Heal your broken heart
Coping with heartbreak is as tough as dealing with drug addiction, but you can make it a tad easier for yourself, says Salome Mitter.
No matter your age, a broken heart can make you fall to pieces. What’s worse is even as you’re hurting like crazy, you’re trying to fulfil your other obligations and responsibilities, and struggling to keep your life from falling apart…
No matter how much the cynics might poo-pooh the idea, science proves that heartbreak can be an overwhelmingly painful psychological gash. Brain scans show that heartbreak triggers the same mechanisms in the brain that get activated when intense physical pain is experienced. And while intense physical pain generally lasts minutes before it subsides to a throb, severe emotional pain caused by heartbreak can continue for days, weeks and even months.
There is no easy checking out of heartbreak hotel. The one who broke our heart consumes our waking thoughts and our troubled dreams. Desperate to regain the love we lost, we go through a vicious cycle of trying to understand why the break-up happened. Memories threaten to overwhelm us. We cannot stop thinking what could have been, we keep dissecting what went wrong and how it could have been avoided.
Naturally, this creates serious imbalances in our daily life - from disturbing our eating and sleeping patterns, to robbing us of our ability to concentrate, think creatively and function normally. According to studies, 40 percent of heartbroken people experience symptoms of clinical depression. The intensity of grief is similar to that on the death of a close relative.
At the core of this suffering lies the fact that love is addictive. Withdrawal of romantic love evidently causes the exact response in the brain that comes when you quit an addictive substance. You undergo intense withdrawal. It’s the reason why we become so obsessed and desperate, desiring nothing more or less than our ex to relieve our misery and give us our ‘fix’.
Brain scans show that heartbreak triggers the same mechanisms in the brain that get activated when intense physical pain is experienced.
No matter how bad it might be for us, the need to reconnect and reconcile with our ex is extremely strong. Even when we know that our ex is wrong for us or that doing so would make us feel worse eventually, we cannot resist. We either text or call or stalk them on social media… And in doing that, we actually make it worse for ourselves. We not only lose ground that we had recovered, but we also end up intensifying our emotional pain.
Recovering from heartbreak requires two main factors – determination and the willingness to accept that it’s over and to let go. Experts recommend the following in order to set yourself on the path of healing post a bad break-up… Cut off all contact with your ex. If that is impossible, due to important reasons, aim for as little contact as possible. Reach out to supportive friends, who would express empathy and compassion for you. Stay away from the tendency to idealise your ex. Instead, remember and focus on the way you were treated and that the relationship was toxic for you. The spaces in your relationship left by your ex’s exit will be glaring and difficult to live with. Fill up the empty spaces left by your defunct relationship by reconnecting with friends. Reengage in old activities or start new ones.
Avoid the mistakes that can set you back, and take the steps required to heal.
Understand and accept that it will be challenging to recover from heartbreak. This will make you more self-compassionate and avoid unnecessary self-criticism and self-blame.
Limiting your ex’s appearances in your thoughts is key. Be aware that the brain makes us think about our ex involuntarily and incessantly. Help yourself by limiting the time you voluntarily choose to think or talk about your ex.
Befriend your heartbreak, don’t deny it. Allow yourself to
Fill up the empty spaces left by your defunct relationship by reconnecting with friends.
grieve, don’t numb the pain. With grieving comes increased awareness of what’s truly important to you, whom you love and who loves you. It will help resolve sadness more effectively than trying to fight it. When plagued by negative thoughts, get up and do something else. Take a walk or call someone who is experiencing difficulty – thinking of them and helping them will shift your focus from yourself. Also put some distance between yourself and your thoughts - try examining them from a distance. Let your thoughts rush past, try not to dwell on them or overthink them. Acknowledge what you are feeling without drawing conclusions from those feelings. This will allow your mind to process the grief more quickly and return to a more balanced state. Listening to music actually helps. Avoid the break-up, sad songs. Instead, plug on some of your favourite feel-good tunes. This releases endorphins, which lift your spirits and help combat stress. This might sound shocking, but extending loving kindness to your ex - whom you have no intention of loving ever again - helps your own healing. It can bring feelings of stability and peace to your inner mind. This doesn’t mean you have to forgive or forget your ex’s past transgressions or stay in touch. Instead, focus on letting go of anger and hatred.