by Liberty Stembridge, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 20th March, 2019
Breakups are tough, which you've probably heard before but it's the truth. Letting go of someone who was an important part of your life is not only difficult to do.
The no contact rule is exactly what it sounds like - no contact with your ex, whatsoever. If this sounds extreme, that's because it kind of is, but it's a good thing.
The no contact rule is widely accepted as one of the best ways to deal with a breakup, because not only does it clearly reinforce the idea that you are broken up for both parties, it is the fastest and most effective way to speed up the process of moving on with your life.
When you break up with someone, the hardest part can be dealing with the fact that they are no longer part of your life, especially if you still loved them, lived together or there was some attachment left.
No contact can feel impossible at first, because you'll be going through the stages of grief and loss, but it is important to realise that this is a good thing. You need to mourn the loss of this person and relationship from your life in order to readjust and build a new life without them.
If your ex is still a part of your life in some way, whether it be that you still see them from time to time, you stay in contact via social media or you text a bit - you're still hanging onto them, and this makes it that much harder to move on, and that much easier to fall back into old habits.
By no means do you have to completely cut off your ex for the rest of all time, in fact many people find that the no contact method helps them to reestablish a healthy friendship with their ex, later down the line - once you've moved on and mourned the loss you feel.
Everyone is guilty of stalking their exes social media, it's completely normal. You want to see what they're up to - do they miss you, have they moved on, are they with someone new?
All these questions can feel like they're burning holes in your brain, but the truth is the only way to get over it and move on is to keep them out of every area of your life - including social media. Unfollow, block, delete your instagram, whatever it is you need to do to stop yourself from obsessively checking.
Reminders can be bittersweet, they may take you back to fond memories, or not so fond memories, but either way you look at it - they are keeping you trapped in the past.
Reminders of previous relationships such as text threads, love letters, gifts, old clothes and such can be very difficult to get rid of, but it's necessary if you want to move forward with your life and start over. There's no need to chuck them in the landfill if you're not ready for that, you could lock them in a memory box, or give to a friend for safe keeping.
It's very common for anyone going through a recent breakup to spiral a bit, whether it be risky behaviour, drinking too much, or slacking on routines such as healthy eating or the gym.
The "eat ice cream and cry" phase is important, it's also equally if not more as important to start building a healthy post-breakup life for yourself, and that means implementing some healthy habits. Breakups are the perfect time for change and discovery. Start lifting weights, picking up a new hobby, find new friends or go to some yoga classes. Whatever it is that makes you feel good and is beneficial for the body and soul - do it, even if you have to drag yourself out from bed kicking and screaming.
Friends are your lifeline when you breakup, but unfortunately, not everyone has a support system to help them when they go through it. Sometimes you may have to lose friends because of a breakup, or find that your old friends have drifted away since you've been in a relationship, which can make the process of dealing with a breakup all the more painful.
It's important therefore, to get out there and start making new friends. Even if they're not your best buds, having people to hang out with and talk to is important for your mental health.
Being single is nothing to be ashamed of - you can celebrate being an independent person without feeling guilty or sad that you're not in a relationship. Despite how painful a breakup can be, focusing on why you broke up in the first place and the positives it has brought into your life can help you to shift your perspective and make the process a lot easier.
Rather than bemoaning the fact that your ex did this or that, celebrate the fact that you no longer have to put up with it, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. This is especially important if you've found yourself in a toxic relationship.
It's easy to start to wallow in your feelings of doubt, loneliness and depression when you've had a breakup, particularly if you're not the one doing the breaking up.
However, it's important to acknowledge these feelings and continue on anyway. The worst thing you can do during a breakup is to stop your life altogether and wallow in your own misery.
Not only does this prevent the healing process, but it cuts you off from friends, family and the activities that you enjoy doing. Use this time to focus on what you really think deserves your attention, it could be your career, or a side hustle, or building up your relationships with the people around you.
Whatever it is, find something to keep you busy, wallowing isn't bad necessarily, but you need to keep it in check.
Talking and writing about your feelings, especially when the hurt of a breakup is new and raw can be very difficult. It's very common to want to repress all those nasty emotions and not think about it.
This isn't going to benefit you however, now or in the future. Repressing your emotions will only mean that they come bursting out later on, perhaps when you're in a new relationship or even completely out of the blue. Processing what you're feeling is an essential step to moving on in a healthy way, no matter how ugly it feels.
If you're not ready to talk about it openly with other people, or don't have the people around you to talk to - a journal is a great way to get all those thoughts out and processed. Start with a blank page and give yourself ten minutes to write.
