How to Recover From a Breakup: 6 Steps to Get Off the Emotional Roller Coaster

A relationship breakup can be extremely difficult, painful, and emotionally draining. We often find ourselves on a horrible roller coaster of emotions. From day to day you shift between feelings of anger, depression, hopelessness, fearfulness, anxiousness, and a sense of being overwhelmed. While in a relationship, people will plan for a future with their partner, along with the feelings of connectedness love, and belonging. However, once the relationship is over, these feelings often swing the other way and you now have to face an aspect of the relationship that you never planned for or expected. No matter how long your relationship was, or the type of relationship, breakups are almost always an emotionally painful experience. Here are a few tips that can help recover from a breakup.

1. Let out some air

Imagine for a second you have a balloon in your body. Now, imagine stuffing emotions down into this balloon every time you get sad, angry, or frustrated. Just as helium balloons pop when they get full, so do the emotional balloons within us. The feelings you experience during a breakup can burst this balloon, leading to physical side effects like head aches, depression, and stomach aches. One of the best methods to release the internal pressure before it pops is talking about your frustrations with a trusted friend or therapist.

2. Journal

Emotion can force our mind to go over the same thoughts time and again, forming a continuous thought loop. Cyclical thinking doesn’t get you anywhere and is counter-productive to eliminating an emotional roller coaster. Continuing these mental cycles only increases the pain, fostering more negative thinking. Besides talking about your emotions, another way to confront these feelings is to journal. By writing down your thoughts, your brain gets time to relax. Journaling solidifies your thoughts and can help you gain clarity.

3. Spend time with Friends and Family

Time by yourself can be the biggest hurdle to getting off the emotional roller coaster. Rather than moping, spend time with a friend or family member for support, get help with being distracted, hear another perspective, and find some time for laughter. Being with the ones you love reminds you that life does go on, and you can still have good times in the future, despite your breakup.

4. Keep track of your thoughts

We often ask ourselves questions which we cannot immediately answer in the wake of a breakup. These questions include: Why did this happen? What could I have done? What will happen now? Getting trapped in these questions often leads to a state of no longer being present in the moment; you leave the real world and go to a world of doubting thoughts and unanswered questions. You can get so caught up in the thoughts that all other aspects of your personal life get left behind. The thoughts can ignite an emotional roller coaster and will only keep you hurting and seeing the negative about the situation. Tell yourself to stop, and shift your thoughts onto another topic.

5. Take it Off Your Radar

Recovering from a breakup can cause you to be hyper-aware of your surroundings, especially when it comes to other couples and how they seem to be so happy. Try to refocus your attention on the more helpful parts of the environment. Notice the colors, the fresh air, and the beautiful San Diego environment. Avoid the thoughts of what you don’t have and shift your thoughts to what you do have.

6. Have Fun

I think the title explains itself. Do activities that you enjoy, that give you pleasure, and that help you feel good about yourself. In this time of emotional pain, a little smile will go a long way.

Get the tools you need to move onward and upward.

Have you recently entered the world of single-hood?  This could be a scary, yet liberating, time of your life.  Whether you are coming off of a long term relationship, or merely a few months relationship, a breakup is never easy.  People tend to put their minds and hearts into a relationship and try everything they can to keep the relationship intact. When things get difficult the emotional pain and energy can be stressful and overwhelming. And even when you try to find some semblance of peace for you and your partner, unfortunately, not all relationships make it through and recover from the hard times.

For some, the breakup may have been something that was coming for awhile, and now that it’s happened, it’s not that much of a surprise.  For others, they are left blindsided and bewildered, wondering what do they do now?  I’ll be honest, there is no simple solution to stop the hurting, but there are ways to help you get through the recovery process.

