Here’s How to Manage Depression After a Nasty Breakup
The aftermath of a breakup can leave you feeling shocked and raw. It’s hard to manage the flurry of emotions that flood your system. You not only lost your relationship with your partner but also the future you imagined you would share together. One day you’re together and then, before you can grasp what’s happening, your life is changed in an instant. It’s as if the wind has been knocked out of you.
As you attempt to regain some normalcy to your life, you may find activities you once enjoyed are no longer enjoyable. It’s also harder to wake up for work, and as soon as you sit down at your desk, all you can think about is getting home and going to sleep.
Once the dust settles after separating from your partner, it’s common to feel hopeless and depressed. Here are some ways to manage depression after a breakup.
1. Identify your feelings
It can be hard to sift through the difficult feelings that come with a breakup. Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach, says you can work through this by putting a label on your feelings. This can help you let go of toxic emotions. “Your last relationship very likely has left you with some unresolved issues, anxiety, and possibly low self-esteem. Those doubts and negative emotions can trigger irrational thoughts or behaviors within you,” Sedacca told The Cheat Sheet. She went on to say, “What can you do instead? Realize that giving negative emotions so much power can actually be harmful.”
One emotion that’s important to release is guilt. Psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, author of Love Styles, says guilt can keep you stuck in the past, making it hard to move forward. When you hold on to guilt, you have a tendency to replay past wrongs, continually punishing yourself.
“Guilt is like time payments; you can keep suffering forever. Instead, do the grieving you need to do, figure out how you helped create the problems (or stayed around for them), and decide to change what didn’t work before. Grieve all you need, but don’t exaggerate your feelings,” Tessina advised.
2. Allow yourself to experience all your emotions
Once you’ve identified how you are feeling, give yourself permission to experience those feelings instead of brushing them aside. While you may want to move on as quickly as possible, it’s important to take time to process your emotions. If you feel sad, allow yourself to sit with the sadness. Don’t deny how you’re feeling or force yourself to be happy. Own your emotions.
Psychologist Niels Barends says feeling those emotions may cause you to feel like you want to cry, and that’s OK. Allowing yourself to release bottled emotions can help speed up the healing process. “Crying is a way to get rid of feelings of grief, sadness, and other painful emotions. People usually feel better after crying for a while. Repressing emotions will make you cranky, more quickly annoyed, and will make you experience more negative emotions throughout the day,” Barends writes on his practice’s website.
3. Get enough sleep
Do your best to eat well and get enough rest. Lack of sleep can cause or worsen depression, so make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Psychologist Irena Milentijevic says sleep is also a good way to manage breakup-related stress. “Try keeping a regular sleep schedule — going to bed and waking up at the same time each day — you will feel more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times,” Milentijevic says on her website.
4. Give yourself time before entering a new relationship
Don’t be quick to jump into a new relationship. A new love may help dull the pain, but it’s only a temporary fix and may even prevent you from doing the emotional work you need to do. Engage in some inner work to make sure you’re emotionally ready to focus on another person before entering a relationship. Follow this advice from Sedacca:
Before moving ahead with a new partner, ask yourself whether you are ready to let go of the baggage from your last relationship. If not; why? If so, what’s the first step for you? And how will you know when you’ve made the shift? Armed with these insights you’ll be better prepared to attract an even happier, more fulfilling relationship next time around.
5. Seek support
Don’t hesitate to seek outside support. Reach out to friends, family, and a mental health professional. It will be important to form a solid support group in order to get back to enjoying your life again. Tessina says now is not the time to cut yourself off from people. She advised:
This is an important time to have your friends or family around you; you need support. Don’t isolate. You don’t have to go right out and date again — in fact, I suggest going slow with that — but you should have a social life with friends and family. Even if you don’t think you feel ready to see people, see your closest friends and spend time with them. They’ll help you heal and remind you that you still have people who love you.
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[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published November 2016]