Even if you start off by writing "I don't know what to write" - eventually something meaningful will come out. Do this every night for as long as you need.
"The List" is a concept often used by people going through difficult breakups and using the no contact method, as a way to consolidate their feelings about a person and begin the process of moving on. It's a very useful tool, although it can be difficult.
Essentially all it is is two lists side by side. One side lists all the things you liked about your relationship, all the reasons that you might have stayed.
The other side lists all the reasons that you didn't like your relationships and why it's good that it's over. On the other side of the paper, if you choose, you can write all the things you've learnt from this relationship that you can use in the future.
This way, rather than getting angry and upset about all the ways you've been hurt, or waxing nostalgic about all the good times, you can look at your relationship in an objective way, appreciating the good and the bad, which will help in the moving on process.
Once you've finished your list, it's best to stick it somewhere that you can't easily access so that you're not tempted to keep looking at it and wallowing. Some people burn theirs to signify the end of a relationship, some people bury it, others choose to simply store it far from reach.
For some, the idea of getting a therapist to deal with a breakup might seem extreme, but truly it isn't. Breakups are difficult, particularly if the relationship was very serious.
The emotional baggage and potential trauma that can come from a relationship breakdown, particularly if the relationship was toxic, can have serious ramifications for your mental health. Seeing a therapist may help you to process difficult emotions, deal with potential trauma or grief and create a more positive attitude to your situation.
There are several well-known benefits to exercising after a breakup (and no, one of them is not a "revenge body"). Even if it's the last thing you want to do and you'd much rather lay in bed eating ice cream, it is an incredibly effective antidote to the pain of a breakup.
When we exercise, our body's release endorphins and process stress. We become happier and more relaxed. When you're "in the zone" at the gym, or on a run, you're no longer thinking about the breakup, you're simply in the moment.
Not only does hitting the gym give you something to work towards and motivate you post-breakup, but it can help to build your confidence (often low after a breakup) and dull some of those sharp painful emotions. It gets you out of the house and doing something good for yourself, which is the key to surviving a breakup.
You could follow all the right "rules" of having a healthy breakup and still feel sad and depressed afterwards because there is one simple truth: it takes time. Some people get over a breakup in a matter of days, but for many people it may take a lot longer.
The average for many people is over 6 months, so don't feel bad if you're still struggling after only a few months, it's totally normal. Extending some patience and kindness towards yourself will help you a lot more than beating yourself up ever will.
In order to get through a breakup in a healthy way, you need to be willing to put some effort in. Surprisingly, it does take some work if you want to truly move on and be happy without any old relationship hang ups affecting your future.
Nothing comes for free, so be prepared to get messy. Whether it means going to therapy every week, starting a new life, going to yoga every day, building up an entire new social life, you'll need to be putting in some serious effort. Find what is best for you and work at it.
It's very easy to fall into toxic habits when you've just ended a relationship. In all likelihood you're feeling hurt and vulnerable, so it's easy to neglect your own wellbeing and choose "the easy way out".
It's important to distinguish between a one off occurrence and a toxic habit. Going out for a drink with your mates and getting a little too drunk is fine once in a while, but if you're doing it every night as a way to escape your life, it's become a toxic habit.
Common examples of toxic habits include: drinking, smoking, doing drugs, becoming over-strict or controlling, overeating, treating loved ones poorly, making rash decisions or spending lots of money. All these habits could start as a one-off occurrence, so it's important not to let them turn into something more that could end up hurting your future.
The sting of ending a relationship can leave many feeling lonely and desperate. As such, it's very common after a breakup to rush into a new relationship that maybe you haven't thought out well enough yet.
Although in the beginning these can seem helpful in the moving on process, in reality they tend to end up hurting both parties and stifling your growth because you're simply hiding from the problem.
If you really like someone but you're worried that rushing into a new relationship is the wrong decision, give it some time.
One of the key factors in many people's inability to move on from an old relationship is simply: hope. It's tempting to hold onto any hope that the relationship might not be over yet, but this only prevents you from moving on.
If you're clinging onto the idea that you'll get back together one day, it'll be all the more difficult to move forward in your life and start new relationships.
Although nearly everyone goes through one at some point, when you're in the middle of a breakup, it can still feel like you're alone in what you're feeling, so it's important to remind yourself that this isn't true.
All the emotions that come with a breakup might be tough to get through, but it's totally normal to struggle and to not be "okay" for a while, maybe even quite a while.