The process of getting over a relationship is different for everyone, says Cheryl Grant, an individual, family and couples counsellor at Abundant Living Counselling Group in Ottawa. She put together a five-step action plan that allows time for you to acknowledge your feelings and grieve the loss of the relationship at your own pace, but also emphasizes taking time to reflect, be well and, most importantly, rediscover fun.
1. Face your feelings
It is perfectly natural to feel hurt and angry after a break up, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to deal with what's going on inside. "It is not physically or psychologically healthy for us to keep things bottled up inside," says Grant.
"The most important reason to acknowledge painful feelings after a break up is so that they can be released." Get out your feelings in whatever manner you prefer, whether it's by journaling, blogging or just talking to a good friend. "Actively try to identify what thoughts are going through your head when you're upset, then let them go," she advises.
2. Do what you enjoy
Boost that positive, forward-moving momentum by focusing on you. "Identify the simple things in life that bring you joy, and take the time to invest in those things," says Grant. "Spend time with the children in your life or with pets. Spend time outdoors connecting with nature, with your creativity or with music." It's also important to laugh. "Laughter is good medicine and it's contagious," Grant says. "Try to maintain some level of humour and humility whether you're by yourself or in the company of good friends and family."
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3. Reach out
Share what you are going through with your most sympathetic friends and family members, and allow yourself to open up. "If you aren't involved in your community, try volunteering with community programs, joining a gym or taking a class in something you have always wanted to learn," advises Grant. "Not only will you increase your chances of connecting with people who have common interests, you'll also learn more about yourself," she says.
"It can also be beneficial to seek professional help after a break up in order to process what happened in an objective, neutral environment," says Grant. "A therapist can also provide information about coping strategies as well as additional resources for support, such as workshops, books and other therapeutic services."
4. Stay healthy
No matter how you're feeling, it's always important to take care of yourself. "If we don't feel good physically, it really can have a negative impact," explains Grant. "Eating healthy foods, drinking water and ensuring that you have the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals increases energy and clarity, which naturally adds to the healing process."
If you are not in the mood to eat, do what you can to enhance the nutrients that you take into your body by loading up on vitamins and fruit and vegetable smoothies, and by snacking healthily throughout the day. Regular exercise is also essential. "Try dancing and outdoor recreation, not just the gym," says Grant, "as well as relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation."
5. Set a goal
One of the best ways to move past the pain of a break up and start fresh is to set a goal. But don't just say it to yourself, put pen to paper. "Writing goals down provides a visual reminder and inspiration for what you want and what you are working toward," says Grant. "But if a full plan for the future feels overwhelming, there is absolutely nothing wrong with breaking things down into smaller or more immediate goals."
For example, setting a goal to find that perfect relationship by next year may seem daunting compared to setting a monthly goal to go out on a few dates and get to know new people. Figure out what works for you and decide on the best path to get there.
Having a post-break up action plan gives you time to acknowledge and sort out your feelings and to experience the support of a network of caring friends and family members. Plus, it puts the focus on your emotional and physical health and, most importantly, emphasizes the rediscovery of your own individual identity.
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