person looking off into the sunset

Reducing the Suffering in a Break-up

There is a reason why break-ups are often related to having a broken heart.

The pain from a break-up hurts so badly, it feels like your heart is injured. The pain can feel so excruciating that you may struggle to see how you’ll ever live without your partner. It can be especially hard to imagine feeling happy again, and perhaps even harder to imagine falling in love again!

Break-ups are similar to other life events involving loss, such as death of a loved one or being diagnosed with a chronic health condition. In this way, break-ups are often experienced as grief with 5 stages of processing your loss: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People tend to oscillate between these stages in no specific order.

While a break-up and grief is incredibly painful, you can reduce your suffering.

Before I continue, it’s important to distinguish between “pain” and “suffering”. Pain is a raw emotion you experience in response to a life event or situation. Pain is seen as an inevitable part of living that can be accepted. Whereas suffering is a response to pain, caused by a struggle to avoid inescapable pain. For example, let’s say you’re experiencing a relationship break-up and you’re feeling sad as a result. The sadness you experience is pain, which is an unavoidable part of life. However, if you attempt to avoid sadness by, let’s say, drinking lots of alcohol or engaging in other self destructive behaviours, then you’re experiencing suffering. Read more to see if you have signs of suffering from a break-up in blog post – Relationship Break-up: Am I Actually Coping?.

Ways to reduce suffering in a break-up

Engage in self-care. It may seem basic, but engaging in everyday self-care can protect you from suffering in a break-up. Self-care starts with things like, keeping on top of your personal hygiene, ensuring you get enough sleep and eating regularly. However, self-care can also extend to doing things for yourself that make you feel proud – for example, being organised for uni or work, ensuring you’re dressed nicely and groomed neatly, and keeping your house clean and organised. Read more on why self-care is helpful in blog post – The Most Practical and First Step to Depression Recovery.

Add enjoyment to your life. Just because you’re experiencing pain doesn’t mean you can’t experience some joy as well. It’s worthwhile planning some activities that give you joy – for example, going to the movies, catching up with friends for dinner, doing a dancing class, etc. While you may only experience moments of joy when engaging in these activities, it’s important to continue to “live” life while you process your break-up.

Consider what you’ve learnt and gained from your relationship. It can be helpful to review your recent relationship; what you’ve learnt and gained, but also how you would approach a new relationship.

Add something new to your life that you previously did not have time for. To quote, “for every hidden loss there is a hidden gain”: Now that you’ve got extra time on your hands, add some extra activities into your week and work on growing friendships.

Recognise that your experience of heart break is normal. Be mindful not to judge yourself for feeling sad or angry, for example. While these emotions can be difficult to experience, they will eventually pass and you will feel a sense of peace again. If you find yourself judging yourself harshly on how you’re coping, you should consider speaking to a psychologist.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are passionate about supporting individuals through relationship break-ups. We are a team of psychologists who are well trained and experienced in therapies, such as CBT and IPT, which have been proven by research to be effective in improving, anxiety, depression, self-esteem and relationship wellbeing.  If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.