A breakup can leave you feeling lost. You question your choices, the things you said, and run through endless questions of “what went wrong?” Recent research even shows that breaking up with a romantic partner can produce a depression-like state, which might make it difficult to find the energy you need to do the things you enjoy.
But it's important to remember that breakups can also be a good thing — particularly if the relationship was sapping your energy or making it difficult for you to engage in self-love.
So, while it’s only natural to feel at a loss when a relationship ends, you can still take proactive steps to pick yourself up and find yourself again after a breakup.
Reaching out to a helping handPhoto by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash
Life is hard enough even when you’re in a stable relationship. It gets even harder when you go through a bad breakup and are assailed by self-doubt and sadness. Many folks mistakenly believe that it's best to just “get on with it” but this mindset can be incredibly taxing on your mental health.
If your mental health is taking a dive, you should seek out a trusted medical professional who can help you cope with a breakup. Psychologists and therapists can provide you with a safe space and will give you the mental tools you need to move on. Additionally, the right physician can help you manage the stress and negative physical health consequences that come with a difficult breakup.
Getting help might be particularly difficult if your breakup has impacted your friend group and caused you to lose friends. But life after a breakup shouldn’t spell the end of your social life. If anything, you should lean on your friends when you’re at your lowest. So instead of turning your back on people altogether, connect with others through community groups and by joining a sports team or book club.
Change the Scenery
Taking in the beauty of it allPhoto by Tyler Reynolds on Unsplash
After a breakup, it’s only natural to lament the loss of a person you once loved. You see them wherever you go and are reminded by their absence through silly things like the smell of pizza, the sweater they left behind, and their favorite songs that still play on your Spotify.
But wallowing in the same physical space will only make you feel more isolated and won’t help you make the positive changes you need to rediscover yourself. Instead, consider changing the scenery and plan trips that help you rediscover your identity and create new memories which don’t involve your previous partner.
If you’re really struggling to move on, it might be worth considering a permanent move for your mental health. Plenty of folks around the nation are moving to lakeside towns or slower-paced suburbias to prioritize their mental health and turn over new leaves. But, before you move to a remote cabin in the woods, remember that you still need good access to healthcare and will probably benefit from being around other people — even if they’re strangers to you.
Art for Identity
Painting as a form of therapyPhoto by dusan jovic on Unsplash
There’s no “right way” to rediscover your identity or create a new sense of self. But art can help channel your feelings and find new meaning in life after a breakup.
A lot of folks are put off practicing art due to the pressure they place on themselves. This makes sense, as you may feel as though your artistic production is a reflection of your self-worth. But this isn’t really true: art just gives you a way to channel your thoughts and feelings into a medium of your choice. So, preempt the nerves around artistic production by sticking to low-stakes artistic methods like journaling, doodling, or photographing your neighborhood.
If producing art of your own seems a little too daunting, you can always look for inspiration from other artists, musicians, and writers who have been through similar experiences. You might, for example, explore ideas about identity and relationships through iconic LGTBQ novels like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando or James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.
If you do decide to start practicing art for self-discovery, consider spending time practicing “felt sense”. Felt sense is a low-stakes artistic practice that helps connect your body and mind as you discover new ideas about yourself and your identity. Guidelines for felt sense vary, but, in general, you’ll need to find somewhere you can relax and journal about the way your body feels in a particular moment.
Learning to Move On
Getting past the breakup blues is difficult. When a relationship ends, you might feel like a failure and could experience a genuine loss of identity. But you can find yourself again by consulting with therapists and physicians who understand the trauma that comes with a bad breakup and can help improve your overall health while you rediscover your sense of self. You can also take proactive steps to create a new sense after a breakup by visiting new places or developing a low-stakes artistic practice that gives you space to process the breakup and establish a new identity.