Heartbreak recovery cheat-sheet: The 5 essential steps when you’ve gone through a breakup

Words can’t adequately express the pain of losing a loved one, especially when that loved one chooses to leave: Pain, regret, anger, grief, disappointment & shame. There’s a gaping hole in your stomach at the thought of being alone again, not to mention the absolute fear that it’ll be forever. And in all the turmoil, the one person you would normally go to to make it better is the one that caused it in the first place. 

When your emotions are in survival-mode, it’s hard to know what steps to take to make it better – not only for yourself, but for your little ones. Making the right moves towards your recovery will help clear the emotional fog and give you the strength to power on through. These essential first 5 steps will give you clarity and confidence in your journey back to empowerment.

1. Environment –Isolate the wound

We’d all love to do a 3-month ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ getaway, or move out to a new pad but the reality is we don’t always have the time, money and support to escape our situation; especially when our finances have just halved!

Instead, look to create a safe environment wherever you are, and treat your breakup like you would a physical injury. Put yourself in a physically and emotionally safe environment that will allow you to recover better, and surround yourself with positive energy and people; This is vitally important and allows for time and space to let us get our thoughts in line for what to do next. 

This stage may also mean seeking professional medical or psychological help, and by all means follow this up if you feel you need it.

2. Open up – Release emotions safely  

Talking about our feelings as and when they come up is key to our recovery, but HOW we do that is incredibly important. We often think that offloading to every friend for hours on end, or posting (READ: ‘Ranting’) on Facebook will make it better, but it’s just venting without recovery. 

What you are feeling is genuine pain, and what you need to do is find a genuine avenue to release it. Finding a psychologist or coach is the ideal as they have the right tools and practices to help. Friends and family can also help in these situations provided you talk to someone who is open to helping and understands the depth and repetition that’s required to be an active listener.  

3. Gratitude – Take stock of what you’ve got

We’ve all seen a glittery ‘Gratitude’ plastered on mugs and calendars, but it’s hard to see the value in the word when we’re in a lot of pain. Yes, it is about being thankful for what you have, but the essence of the word goes a lot deeper. 

From a psychological point of view, ‘Gratitude’ is about resources, and letting that ‘fight or flight’ part of your brain know that you have enough to survive on. Acknowledging your resources, and knowing that you have air, shelter, family, money, helps your brain not to panic and allows you to think from a position of strength, not scarcity.

4. Order – Prepare for the ups and downs

There will be days when you feel sad; when you feel amazing; when you miss your ex, and perhaps days when you’ll want to run them over. Such is the life cycle of the neurochemicals coursing through your brain after a breakup as the oldest part of your brain tries to make sense of tragedy. 

Understand that during these first few weeks your mind will feel all over the place, but with the right ‘infrastructure’ in place, you’ll be able to navigate it better. Among other coaching tools, meditation and mantras are actually really great ways to help get your mind right. Like walking over the same track on a field of grass, meditating & mantras help reinforce positive thinking in your brain pathways making them stronger. They also help calm the stress hormone (cortisol) to make you feel better and think clearer. 

5. Repeat – Time doesn’t heal; Practice does!

It’s all very well thinking about these ideals, but unless we put them into practice they don’t provide any benefit. Most people think that as long as enough time goes past, we won’t feel like this any more – it’s only half true. The reason we don’t feel pain from the past is that the neurochemicals that caused it are no longer there, and the best way to get rid of them is to deal with them. Get yourself safe, release what you’re feeling, take stock of what you already have, and deal with the emotions as they come. Rinse and repeat for as long as you need to, and along with the right support you’ll feel better in no time.