Knowing where to start when a relationship ends is tough. There's a storm of emotions to get through, not to mention dividing up stuff and telling friends and whanau the news.
Plus, when you DO tell people what's up, everyone's got an opinion on how you're meant to deal.
Sure, aunty might have a few pearls of wisdom in her five-hour rant about her divorce, but realistically, you need to be looking after yourself and prioritising your mental health.
So tell aunty you'll call her back, and instead let's listen to the experts. Yep, there are people who study and work their entire careers to understand a broken heart, and how to heal it.
Check out these five no-nonsense tips for getting through a break up and you'll soon see how things start to get easier day by day.
1. Allow Yourself to Grieve and Heal
Dr Tricia Wolanin, a clinical psychologist, reckons that dealing with a break up is comparable to grief, because it's the "death of a relationship, hope and dreams for the future" - so let yourself mourn!
This is the time it's really important not to suppress your feelings and try to own them instead.
"We have to allow the sadness to arise, to let the tears come,” Dr Wolanin adds. “Allow yourself to cry and get it out. There may be moments of anger: take time to yell, dance it out, paint, journal, run, create a fiery playlist and do whatever you need to do to release this."
Marriage and Family Therapist Kiaundra Jackson says a "detox" period where you take time for yourself is crucial to starting the next chapter of your life.
"This is where you take time for yourself. You do not date. You do not have flings. You do not do anything that would be contradictory to your healing process,' she says.
The idea is to “unpack and deal with any baggage from your previous relationship(s) before entering into another", otherwise the same issues and drama are way more likely to recur in your love life.
2. Maintain No Contact for a While
Oooosh, this is a tough one. And there's actually a scientific reason why cutting contact with your ex feels so impossible.
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher studied uni-aged men and women who were still hurting from a break up by scanning their brains when they looked at photos of their exes. The parts of their brain that lit up on the MRI were the same areas associated with cocaine and nicotine addiction, physical pain and distress.
Basically, your brain treats love like a drug, and going without it can feel like going through withdrawals.
So every time you send a text, stalk their socials or try to bump into your ex, you're feeding the addiction and just prolonging your pain. The sooner you go cold turkey, the sooner you'll start to recover. It's legit like rehab.
Relationship coach Stephanie D McKenzie says that taking that difficult first step of going no contact is likely to see you get over your break up much faster than if you put all your energy into trying to be friends. No contact doesn't have to be a lifelong commitment, but it's a really good place to start.
3. Focus on Self-Care and Personal Growth
Ok, ok, I know this one sounds hella cheesy - but it's actually one of the best bits. Once you start feeling like you wanna DO some shiz again, you can really do it - your way.
We're not talking about going totally namaste and meditating all day (but don't knock it till you try it) - we're talking about watching the shows YOU like on Netflix, picking back up that hobby your ex thought was dumb, learning a new skill or sport and doing stuff that makes you feel fire.
Clinical counsellor Sharie Stines points out that break ups can actually be "used to help you grow into the person you want to become".
"Think of this time in your life as the beginning of an exciting adventure," Stines says. "You don’t know where you’re going yet, but you can start building into your life the things that are important to you.
"Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Create a positive vision and work towards what you want in life."
4. Lean on Your Support Network
Here's where the homies come in clutch. Therapist Rachel Benjamin says while break ups happen in private, you shouldn't hide away after it goes down. It's important to make sure you have a team around you - and to not be embarrassed if things are a bit messy while you work through your feelings.
Not only can your besties and whanau support you while you're down, they can help in a practical way too - by getting you out of the house, being someone you can text when you'd normally message your partner, or just by checking in daily.
"How do you get this support? By voicing your needs directly," says Benjamin.
"Say straight out… 'I just need you to hang out, and let me be sad and miss them without trying to solve anything.'"
It's also a good idea to let your mates who are friends with your ex know how much you wanna know about what they're up to (spoiler: it should be pretty much nothing).
Feeling the warm fuzzies from your loved ones is one of the true silver linings of a break up - reach out to them and you'll be able to repay the favour one day when they need you!
5. Think About Getting Help From a Pro
You've heard advice from a bunch of experts here, but it's a no-brainer that it's even better to talk to one in person.
The thought of therapy can be scary to some people, but it's actually so dope to have a regular time each week (or month, or whatever) to speak your mind and have someone completely outside of the situation offer some support and tools.
You can start by just checking in with your regular doc, who can point you in the right direction. If you're studying at uni or at school, there'll be someone you can see there, and if you're working you should check to see if your employer offers a free counselling service - heaps of them do these days.
Kia kaha fam!
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