Here are a few tools to survive a breakup:

Breakup Survival Tool: Get Closure

Closure is a must: ending one chapter and starting a new chapter, especially if your partner vanished without explanation. You may never understand what cause the breakup, similar to never understanding why a good person dies from cancer. It is what it is.  Take time aside to say good bye, grieve the relationship: write a goodbye letter, donate relationship items to charity, or replace relationship photos with friends and family photos.  When making the changes, say goodbye and make your own closure.

Breakup Survival Tool: Get Support and Avoid Hibernating

Avoid hibernating during the painful time. Going through the breakup can often bring up feelings of rejection, abandonment, and isolation.  Isolation can also be a dangerous place for your mind to wander down the dark path of negativity and depression. Get support from family and friends. Find solace in their comfort.  Remember, isolation will only magnify the feelings of loneliness and increase the frequency of mind racing negativity.

Breakup Survival Tool: Time Heals All…Stay Strong

Remind yourself that you will get through it. Give it time and don’t expect yourself to be over the relationship in a week. Allow yourself time to heal. This will help in the re-growth process of your new chapter. Remember, time heals.  Remind yourself that the pain won’t be here forever and you will make it through.

Breakup Survival Tool: Redefine Your Future and YOU

Now is the time for you. Bask in the new life you will begin to enter.  While scary at first, revel in the idea of what your future may hold.  Make new connections and laugh often.  Try something new, or start a new hobby.  And remember that in life, everything happens for a reason.

Breakup Survival Tool: If you are gonna do it….Rebound Strategically

Rebounds are where others quickly dive into intimate relationships with others to help “get over” the breakup.  Rebounds ease the pain, distract from feeling the loss, and/or help avoid feeling lonely. As a therapist, I don’t recommend “using” other people to simply feel better; they have feelings as well.   But if you are going to go the rebound route…please do it strategically.  Don’t simply sleep with or start a new relationship with the first person showing you attention.  Keep your standards and self value high.  Avoid creating more wounds for yourself by being self destructive, drinking your heart away, and making unhealthy choices.

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Single? Don’t Sweat It – the positives of being single

Healing Past Wounds

Were you hurt emotionally in your last relationship? Or are you being hurt in a current relationship? One of the positives of being single is you will have time to deal with the emotional damage and wounds that have been left by others. If you don’t deal with past hurt, you might end up repeating negative cycles and choosing the wrong partners. Heal your hurt by talking to your friends and family. If you want a professional, neutral opinion and a safe space where you can open up visit a counselor . Being single can be a huge blessing. Use the time to heal your wounds and let go of past baggage.

Connecting With Friends

Another positive of being single is the time to build a stronger connection with platonic friends. When you focus only on romantic relationships, you can forget that the other very important relationships in your life. Spend time between romantic relationships appreciating and reconnecting with your friends – whether they’re single or in relationships. Fostering strong relationships during this time will make for a great support system in good times and bad. When you do enter into a relationship again, make sure you keep making time for these friends.

Trying New Things

Being single also means you can occupy your time by trying the activities you don’t always have time for when you’re juggling a relationship in your life. Whether it’s joining a book club, going surfing, or training for a marathon, you can use the time you’re single to enjoy new endeavors. You’ll build self-esteem, have fun, and meet new people. Staying busy is life affirming, and won’t leave you much time to wallow in your singlehood. You’ll also start to enjoy your independence and learn that there is more to life than just dating.

Building a Stronger You

Perhaps most importantly, the biggest positive of being single means having time to focus on you for a while. You can make long-term goals for yourself, learn to spend time with yourself, and find out more about yourself. You’d be surprised at how much more there is to know about yourself! By becoming the best version of yourself, you’re more likely to attract the right partner. This “me time” will allow you to be confident enough to ask for what you need in your next relationship.

Heal after a breakup

Whether you’re the dumper, the dumpee, or a “conscious uncoupler,” breakups are hard. There’s tons of advice about dealing with breakups and most of it involves a rebound, a Louisville slugger to both headlights, and a pint of Ben & Jerrys.  Not to discount the power of Half Baked, but we both know that a pint of ice cream lasts about 30 minutes and while that might have been enough time to get over your middle school crush, it takes considerably longer to heal after a grown adult heartbreak. You need real, helpful tips for getting through this time with at least a shred of sanity left.

