Sometimes, even the best relationships have an expiration date. We’ve written about how breaking up with your S.O. can be one of the most difficult things to do in your relationship, but what about how to deal after the separation? That stage can be full of just as much anxiety, sadness, and a major rollercoaster of emotions as you adjust––to what was, what just happened, and what might be in future days.
"One of the most powerful things that happens when you fall in love with someone is you start to feel like who you are is melding with who they are. I think that's an incredibly painful process to have to reverse," said Grace Larson in an interview, then a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University.
Whether you’re going through a break up with your partner, or transitioning from marriage to divorce, there will be opportunities for personal growth and improvement… eventually. But dealing with the right here, right now swirl of break up emotions? We won’t sugarcoat it; it’s tough. Stress and grief that come from a big time event like divorce is like a death, it affects you physically and emotionally, said Natalie Greggs, a family law attorney, in an interview with U.S. News.
Hang in there with these tips below. And while they sound pretty basic, anyone who’s gone through a soul-crushing breakup knows sometimes it’s not that simple.
Eat A Balanced Meal, and More of These Mood Boosting Foods
Food plays a supporting role in regards to your mood, and eating the right foods help you feel better than others. In addition to drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated (or risk increasing cortisol levels, or stress hormones), fill your plate with foods high in antioxidants, like blueberries and walnuts. Research also suggest foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like those found in wild fish have mental boosting benefits. Additionally, boost serotonin––the hormone also known as the ‘happy chemical’––levels with good carbohydrates like steel-cut oatmeal or pasta with little or no protein.
According to experts at MIT, the body needs the carbs (and carbs alone) to make serotonin. As an overall rule of thumb, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that instead of grouping foods into “good” and “bad” groups, the best course of action is to be mindful about your overall eating patterns and what you’re noshing on as a whole.
Sweat It Out
In addition to well-rounded, nourishing meals, make time for movement. Regular exercise is another way to lift your spirits, according to the Mayo Clinic. They say that a gym session or brisk walk jump starts those brain chemicals that can make you feel happier, less anxious, and more chill––though feel free to partake in the type of movement that gets you up off the couch, whether that’s a round of tennis, a booty shaking dance class, or a good old fashioned run. Don’t worry, Netflix will still be there to reward you after your session.
Other benefits to regular exercise to keep in mind as you get through this separation include more restful sleep, improved energy levels, and better overall fitness like flexibility, strength, and endurance. If you’re new to fitness––or are getting back into it after a hiatus––the Mayo Clinic recommends to first determine your fitness level (a personal trainer can help here, or go DIY-style) before creating your fitness goals. Also consider visiting your doctor to make sure that there are no health problems that will be exacerbated by regular exercise.
Talk it Out Too, But Be Mindful of Gossip
"When you enter into a romantic relationship, your self-concept becomes really intertwined with that loved one," Larson tells the Huffington Post in 2015. Larson is the co-author of a 2015 study that suggest coping after a breakup (like rehashing the details of the split and how you’re feeling) can actually rebuild the way you see yourself. Similarly, couples therapist and founder of ReadySetLove.com John Howard once wrote that while talking about all your feels helps us make sense of our emotions and move on gracefully, there’s a difference between airing out your feelings in a helpful way and gossiping to spite your ex partner.
This may just make things worse, says Howard. And if there are children involved, those negative comments about another parent are better saved for a trusted friend or therapist.
Do What’s Best for the Kids
Co-parenting as a couple is already challenging, and doing so separately presents an entire set of challenges, including the wellbeing of your kids. “When parents are going through difficult times,” pediatrician Skylar Kalady tell the Cleveland Clinic, “Children perceive that, regardless of their age. So while kids may express their stresses in different ways at different ages, it’s important for parents to be as open and honest as possible, even with difficult situations.” To help them deal, Kalady suggests keeping an honest line of communication open, maintaining a consistent routine (which is comforting to children), and keeping an eye out for subtle signs your child isn’t doing well, “such as not doing as well in school, withdrawing from activities or friends, or just being disinterested.” Your pediatrician can guide you toward helpful ways to minimize negative effects of divorce, said Kalady, as well as offer suggestions for experts in the, “social, legal, and emotional aspects of separation.”
Focus on What You Can Control
The world may be spinning, but consider this newfound solo time an opportunity, said psychologist Suzanne Lachmann. “It’s all about you now,” Lachmann tells the Huffington Post. What does that mean? It means that while you consider what’s in your control, you can finally take that cooking class you’ve always procrastinated on, or book that trip to Lisbon your Ex never had time for. Sure, your mind might drift to what your Ex is doing and how they are dealing with the split, but a better use of energy could be to focus on what you can learn, about yourself and what will be meaningful and fulfilling in this new chapter.
So what will it be: Go back to school? Dive into work to prep for that promotion? Spending more time with the kids? The opportunities are infinite.