If you’re anything like me, you don’t take change or rejection well… which means you probably don’t take breakups so well. I mean, who does? Breakups—whether you’re the one who has initiated the split or not—aren’t fun. In fact, they’re the very opposite of fun: they’re emotionally, mentally, sometimes even physically taxing. And yes, they can even bring on bouts of depression.
Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Reactions
But how can I determine if I’m depressed or just upset like every other newly single guy or gal? You’ll have to take a dive into your emotions. Here’s the thing: there are healthy and unhealthy reactions to a breakup. And knowing the difference between the two will help you understand where you stand mentally and emotionally. So let’s break it down. Healthy reactions may include…
- Intense feelings of sadness
- Anger and frustration
- Loss of interest in the things you love
- Difficulty sleeping and focusing
If you’re familiar with depression, you might’ve noticed that the above bullet points are also symptoms of depression. Well, they’re also completely normal reactions to a breakup, as long as they continue to improve. You should be more concerned if at least five of the following bullet points align with your current state of being and persist for two weeks or longer, as it meets the criteria for depression and likely means you are depressed:
- Intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in the things you love
- Significant change in weight or appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in activity levels
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
Steer Clear of the Darkness: Healing from a Breakup
While we’re at a greater risk of becoming depressed after a breakup, the good news is that we can take action to steer clear of the darkness and heal properly. Kayce Hodos, Licensed Professional Counselor, is an expert on the matter and knows just how difficult a breakup can be. “A breakup can feel like the death of a loved one—or even worse because the loved one chose to leave you,” she says. But that’s not to say that no good can come from this tough experience. Hodos explains how to find solid ground, build yourself back up, and even thrive moving forward after a breakup:
1) What can one do to find solid ground/create a solid foundation after going through a breakup?
Grieving over the end of a relationship is supposed to be hard, so giving yourself permission to feel what you feel is step one. Think of what you typically do to cope with stress and make those strategies your priority. You may just feel like curling up under your favorite fuzzy blanket, so allow some time for this, but then make an effort to move forward. Put on your favorite playlist and dance it out, call a trusted friend and go grab some comfort food, pick up that book you’ve had on your to-read list, but haven’t had time for, etc. Focusing on actions you can take that give you some control will help you feel grounded and empowered in the midst of your breakup.
2) What are some healthy tips for building yourself up after a breakup?
Think of some personal and/or professional goals that have been on the back burner, and identify some steps you can take to get closer to making them happen. Spruce up that resume, research that trip you’ve always wanted to go on, start visualizing how you want your life to look — even if you have to fake it a little. You aren’t there yet, and you don’t even feel like yourself right now, BUT you can use your imagination, and you do still have dreams. Do some writing about what is amazing about you! What have you accomplished? What are you proud of? Ask your most trusted friends and/or family members for help if you need it.
3) How can one thrive moving forward?
At some point (certainly not while the breakup is still fresh), you will begin to feel better. As the wounds heal, reflect for a bit (maybe even set a timer for 5 minutes to avoid getting lost in the black hole of regret) on what the relationship taught you. What did you learn about yourself? What are you now aware of in terms of what you want in your next relationship? Even relationships that end weren’t all bad. Honor the good times, and find value in the not-so-good ones. Envision your new singlehood as an opportunity to be independent and fearless, and look forward to your next relationship with healthy expectations for the kind of partner you want to be with. If you need help doing so, think about meeting with a counselor. They can help you work through those depressive feelings in addition to building yourself back up after a breakup.