Ways to build resilience and overcome a breakup

When a significant relationship finishes, no matter how long it lasted, you may be feeling sad, confused, upset, unsettled and disillusioned. These are normal feelings, whether you have been dumped or have chosen to end it yourself. If the relationship meant anything at all then the breakup will entail emotional pain and a period of disorientation.

The key to overcoming any breakup is to feel the pain, process the feelings and emerge the other side as a more resilient person. Building resilience is one of the most grounding and enduring qualities you can manifest after a breakup.

Breakups can be a positive experience if you grasp the opportunity to focus on your own self development needs.

Here are some practical suggestions for building resilience after a breakup:

1. Maintain physical separation

It might help soothe your broken heart to believe that you can be friends with the person you have split up with as a way of coping with the pain of separation, but this is rarely a good idea. You need to move on and begin the process of severing emotional ties in order to regain your emotional independence. Your personal recovery and self-expansion will thrive if you maintain physical separation. This includes severing social media ties. You don’t need to put yourself through the potentially distressing experience of seeing what they are doing and who they are seeing after you have ended.

2. Avoid the rebound

It is important to try to stay single until you have discovered what you need to learn from the breakup. Falling head over heels straight away with someone else might help ease the pain in the short term, but might also potentially mean that you have a double dose of emotional baggage to sort out when that new relationship fails (as it most likely will if you are on the rebound). The people who rarely spend time on their own between relationships invariably remain emotionally stuck. They don’t give themselves sufficient time to process the feelings from each breakup.

3. Learn your lessons

Allow the tears to flow as it is okay to cry. Unprocessed feelings and emotions will only block your energy flow and might also distort your attitude to others in the rest of your life. However, there must come a time to move on. It is important to build your resilience by learning your lessons from the breakup and to develop the belief that you can and will move on. It is important to realise the lesson from each relationship so that your inner wisdom may be developed for future happiness.

4. Invest in your social support network

Breakups can bring a fear of aloneness. This is your opportunity to spend time with friends that you may have neglected and to do fun things. Be spontaneous. Accept invitations to social events that you might normally decline. Reach out to people who you have lost touch with. Your social support network can help you keep the focus on the present time as well as helping you to cope with fears about the future.

5.  Write a letter to your ex

In this letter write everything you would want to say to them, both good and bad. No matter how trivial, write it all down but don’t send the letter. The process of writing down everything will help you to gain perspective on how you are feeling and will contribute to the building of your resilience. Learning to process feelings helps protect against depression. You can emerge as a more vibrant, stronger and resilient person but only after you have shifted the emotional leftovers from yesterday.

6. Write a daily gratitude list

It is very difficult to feel depressed and grateful at the same time. Focusing on what you are grateful for is a way of tricking your mind that things are okay. You are effectively sending the all-clear signal to your brains that there is no danger. It might feel hard to focus on gratitude when you have suffered an emotionally devastating event but you can always find something to be grateful for, no matter how small. 

7. Practice generosity

The most contented people tend to be the ones who are generous with their time towards others. However, when you are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed, the risks are that you will have an unhealthy focus on the self. Shifting your focus onto the needs of others can literally help transform your thinking and your mood from victimhood to empowerment.

Your world may feel like your world has turned upside down after the end of a significant relationship. But, you can survive it. Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to explore your relationship style as well as offering the opportunity to set your deal-breakers and red flags for all your relationships. This will help you to develop your inner wisdom and your capacity to trust your intuition.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SE1 & SE26
Written by Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited clinical psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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