1. Sit in the Uncertainty…

When going through a breakup, it is normal to want to find any sliver of certainty in a chaotic situation. You Google things like, How long does it take to get over a breakup? and Stages of grief and Buying Ben & Jerrys in bulk (okay, that last one is unrelated, but still). You try to plan and control the situation to determine when you will be ready to move on. That doesn’t work. But remember: It is okay to be uncomfortable. Just sit in that discomfort, because you know what? This is hard. It just is. Ride it out.

 2. …And Take Comfort in Routine.

While you are going through this transitional time, let yourself bask in the comfort of routines that still bring you joy. Make your morning coffee and drink it in bed. Go on your favorite Sunday-night walk with a friend. Re-read a favorite book and re-watch your favorite Netflix show. Schedule at least 30 minutes of something that brings you comfort and peace into every single day. Actually schedule it in: Add it to your Google Calendar and put it on the to-do list. Don’t let it get lost, because self-care is important work, especially during a break-up.

3. Feel Your Feelings

You might be feeling some horrible combination of devastated, confused, worthless, relieved, angry, afraid, embarrassed, or totally shocked. Feel those feelings. How? I want you to notice your emotion, name it, then validate it. Imagine you go check out your ex’s Instagram, and you find out they blocked you. You feel the blood drain out of your face and your heart gets tight in your chest. This is your emotion showing up in your body. Notice the way that it feels and how long it lasts. Name the emotion. In this case, it might be “anger,” or “shock,” or “sadness.” Now validate, validate, validate. Say something like, “I am angry, and that’s okay. This emotion is temporary. I am safe.”

4 …But Also Escape for a Bit.

While it is so important to not ignore the feelings that are showing up, it’s also okay to take a break. One of our favorite ways to escape is by reading a book: It feels so nice to take a break from the craziness of your own life and dive into the drama of characters’ lives. Plus, reading increases empathy and understanding. The same general effect can be achieved through pretty much any reality TV franchise.

 5. Move Your Body…

Remember to prioritize gentle and joyful movement. Exercise releases endorphins which act as analgesics, which are basically natural painkillers. The endorphins from exercise are also known to improve your mood and decrease anxiety and depression. FYI: Punching a bag with your ex’s face taped to it totally counts. Bonus points for any movement you can do outside.

 6. …And Rest

You might notice that things you could normally breeze through feel way more difficult when you’re going through a breakup. That is totally normal and there is actually a scientific explanation for it. Because our bodies haven’t caught up with our modern-day problems, they still think that stress = lions, tigers, and bears, so our fight-or-flight response kicks in. This is super adaptive, but not totally helpful during a breakup. It makes us hone in on the danger (making it hard to concentrate on day-to-day tasks), gets our muscles ready to run (leading to sore muscles, stiffness, and a flu-like feeling), keeps us on-guard (making it hard to sleep), and stops our digestive processes (meaning tons of stomach aches). In light of all of this, be intentional about building in time to move a little more slowly so you can actually take care of yourself without adding to the stress hormones that are already floating around in your body.

 7. Know Your Normal.

If you notice yourself experiencing high levels of anxiety or depression, or if your mood is impeding on your basic functioning, you may need more support. Breakups are not easy and you deserve to be supported through that profoundly painful time. If you’re struggling, reach out to your doctor, a psychiatrist, or a therapist for some breakup counseling. If you are having any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm, know that you don’t have to be alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 for 24/7 support.

