Breakups are hard. If you’re going through one right now, I feel you.
I understand you must be feeling hurt and lost and millions of other terrible emotions right now; the ground beneath you seems like it’s breaking apart and you feel as though you’re being swallowed up into nothingness.
But please hang in there.
You’re not alone and you will survive this — no, you will thrive as a result of this — I promise.
I have gone through many heartbreaks in the last twenty-something years of my life and, if there’s something good I’ve learned, it’s that there’s a way out — a way that will help you become a much better person who is capable of manifesting your dream life.
Here are 10 solid steps to guide you through your healing process:
1. Go no-contact
The first step is to immediately go no-contact.
No-contact means no communication of any kind, including phone calls, texts, social media interactions, mentions from friends or family.
As far as you’re concerned, your ex is technically dead.
This step is the most crucial step in your healing process.
When you get together with someone, regardless of the health of the relationship, you develop a bond with them. You become emotionally affected by their words and actions and this bond doesn’t stop simply because the relationship stops.
You might still feel happy when you hear from them, anxious when they don’t contact you; even information about them from friends or social media could influence your emotions for the day.
But it doesn’t mean you should be back with them.
Your goal immediately after the break up should be to detach yourself from your ex and you can only achieve this by going no-contact.
Over time, your brain won’t associate them with “reward” anymore and your internal reward system will reset. You will be able to feel happy and sad for reasons that have nothing to do with your ex again.
It’s undeniable that cutting contact with your ex cold-turkey is challenging. Right now, you’re no less than an addict whose supply just gets cut off.
I was a recovering addict who was desperate for the next dopamine hit from my ex. Rationally I knew I had to stop, but every time I was all by myself or feeling low, there appeared a force bigger than me pushing me to reach out to him.
See, when you’re in a vulnerable place, the emotional part of your brain will aggressively bargain and tempt you to find your supply again. It will convince you that this is the most important thing you have to do right now and if you don’t do it, you might as well die.
Now I know, of course, this is all bullshit. You will live on and you will become even stronger.
Many times in the past, I made mistakes to stay in touch with my ex much longer than I should have and ended up with more abuse than I ever deserved. If it’s the same for you, it’s time to stop now. The sooner you can pull the plug, the faster your pain can end and your wounds can start healing.
For now, the easiest way to fight your urges regarding your ex is that you set no-contact as a hard rule. You tell yourself that this is what you must do, regardless of reasons.
Simply put, just do it.
You can read this ultimate no-contact guide to get inspiration and motivation.
2. Release your feelings and emotions
After you go no-contact, it’s all about tending to your feelings and emotions.
In the first few weeks or months, you will experience intense withdrawal from your ex. It’s very critical that when you feel something, you don’t fight it. You accept it, observe it, name it, stay present for it, sit with it, and don’t act on it.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Whatever it is that runs through your body, it’s okay. Your feelings are valid. Even if it’s a negative feeling or dark thought, don’t shame it. Let it be and it will dissolve in its own time.
A few practical things you could do are:
writing a journal or letter to yourself
calling a friend you can trust
express your feelings and thoughts artistically
sing or shout out your heart
cry whenever you feel like crying.
In a nutshell, everything is allowed.
This is the period where you get to go through every mental note, every level of emotions, every hypothetical scenario you might have about your past relationship and your ex without doing anything about your ex.
For me, I went to therapy every week to safely unload my feelings and thoughts regarding my ex. Outside of my sessions, I also made use of writing and sports. These activities soothed and distracted me and made me realise the solution didn’t have to involve my ex after all.
3. Allow yourself to mope around
In the first few weeks post-breakup, I was practically a zombie. I felt bad, I looked bad, and I never left the house unless I absolutely had to.
I dreaded looking at myself in the mirror and felt guilty for blowing off my friends now and again, but I was too numb and shattered to do anything about it.
In retrospect, that zombie time was inevitable and actually good for me. It allowed me to be real to myself and operate at the lowest energy level possible while comforting myself in any way I wanted.
If you find yourself in this situation, give yourself permission to be.
During this moping around time, it’s okay if you miss parties, cancel plans, talk too much, leave an event without saying goodbyes, stay in bed all weekends, forget to do your laundry, don’t wash your hair, don’t change out of your pajamas, and so on.
It’s okay if you put yourself first.
Let go of the pressure to present yourself well, look happy for other people, reply to every text message, answer every phone call, or even talk about your feelings.
You don’t even have to move on right now. Not yet. You have every right to be an emotional mess after your break-up.
4. Give yourself a deadline for moping
Mope around all you want but remember to give that moping-around an end date. For example, I gave mine one week considering my relationship was only a few months.
Next, you can mark the deadline on the calendar. Be realistic and generous and take your overall lifestyle into consideration.
