Student sitting in the dark with her phone as it illuminates her face on the couch.

The end of a relationship – whether it lasted for weeks, months or years - can leave us feeling upset and uneasy about what comes next. In fact, research shows that the pain from a break-up can activate pain receptors in our brain the same way that physical injuries do. When we’re feeling down and out, how do we beat the break-up blues?


Address your needs

After a break-up, we may lose our sense of self. When this happens, we can start to feel sad, upset, irritable, stressed, overactive or overwhelmed. This is a good time to check in with ourselves about how we are dealing with the situation and what we actually need.

Start by addressing the basics first. Do you need to eat a proper meal, take a walk or get a good night’s sleep? Have you been making it to class and work, or do you need to take a little time off? Listen to your own cues and work to meet your immediate needs.

Once you’ve taken care of the basics, you can get back to finding yourself again. Identify hobbies and activities that make you feel like yourself and make time for them (even if you don’t necessarily feel like it) whether it’s art, music, sports, reading, podcasts or something new altogether.


Reach out and remember those around you

Some people may become withdrawn after a break-up, while others may get busy making plans. During this time, it’s important to take some time to connect with the people closest to us like friends, family or roommates.

  • Make a point to sit down and have lunch or dinner with a close friend to talk about how you’re really doing – and how they are, too.
  • Check in with a parent, sibling or other family member about what you need right now.
  • If you haven’t been as involved at home or fulfilling your share of roommate duties, check in with your roommate(s) to minimize potential frustration and disagreements

It’s also important to do some reflecting and renewing with yourself. Jot down a list of things in your life you are grateful for and add to it daily, then read it back to yourself when you need a reminder. 


Make time for mourning

We’ve all been there: browsing an ex’s Instagram, keeping an eye on their Snapchat, reading through old texts. It’s natural to wonder how they’re doing, think about your relationship and even imagine a future where it all worked out. However, it’s important to establish boundaries for our own mental health.

Research suggests that making structured time for these kinds of behaviors may actually help break the habit and eventually move on. For example, try setting a phone timer for 10 minutes in the morning and at night to check social media and just feel bummed. When the timer goes off, stop yourself and focus on other activities. This can help provide a structured time to mourn the breakup while giving you permission to move on to other things.

After a while, experts recommend cutting back to five minutes. After that, try cutting back to checking on them once a day or once a week. Eventually we’re able to wean ourselves in a way that doesn’t force us to move on before we’re ready.

Getting through and growing from a break-up is a personal experience, and it looks different for everyone. The key is to treat yourself with kindness and take the time you need to process and move on at your own pace.

Resources

If you’re concerned about yourself or a friend, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) has a variety of services available, including individual counseling, workshops and brief consultations.

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