It’s almost inevitable that sometime during your twenties, you’ll endure a catastrophic breakup. The pain will be horrible. And for weeks (or months, if you’re really unlucky) it will seem like there’s no end in sight. You’ll wonder if you can ever be happy again, and if you’ll ever love someone as much as you loved your ex. You will, on both counts. Getting over a relationship can be incredibly hard, but it does happen eventually. That tired saying,—”Time heals all wounds”—is annoyingly true.
But if you’re fresh off a breakup, knowing that you’ll just have to wait around before you feel better is maddening. Turns out, you can’t speed up time and make the pain disappear. Unfortunately, you’ve got to sit with the heartache for a bit—and the only way out is through.
Or at least, that’s what my yoga teacher once told me when I started sobbing in the middle of savasana during my own life-shattering breakup. When my five-year relationship ended, I felt like I’d lost my best friend and the person I was meant to spend my life with. At 24, I knew breaking up sucked—but I didn’t know just how badly it sucked.
Despite how sad I was, I figured I was a mentally tough, resilient person. But when I burst into tears on the subway a month later (we’ve all been there, and it’s NOT a pretty sight), it became clear I’d need to show myself a little love in order to heal.
Here’s what I did to get over my heartache and move on to waaaaaay better things.
OK, this is going to sound a bit shallow—but the first thing I did was give myself a bit of a makeover. I firmly believe that when you look good, you feel good. And because I spent so much time trying to spend my free nights and weekends with my S.O. during our relationship, it’d been a hot second since I’d really taken the time to pamper myself. Basically, I’d feel guilty if I bailed on quality time with the ex to indulge in “me-time”—so I made us a priority, often neglecting my personal wellbeing.
I’d always been self-conscious of my skin—curse you, hormonal acne!—so I booked a few facials, tried microdermabrasion, and invested in a new (read: expensive) face cream. Weeks later my skin had honestly never looked better, which boosted my self-confidence like whoa. Waking up to a clear complexion for the first time in my life made me feel really beautiful—and I didn’t need a partner to validate that.
When you’re in a relationship, you don’t realize how often you physically share space with another person. Even if you’re not touchy-feely, you probably hug and kiss and occasionally cuddle up on the couch together. But when you’re single, you can go days or weeks without touching another person. Weird, right?
Now, I’m not saying that you need to go around hugging random strangers—please don’t make anyone uncomfortable. But there is something to be said about the healing power of touch. Many energy healers believe that massage therapy, reiki, and therapeutic touch can help a person heal physically and mentally.
I noticed a huge shift in my mood and mental clarity when I started visiting a traditional Chinese reflexologist every other week. Sometimes he would only work on the heels of my feet—other days he’d spend more time activating pressure points along my spine. After almost every session, I’d have an emotional breakthrough.
Even if you’re not into alternative medicine, just getting a massage at a day spa can be really wonderful. An hour-long appointment will give you plenty of time to meditate, rest, and work out any lingering physical stress.
A recent study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal found that looking back at a breakup in order to find personal clarity makes it easier for newly-single people to move on. At first, this information seems counterintuitve—dwelling on your lost love seems like a sure-fire way to open up old wounds. But realizing your self-worth and identity beyond a previous relationship is what helps you heal.
In the weeks after my breakup, I spent a lot of time walking by myself. In hindsight, I realize it was a sort of walking meditation—I’d be deep in thought, and would eventually look up to find myself 30 blocks away from where I started. It was during quiet, focused moments like these that I found myself.
Not a fan of walking or meditating? Try journaling. As the dust settles on your relationship, conflicting emotions might come up for you. Putting pen to paper can clear your head and help you organize your thoughts more clearly.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention exercise. Although I was already in really good shape, I spent a lot more time at the gym when I was newly single—mostly just to kill time. Getting serious about a workout schedule, though, can be a great way to boost your mood and confidence during an emotionally tough time. Just remember to be easy with yourself; sometimes skipping an early morning workout can be just as healing as a hard-core sweat sesh.
When you find yourself suddenly single, you realize you’ve got a lot more free time on your hands. This open calendar space is a double-edged sword—it leaves you with uncompromised hours on your own to explore things that you’re really interested in, but it can also make you feel pretty lonely.
Resist the urge to wallow in your loneliness, and instead take the time to find out what inspires you. Leaving a relationship, especially one that’s long-term, can make you feel unmoored—even lost. Time to get reinspired and refocused on what you want for your life. Explore museum exhibits, see plays and performances, go to indie movies, take a meditation class, sign up for a course at your local community college—do something you’ve never had the time to do before now. Throwing yourself into something new might just reignite some passion in your heart.
Do nice things for yourself
Even if you’re not going through a breakup, you should take this to heart! It can be something as simple as making your bed (it’s nice to come home to a well-made bed!) or treating yourself to a manicure—just give yourself permission to be pampered.
Bottom line: Breaking up just sucks. It’s hard, and scary, and sad. The only way to move on from it, though, is by treating yourself with radical self-love. For me, the confidence I found through self-care made it way easier to talk to new people and say “yes” to opportunities that I might’ve previously declined … which is exactly how I met my current partner!