Are you going through a devastating divorce or breakup? The kind that makes you feel like a million broken pieces? The kind that leaves you feeling like you’re lost at sea yearning to feel land underneath your feet again?
I’ve been there, and my guess is that while you are turning to your friends or mentors for relationship advice and guidance, you are also reading articles like this one about how to get over a breakup. I remember being in the depths of my grief and googling “how to deal with a divorce” or “how to heal after my painful breakup” and found many articles and blogs online offering advice. They were not hard to find and they still aren’t (after all, here you are).
But there’s still problem: most of them talk about these big theoretical ideas and steps to take.
The big topic ideas such as:
Find a counselor.
All of these things are true and good. You should add them to your post-breakup survival list, in fact. But when I went through my divorce, I wanted practical specifics. Baby steps.
The odd thing about a divorce or breakup is this: when you are going through it, one year feels like ten years, but when you look back on it, one year feels like ten seconds. I remember feeling like the people writing all those articles and blogs were wrapping it up in that ten-second sound bite of big ideas. I needed those big ideas, but I also needed small ideas.
And, what I desperately wanted to know was how to get through the next difficult nighttime hour of lying in bed by myself.
Now, time has worked its magic (as it faithfully does), and I’m on the other side of heartbreak. I have found healing. But I have not forgotten are the long minutes and sleepless nights that tick by slowly when you lose love. That is why I have compiled a short list of simple and practical things you can do to get over a breakup. These are not Earth-shattering profound pearls of wisdom. These are just a few easy and small ways you can make the whole process a bit easier.
Yes, you should probably still get therapy. Yes, you need to forgive. But you could also try picking up the banjo…
1. Start A New Comedy Series on Netflix
When the tears are really flowing, watch things that make you laugh, not cry more. There will be many days coming up where you are already sad or angry. Allow laughter to pour its magic all over your life during this time. Studies do show, after all, that laughter can improve your mood. It is a fake it ‘til you make it sort of philosophy.
Start a new series, not one you got half way through with your ex. Finishing that can wait. Start a comedy that is just your own; it gets to belong to you. Make sure you really like the humor. If it’s not making you laugh out loud, move on to a different comedy series option.
Right after my divorce, Parks and Recreation was my saving grace. Amy Poehler and I became virtual besties (at least, I like to think so). Every night before bed I would watch an episode or two (or six or ten). I was guaranteed to end my day smiling. No matter how difficult or long or tiring or frustrating my day was, I would laugh before my head hit the pillow.
2. Move Your Body In Your Favorite Way
Now, I have read quite a few articles that suggest working out after a breakup. It is good for your mental health and your physical confidence. Many of these articles suggest enrolling in a gym and hitting it hard. This is great for some people, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily great for every person.
I think you should start moving your body, but you should be exercising in the way that keeps you happy, makes you excited to show up, and helps you feel good. For me, it was yoga. Not hot yoga. That felt like hot, sweaty death to me. Slow, focused, stretchy, yummy yoga – in a room that did not make me sweat before the class even began.
This isn’t the time for a one-size-fits-all workout plan. Maybe your thing is training for a marathon, or maybe your thing is belly-dancing class. If it keeps you active, gets you out of the house, and makes you happy – do it!
3. Read Books That Entertain and Open Your Mind
You are going to have more free time when you are not sharing your life with a significant other. Use that time to read or listen to audio books and fill up your brain with new life-giving information. Reading can help those lonely mornings, boring afternoons, or sleepless nights go by with less anxiety and more relaxation.
By putting a new focus on reading books, you will also be investing in yourself and your knowledge during this time. In the midst of grief it can be easy to slide into a shame spiral and not take care of yourself. Make your mind a priority.
Some of my personal favorite books for growth after my divorce:
All of Brene Brown’s works (Start with The Gifts of Imperfection)
When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
Yes, Please – Amy Poehler (my virtual bestie!)
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
4. Go Out – Sometimes
After a divorce or breakup, some people will tell you to force yourself to go out even when you do not want to. I think that advice is right half of the time. Sometimes you really do need to kick yourself into gear and get out.
When you are feeling extra mopey, lonely, or overly downtrodden – a night out with your girlfriends or coworkers can work magic. Oftentimes, you won’t start the night feeling like going out. You will probably think of a million excuses to stay in. But telling yourself you deserve a little bit of fun and putting on an outfit you love can remind you that you are your own person – and that is perfectly wonderful.
Have fun. Visit with people. Loosen up. Remind yourself that your happiness does not come from somebody else, but from yourself.
5. Stay In – Sometimes
But sometimes, it really is the right choice to stay in. When you are tired and worn out or when you are craving some me-time, by all means – stay home. Give yourself a little extra TLC. You do not owe anyone an explanation other than “I’m gonna have some me-time tonight.”
One of my biggest pleasures post-divorce was to order a Gluten-Free pizza from Dominos with sausage, onions, and mushrooms, and watch my Parks and Recreation on the couch with my dog. I mean, that simply made me giddy. Then I would have a small bowl of gelato and not feel guilty about it.
It’s important to not run yourself ragged. Emotional healing is tiring, and the process works better when you allow yourself time to rest.
6. Try A Brand New Hobby…Like The Banjo
I needed something new to do after my divorce, and my brother owned a banjo. I could already play the guitar and thought, “This would be an easy hobby to pick up.” It turns out the banjo is nothing like the guitar… at all… and that ended up being great. I was able to distract my mind from the woe-is-me moments and start something productive and positive.
I learned something new. I reminded myself I could do anything I set my mind to. I had something to talk about other than my divorce when I was out with friends. And most important of all – I had fun.
Did I become a banjo expert? No. Do I still play the banjo today? No, I honestly don’t. But that does not mean the time I spent focusing on finger positions and picking patterns did not offer huge value in my life while I was recovering from heartache.
7. Take A Trip – Anywhere New
…And it doesn’t have to be a private island in Fiji or a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Many people believe travel has to be expensive, and oftentimes our post-divorce or post-breakup finances can be a little grim. In no way does travel have to cost a fortune. If you saved $4 a day on buying coffee, you’d have about $120 at the end of the month to get a hotel room for a night somewhere nearby. Either grab a girlfriend to come along, or take the trip by yourself. Traveling alone is an empowering experience.
A simple change of scenery even near home can do your heart good. I made a couple trips post divorce. One was a mother/daughter weekend trip to the beach; we stayed in a no-frills hotel and brought our own breakfasts with us. The other trip was at a girlfriend’s house in another state. Neither broke the bank, but they both made me feel whole again. They reminded me that I could have incredible life experiences as a single woman.
Are there mountains nearby for a short camping trip? A friend or family member who will offer free lodging at their home for a weekend getaway? Is there a tourist town nearby that you haven’t seen before? Is there a resort package on Groupon for an overnight spa weekend?
8. Find a Kickass Theme Song
There will be plenty of down moments, but you are going to need to find little ways to help pick yourself back up. Music has a strong power over our moods and finding an empowering song with great lyrics can be your theme song to play when you are struggling.
Katy Perry’s “Roar” came out while I was going through my divorce. Every time it came on the radio, I was reminded that I was a strong woman who could do anything. I would play it when I was feeling low and it boosted me back up.
Find the song – old or new – that connects with what you are doing and keep rocking it. It will always be a special song that reminds you in the years to come that you’ve not only survived, but thrived.
All of these small activities are what the big concept of self-care looks like under a microscope. Self-care looks a lot like tiny positive decisions throughout each day that may appear insignificant on first sight, but really make all the difference in taking care of yourself as you get over a breakup.