  • Breathe…. Now I realize breathing may not be the first thing that would have come to your mind, but breathing is the single most important thing you can do in any stressful environment. Give yourself a 10 minute time out. Whether you take a walk, lay down, or merely close your eyes at your work station. Just breathe and try to relax. The mind can take a hold of you. Between the emotions you are feeling and working out the logistics of how to separate your assets, that is enough to make any sane person completely crazy. If you take the 10 minutes to focus on your breath you will find that after the allotted time, you will feel renewed and less stressed.
  • Let your emotions flow. Some people have a harder time allowing their emotion to come freely. For others, it’s purely natural to cry on a whim. Crying or getting angry or even laughing at the situation are all healthy ways to release and grieve the relationship. Allow yourself to let out those emotions.
  • after a divorceIndulge in a Hobby or Interest. Whether you get decide to volunteer your time to a local charity or walk the aisles of the local flee markets for antiques, indulging in a hobby or interest will provide positive energy. It will put your thoughts at ease for at least the moments you are engaging your indulgence. The more time and energy that is spent on things that make you happy, the less time is spent on you thinking about your current situation.
  • Change Your Vision. Whether you are in your 20’s or in your 50’s, your plans for your future are no longer set in stone. It might be time for a vision adjustment. Because even though you may have never thought you would be in this position, the fact is that now you are. Create an ongoing list of possible visions you may want for the future. Maybe log this into a journal so you can retrace the steps along the way and watch how you have progressed. Trust me, this isn’t an easy assignment, nor will it appear in an hour. Rather this will be a process that will evolve and eventually take on a life form of its own…so take some time to truly think about the endless possibilities you have for yourself and your future.
  • You Are Not Alone. People typically are hard wired to be connected with others. Because of this fact and this fact alone, there is no better time than NOW to reach out. Reach out to your family and friends. Join a support group of other divorcees. No matter what the outcome, you must know that you are not alone on this new path of single-hood. The emotional roller coaster of the “hows and whys did this happen to me”, are completely valid and normal. Surround yourself with others that may understand your journey of being a newly single adult. Embrace the banter back and forth of the ups, the downs, and the uglies. You just might find out that you aren’t the only one to feel the way you do.
  • Re-define You and Your World. WAKE UP!!!!! Your marriage may be over, but you aren’t! This may be a tender time for you. And with everything you have it may feel almost impossible to feel positive, but it is time to WAKE UP! It is time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get moving. Regardless of how long you and your spouse were married or together, relationships in general tend to start to define who we are or how we act and react in life. The most amazing and liberating feeling about what is happening now is that you get to re-define you…and who and what you have in your world. Start moving your ideas into action and start truly living for yourself. You will be so glad you did.

Got Dumped? How to Cope With a Breakup You Didn’t Want!

You had your life all planned out: the two of you happily ever after, right? Wrong. You had a rude awakening when your partner jumped ship, dumping the relationship and dashing your dreams. The future you expected was taken away within seconds and you’re lost, not knowing how to wrap your brain around the relationship death.

Breakups are hard, but it is even more devastating when you don’t want the breakup and had no idea it was coming your way. When the love you felt continues to be strong and all you want is to get back together, but your partner doesn’t want it, it’s truly heart breaking. You may feel a flood of emotions from rejection and heartache, to loneliness and rage. The emotional rollercoaster is devastating and it can feel as if the nightmare will never end.

Here is the big question: How do you cope with something you DO NOT AGREE with? The break up is something you probably won’t ever agree with it (similar to the death of a loved one), but you can move through the pain.

Here are a few tips on how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and cope with a breakup.. when all you initially want is to get back together.


Get Closure

Getting closure is a must, especially if your partner vanished without any space for you to understand the breakup. Closure is similar to a book–chapters end and new chapters begin. Some characters stay throughout the book while others come and go. Find a way to say good-bye to the relationship by putting relationship items in a box, writing a goodbye letter, or examining how the breakup wasn’t what you deserved. You may never understand why he broke up with you, just like you might never understanding why a good person dies from cancer. It is what it is.