When the day comes, you need to get your life back up and running again. Get out of bed, put on your favourite outfit, put away the ice cream, maybe even shop for some fancy jewellery or whatever gets you excited.
Personally, I committed to attending weekly swimming lessons. No matter how miserable I felt, I came to the class and I mingled with my classmates as though nothing had happened to me. I smiled and, for an hour there, I felt normal again.
It’s time to be intentional about moving on. Show up for yourself every day, be your own coach and cheerleader.
Though you don’t have to rush it. Take your time.
5. But give yourself no deadline for healing
That said, when it comes to healing your shattered heart, you don’t need a deadline. There’s no timeline for grief caused by a failed relationship or a lost connection.
While you physically and mentally carry on with your daily life, perhaps emotionally you’re still a little bit behind and it’s okay.
Once, it took me two years to fully get over a relationship of two months. Even then, my mind still occasionally wandered to it. It’s simple — grief is not a linear process.
It makes no sense to compare your healing journey to others because we’re all different and our relationships are all different. Let yourself be.
6. Start a committed relationship with yourself
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. From here on, it’s all about you, your own happiness, and your dream life.
It’s the stage where you start going on dates with yourself and do all the things you would want a partner to do with you or you to do to a partner.
Go all out. Dress up, take yourself to nice bars and restaurants, get to know yourself through journaling and participating in new activities, bring yourself to the gym, treat yourself to a levelled up wardrobe if you can afford it.
Go to therapy. Pick up a new fun hobby. Talk and listen to yourself attentively. Respect your own feelings and boundaries. Set a daily schedule.
For me, I spent a good 5 or 6 months being completely single — no romantic interactions with men whatsoever. I put a routine in place and started taking great interest in caring for myself. Over time, I got used to it and started to enjoy it for real. It was transformative.
7. Spend time with loved ones
One of the most rewarding and healing experiences for me was turning to my friends and family in vulnerable moments. I stopped trying to be strong all the time and started letting others support me. It worked wonders.
The same goes for you. Now that you’re single and have a lot more free time, you can spend it generously with the people you love.
This is the step to help you realise that there’s more to life than romantic love and you deserve love from the people who see you and choose you every day.
Your task is to build yourself up with healthy love and teach yourself what healthy love feels like, looks like, acts like so you will see more and more clearly each day why your last relationship must end and you’ll thank god that it did.
8. Do what you love
Your life now should only consist of the things that you absolutely love and give you positive energy. This will help build your self-esteem and confidence and instill in you a sense of hope again.
You owe it to yourself to listen closely to your body and heart and do what’s good for you. At the same time, you need to ruthlessly cut off things that make you feel anything less than positive. You must have zero tolerance for bullshit and toxicity.
Just ask yourself these questions: Does it make you feel good? Does it make you feel good about yourself? Does it add any value to your life? If the answer isn’t a big fat yes, then no thanks.
Since the break-up, I’ve stopped talking daily to a handful of people as I realised I had become friends with them during my time involved with my ex when all my judgments were clouded — the quality of those friendships wasn’t great and I know I have outgrown them.
Stepping away from those relationships gave me time and energy to focus on the things and people that truly mattered to me and consistently brought me joy.
9. Set new goals
If you have followed the first step and at least 5 other steps from the above, you’ll likely be in a good headspace right now. It’s comforting and hopeful to set goals and envision yourself in 5 or 10 years with all your aspirations materialised.
Make a plan for not only next year but even for the rest of your life, even if it’s super vague. As long as you have a rough sketch of who you might want to be, how your life might look like, you will be able to work backward to where you are now and you will have something to look forward to again.
If you’re creative and have some editing skills, you could even turn those goals into a vision board. It will remind you daily that an amazing life that works for you and is full of people who love you and choose you is possible and it’s coming your way.
I especially love this tip. In my bedroom, I had two vision boards — one for the current year and one for the next 5 years and, when I looked at them, I remembered why I was doing what I was doing and felt hopeful and excited again.
10. Reflect productively
After enough time has passed and your emotions have stabilised, it’s time to look back at your past relationships and learn some lessons from a place of strength and centredness.
Remember that it’s no longer about your ex or your past relationships. At this stage, it’s about you and your needs and wants. It’s about understanding and accepting your past self, owning up your part of the story, and giving yourself the support and love you need to keep going forward with confidence.
After you have completed the previous steps, you should be able to see how far you’ve come compared to when you were in the relationship or right after the break-up, and you will realise that you would never want to be back there again.
This reflection time might take a day or even months or longer. Take me as an example. It’s been years, yet sometimes I was still hit by insights from my first ever relationship and ended up having a deep discussion with my best friend about the meaning of relationships and everything in life.
These lessons might come in waves or suddenly pop up at random moments like in my case. Regardless, you’ll be wiser and better for it.
Now go and celebrate a new, exciting, and wonderful chapter of your life!