At first, you were afraid, you felt petrified? Kept thinking you could never live without your ex by your side? Panic not. Whether your split was months ago or just yesterday, match.com’s relationship expert Kate Taylor is here to tell you how to survive.
Abandon all hope
The first and most helpful step towards getting over a break-up is, unfortunately, also the hardest: let go. Give up all hope of continuing a relationship with your ex. Hope will hold you back and stop you processing the loss. Why? It’s psychological. The five stages of grief were first identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. If you continue to hope that the split isn’t real, you are keeping yourself in stage one, Denial. But by forcing yourself to believe it’s over, you will deliberately move yourself towards Acceptance. Yes, you might get trapped temporarily in Depression – we’ll get to that in a moment. So, face facts. Replay the final conversation you had with your ex. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you are no longer in a couple with your ex. If you see your eyes fill with tears, that’s actually, strangely, an excellent sign: the faster you accept the split, the quicker you’ll begin to heal.
As soon as Denial has been crushed, you might move forwards into Anger. Find yourself texting furious messages to your ex? Yep, you’re there. The next step towards bouncing-back is to cut off all contact with your ex. Relationship author Dr Patricia Allen says when couples spend time together, they both release the hormone Oxytocin which can create a very strong bond between them, similar to an addiction. To move on, your body has to be starved of its “fix” of your partner. So don’t text, write, meet or talk on the phone. Don’t wear their old T-shirts in bed, or smell their perfume or aftershave. If this is impossible – if you work together, for example, or have children together – then minimise the amount of face-to-face contact you have and keep any interaction brief and businesslike.
Eat yourself happy
During a break-up, most of us eat nothing or we eat *everything*. Speed up your recovery time by nourishing yourself with things proven to boost your mood. Sadly, that’s not ice-cream, alcohol, or even chocolate – new research shows that chocolate doesn’t affect the brain positively after all. (Forget you read that, if you like.) Instead, snack on walnuts and foods rich in Omega-3 like oily fish – both will raise the levels of Serotonin in your brain and cheer you up. US research has shown that people who eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast report higher mood-levels all day than those who don’t, so load up on cereal and whole-grain toast. If you’re finding it hard to sleep, eat a carbohydrate-heavy snack like popcorn 30 minutes before bedtime as it will promote drowsiness.
Exercise will improve your mood BUT it has to be the right kind of exercise. Walking alone for two hours might be soothing and calming but it won’t cheer you up. For the biggest highs, exercise in groups or in rapid, intense bursts. Scientists at Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology have discovered that exercising in groups causes a bigger release of endorphins than exercising alone. So, group classes at the gym or taking dance-classes are great ways to lift your mood along with your butt. Also, research conducted at the University of California has shown that short bursts of intense exercise and heavy weightlifting release higher levels of endorphins than lighter weights or steady exercises like swimming or jogging. They recommend you exercise in 30-minute sessions at 80% of your capacity, and include sprinting for the highest happiness possible.
Set new goals
The worst part of a break-up is how it can leave your life in pieces. The best part of a break-up is that it forces you to rebuild. For better or worse, you now have to start again so turn that into a positive experience. Start planning new things. Dopamine – one of the brain’s happy chemicals – thrives on novelty, so even making small changes like trying a new latte at the coffee-shop will begin lifting your spirits. Then reach further – is it time to change your job, your house or your image? Fancy dipping your toe into online-dating, to show yourself new people are waiting for you? What did you always long to do with your life that wasn’t supported by your ex? Now’s the time to try. If you follow the rest of the advice above, this final step will be easy. Regular exercise and healthy eating will have given you confidence in achieving goals, and accepting the split and steering clear of your ex will encourage you to focus back on your life. Take a big blank sheet of paper and write down – in big, bold letters! – what you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Have fun with it, play and be optimistic. Pin it up in your bedroom and look at it every morning, and be proud of it, your very first Declaration of Independence!