Grieve…at Your Own Pace

When a relationship dies people need to grieve in a healthy way, yet at their own pace. Sadness, anger, denial, bargaining and acceptance are all part of the grieving process. Your heart will need to grieve. At times, the emotions and memories may pop up suddenly at random moment sof the day. At these moments you may be able to remember, have a few good cries, and get back on track. Other times, it just isn’t an appropriate time. If not, pick a certain time during the day when you can properly grieve. Write down your emotions, get angry on the paper, and cry on a loved one’s shoulder. The more you deal with the emotions now, the quicker your heart will heal.

Replace Photos with Family and Friends

When you first break up, everywhere you look you’ll see the photos of the two of you happy and by each others’ side. Take down the relationship photos and begin putting up photos of supportive people you have in your life. Photos of family, friends, pets, or dreams will be better to look at than a constant reminder of what you lost.

Avoid Hibernation

The natural response after an unwanted breakup may be to hibernate and avoid social activities for a while. This response actually can cause the opposite effect that you hope for, and instead make the pain last longer. Don’t get me wrong, alone time is great when used in moderation. But our hard-wiring as humans is to be connected with others, so force yourself to go to a coffee shop or meet a friend for lunch.

Avoid Drinking

Drinking may be a way to help distract you from negative thoughts, connect with others at the bar, or simply to “blow off some steam,” but often it can cause worse problems. Alcohol tends to magnify emotions, remove communication filters, and impact judgments. Even though alcohol may seem to make you feel better, it is a depressant. Lay off the booze to prevent hurting yourself further. It won’t fix things; it will only temporarily numb it and the issues at hand will return soon after.

Think About Your NEW Future

People in relationships tend to paint a picture of the future as a couple and when the relationship stops, the vision for your future might seem to die away. Create a new vision for YOU. Keep certain pieces from your old vision and reinvent the future. Re-evaluate where you are in life and determine if some of the plans you had still fit for you. Pull out a drawing board and paint your new life path. Evaluate your career, your hobbies, your friendships and your dreams. Create a vision board; include photos from magazines of your dreams, words describing your goals and past photos of you happy. The vision board will help you create a new vision for your future. Coping with the breakup doesn’t mean just “gettingthrough” — it means really LIVING.

Remember, you have CHOICE

Your partner, aka the dumper, had time to come to terms with his decision. He had a choice with how he needed to get closure. You didn’t get a choice in this process, but you do have choice in your life. Make choices for today by forcing yourself to go to the gym, be social, or go to work. Don’t let the breakup keep you down and make you feel as if you don’t have choices in your day. Coping with the loss requires you to remember that you have a choice in what you want to do with this negative energy. Either let it keep you down, or use it to pick yourself up and dust yourself off!

Create New-ness

You may run into those annoying constant reminders of the relationship when you look around the town. Those memories won’t ever be deleted from your mind, but you can create new memories to replace the old memories. Surround yourself with new friends, new dinner dates, and trying new things around town.

Growing Pains

The saying, “no pain, no gain” has true meaning when it comes to breakups. Use your pain of the breakup to help you grow and improve in your life. Either focus your energy at work, join in a new sport/activity, or deep clean your house. Gain from this experience by writing a list of what you learned from the relationship and how you’d like to better yourself for future relationships. Growing pains from a breakup may help you in the long run….you just can’t predict the future.

Take off the Glasses!

You might find that you have the “relationship glasses” on, where you are hyper aware of every happy couple. You feel yourself standing out as the ONLY single person, and you have blinders on to any happiness. The glasses only magnify your feelings of loss and prevent you from moving forward. Take off the glasses so you can see the entire picture, the good and bad.

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It’s been nearly 20 years since I first became interested in studying psychotherapy. I began practicing the scientific approaches to psychotherapy in 1997 and I was hooked from then on.

I earned my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family psychotherapy in 2004 and I am currently licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist MFT (LMFT#47653) with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).

I focus my practice upon the empirically-based and proven research methods of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

I’ve seen these techniques consistently get results and I truly believe they are the most effective at creating positive, long-term change.

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