How to Deal With a Breakup

Published on: 07 Sep 2017
Clinically Reviewed by Karmen Smith LCSW, DD 
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The end of a relationship can be excruciating, even if you end things on good terms or if the breakup is mutual. It’s normal to experience a range of emotions including confusion, sadness, and relief as you go through a breakup. No matter how you’re feeling about your split, it’s important to learn how to handle a breakup in a healthy and effective way. Read on to discover our guide to coping with a breakup.

How a Breakup Affects Your Mental Health

When you’re in a romantic relationship with someone, that person becomes an important part of your life. Changes to the partnership can be deeply disruptive, even in cases when there are deep relationship problems and you are unhappy. You may struggle with loneliness or feel your stress levels surge. A breakup can even increase your risk for major depressive disorder (MDD). 

Losing a partner can impact your self-esteem or diminish your sense of self. If you had a very strong connection or just ended a long-term relationship, you may not know who you are without your partner. A breakup can lead to sudden, dramatic changes in your life and adapting to your new normal can be a difficult process, especially if you haven’t yet learned how to deal with a breakup. 

“The end of a relationship can be hard on an individual. A lot of feelings and thoughts were shared between the couple. This can lead to a feeling of loss after a breakup. For some individuals, they can fall into a depression over the loss, or they may rejoice in the freedom. This greatly depends on how the relationship ended. Over time, even a ‘good’ breakup can result in some level of loss and/or sadness.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC  

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Dealing with a Breakup: What to Do

Coping with a breakup isn’t easy, but with the right tools, you can make sure you’re dealing with the end of your relationship in a constructive and healthy way. 

“It’s okay to display negative emotions after a breakup. It’s a natural progression to moving on. It’s important to recognize what a healthy amount of mourning is, though. Remember to reach out to establish support systems, like friends and family. Try to do new things or be a bit more active. It’s normal to feel fine for a span of time and then feel the pang of loss again. Grieving the end of a relationship takes time.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC   

The following suggestions will help you figure out how to handle a breakup and move on with your life.

Set healthy boundaries

Some couples can remain friends after they part ways, but it might be better for your mental health to give yourself some space while the breakup is still fresh. You don’t have to cut your ex completely out of your life, but you might want to focus on setting healthy relationship boundaries and taking some time apart. Continuing to talk or text might make you feel less lonely in the short term, but in the long run, it could potentially prolong the pain of your breakup.

Keep yourself busy

Especially if you’re not the one who decided to end things, it can be easy to obsess over the end of your relationship and spend hours thinking about what went wrong. Instead of dwelling on it though, try to fill your time with activities that you enjoy. Hobbies, exercise, and social interaction can distract you from your loss and improve your physical and emotional well-being. 

Find an outlet for your feelings

Splitting from a partner can trigger all kinds of emotions, from anger and frustration to anxiety and grief. Part of learning how to deal with a breakup is by finding ways to express and acknowledge those feelings. Journaling for your mental health, talking to friends, or seeing an in-person or online therapist can all be effective ways to help you to process your emotions and heal. Find what coping skills work best for you.

Look for the positives 

Breakups generally aren’t what anyone would consider “happy” events, but they can be an opportunity for growth. Take this time to learn more about yourself and what you want in future relationships. Let go of the past and try to make the most of this fresh start in life. 

Dealing with a Breakup: What Not to Do

When you don’t know how to cope with a breakup, you might make your situation worse. Avoid these missteps and try to deal with your split in a healthy, positive way. 

“As much as it is fine to dive into the negative emotions after a breakup, it’s important to realize when enough is enough. Staying within the constant state of negativity can start to build an unhealthy outlook and possible deepening of depression and anxiety. It’s also important to not engage in unhealthy coping skills like drinking, substance abuse, or comfort eating. Therapy can help in ensuring a person learns healthy coping skills and how to work to move on from a breakup.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC   

Don’t isolate yourself

It’s OK to spend time on your own after a breakup, but you shouldn’t withdraw from friends and family completely. Studies show that social support can significantly improve mental health and keep you from feeling lonely. If you’re not comfortable or just can’t muster the energy to spend time around your usual group of friends, try connecting with people in other ways, like by volunteering, taking a class, or joining some sort of club. 

Avoid social media 

Socialization is important, but you might want to consider taking a break from social media while you’re healing from the loss of your relationship. Don’t worry about updating your status or posting about your breakup, and resist the urge to check in on your ex through their social profile. It’s okay to use social media to check in with friends, but spending too much time online could disrupt your emotional recovery, according to research.

Don’t neglect your needs 

It can be hard to eat, sleep, or take care of other basic needs when you’re heartbroken. It isn’t easy to take care of yourself when you’re in pain, but prioritizing your needs will ultimately help you heal. Our mental and physical health are closely related, which is why caring for yourself is crucial when you’re coping with a breakup. Now is the time to focus on self-care and be kind to yourself. 

Stop judging yourself 

It’s common to struggle with self-doubt and other negative feelings after a breakup, but remember that this is a difficult time and you should really go easy on how harshly you judge your actions and situation. Don’t berate yourself if you have unkind thoughts, and try not to feel too guilty if you binge on ice cream or spend the day in bed. Instead, try to use affirmations and build back up your self-confidence.

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Breakup?

According to a survey of over 2,000 adults, it takes the average person six months to recover from a major breakup. That said, it’s important to note that people respond to the end of relationships differently, and there are no hard, fast rules about how long it should take to recover. There’s no way to know exactly how much time it will take you to get over the demise of your relationship, but you can be confident that you will heal as time goes on.

When you’ve chosen to share your life with someone, you’ll have to learn to rebuild after the relationship ends. Learning how to deal with a breakup might also involve recovering from any hurt you might have experienced during the relationship, such as infidelity or abuse. Don’t rush the healing process, and don’t push yourself to move on before you’re ready.

It might feel like your pain will never end, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Processing your grief and handling your emotions in a healthy way will set you on the path toward recovery. 

Get Professional Help with Talkspace

The end of a relationship can leave you feeling hurt, rejected, and lonely. It’s okay if you don’t know how to cope with a breakup on your own. If you’re having difficulty overcoming the end of your relationship and you feel like you need help, a therapist can show you how to work through your feelings and heal from the pain you’re experiencing.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or struggling to function, remember that you’re not alone. An online therapist at Talkspace can help you sort through the complex feelings associated with a breakup so you can move on with your life. 

Sources:

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2. Pressman S, Matthews K, Cohen S et al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Psychosom Med. 2009;71(7):725-732. doi:10.1097/psy.0b013e3181ad7978. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863117/. Accessed August 23, 2022.

3. Fasihi Harandi T, Mohammad Taghinasab M, Dehghan Nayeri T. The correlation of social support with mental health: A meta-analysis. Electron Physician. 2017;9(9):5212-5222. doi:10.19082/5212. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5633215. Accessed August 23, 2022.

4. Marshall T. Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 2012;15(10):521-526. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0125. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3472530/. Accessed August 23, 2022.

5. Study Reveals How Long It Takes To Get Over An Ex. digitalhub US. https://swnsdigital.com/us/2017/02/study-reveals-how-long-it-takes-to-get-over-an-ex/. Published 2021. Accessed August 23, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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