebound. But Hendrix warns against dating too soon after heartbreak. “You don’t want to push yourself before it's time just to avoid feeling your feelings because most likely, they're going to come back to bite you,” she says. At the same time, re-entering the dating scene could provide a healthy confidence boost for your bruised ego. Just be honest with yourself—and the people you’re dating—about where you’re at emotionally, she says. If you’re not fully over your ex and simply looking for a fun fling, say so.
15. Trust that the pain won’t last forever.
“However much pain you’re experiencing, try to believe that this, too, shall pass, and have faith that on any given day you could meet your special someone who’s truly right for you,” says Porter. When you’re in the thick of heartbreak, it can be hard to imagine that you could ever feel otherwise. But “time does tend to heal most, if not all wounds,” says Porter.
16. Down the road, reflect on the positive things.
In the long run, the breakup shouldn’t taint the whole relationship, says Porter. “As the pain subsides, consider the good you got out of it, embrace the excitement of new possibilities, and remind yourself how awesome you are,” he says.
Originally Appeared on Glamour