How to Get Over a Breakup—and Thrive While Doing it

What will I tell everyone? Another failed relationship? I must have something wrong with me. What could I have done? How am I going to keep going?

Any of these sound familiar? If so, you, like most of us out there, have gone through a breakup.

The good news is that you are not broken. Now, more than ever, you’re in the perfect position to thrive.

There’s a Japanese art form called Kintsugi where broken pottery is valuable. The cracks in the pottery get repaired with gold, making the piece more precious than it was brand new. If you’ve gone through a breakup, you can now mend with gold. Before you “broke,” there was no room for the gold.

Breakups hurt. We tell ourselves we’ll never feel okay again. Turns out, we don’t need to feel okay again. This pain opens a door for us to become more than okay— we can now learn to thrive.

Notice Expectations vs. Reality.

Last April I went to a friend’s wedding. The caterer canceled the day before and it poured. The bride was heartbroken because the wedding didn’t match up with what she’d imagined. She’d imagined a blue sky day with gourmet mini quiche hors d’oeuvres. In reality, her friends and family were together eating pizza and dancing. The bride’s distress came from the inconsistency between her expectations and reality. She ignored how wonderful the reality was.

Breakups are the quintessential mismatch between what we imagined and reality. Part of our heartbreak comes from focusing on the future we fantasized about. Give yourself a break from the pressure of your expectations. Are there enjoyable things right here you’re missing? Do you have more time to spend with your friends? Do you get to focus on your goals rather than giving so much to another person? Do you spend the morning running with your sister instead of arguing with your partner? Be present. Take an inventory of the beautiful reality in front of you.

Free Yourself from Should-ing.

I should have listened better. I should be better at relationships by now. I should have an engagement ring by 30. I should be over him by now.

Recognize any of these thoughts? Take a minute to ask yourself: where do these “shoulds” come from? Who’s in charge handing out deadlines for how we should be behaving, thinking, and feeling? We can learn from breakups, but it’s not the should statements that help us grow. Instead, most should statements leave us feeling guilty and paralyzed. Notice when you use a should statement and take yourself off autopilot. Bring attention to the should statement and challenge it. Does it add value? Can you reflect and grow from it? Or is it an automatic response with no credibility?

Need help getting through a breakup? Text a Crisis Counselor at 741741 or click the texter button below on mobile.

Engage Your Senses.

Sometimes when we are in emotional pain, we need something concrete to help us cope. The thing about our brains is that while they are a complex web of genius, they are also pretty easy to override. Our brains can only hold so much information at once. This is why, for example, no matter how hard we try, we can’t hear two people talking to us at once.

Usually, not being able to focus on lots of things at once is considered a bad thing. When it comes to managing overwhelming emotions we can use this to our advantage. We can give our minds relief from painful thoughts by stimulating our senses. The more senses we can activate, the less attention our brain can give to our painful thoughts.

  • Work those taste buds. Sample a new food (we recommend crickets!), drink something hot/cold, or eat something super spicy.
  • Heighten your sense of smell. Bake cinnamon rolls or a new recipe, sample perfumes at the mall, or buy a new soap and take a hot shower.
  • Engage your hearing. Make a playlist of upbeat songs, download a meditation app with a soothing voice, or listen to a new podcast.
  • Seek out new sights. Flip through coffee table books or make a Pinterest board of your dream vacation spots.
  • Take advantage of your sense of touch. Wear a soft scarf, go on a walk barefoot on the beach, or pet your dog/cat/ferret/hedgehog/rabbit/horse.
  • Combine as many of your senses as possible. For example, listen to a new playlist while testing perfumes and drinking a cold smoothie.
  • You won’t become repaired with gold lacquered overnight. Don’t rush it. Through the repair process we become more valuable. Start by dipping your toe into whichever of these tips resonates with you.
  • Get out there and start thriving.
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