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How to Start Recovering from a Broken Heart


If your heart is breaking because of lost love, if you’ve been betrayed, abandoned, “dumped”, or you know you must leave a relationship because of abuse, you certainly are not alone. Relationships coming to an end is common. Even if we look only at divorce rates, “50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce”. Countless other romantic relationships end every moment of every day and in most cases, someone feels despair and heart break.

So, what to do? The answer is: (1) take care of your physical and emotional self, (2) take additional care of your emotional self by repeating over and over again, “I will get through this and feel better”, and (3) start working on acceptance of the loss. This article will present the details of these three steps so you can start your recovery from heart break today.

Move your body.

In case it is not obvious why this is a recommendation, let me note that no less than the US Surgeon General reported an association between physical exercise and a sense of psychological well-being. Regular exercise increases physical and emotional tolerance of stressful events. Moving your body will help fight off feelings associated with anxiety and depression.

Eat well.

After a relationship ends you might feel like overeating, like not eating at all, or like binging on “high sugar” foods (for example, ice cream and chocolate). The goal of the advice “eat well” is to eat healthy foods in moderate quantities despite not wanting to eat or wanting to do nothing but eat. Healthy eating is consistent with the advice of Micheal Pollan (author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma): “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

This is stating the obvious. I hope you are not learning here that alcohol and drugs do not solve any problems and often compound any problems you do have. As tempting as numbing your self to pain through alcohol and drugs may be, avoid giving into temptation. Doing otherwise will, 99 times out of 100, just slow down your recovery.

Rest through sleeping enough.

Getting adequate sleep is critical to maintain your resilience in the face of stress. In the book, Making a Good Brain Great, the author Daniel G. Amen notes that “getting less than six and a half hours of sleep at night decreases our ability to fight stress”.

Seek the support of a network of friends.

In the book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, author Robert M. Sapolsky carefully distinguishes between relationships with supportive friends and relationships with everyone else. Regular contact with supportive friends and family members can reduce the harm caused by stress. Contact with friends or others who are not supportive does not reduce the harm caused by stress and may make things worse.

Repeat over and over again to your self: “I will get through this and feel better”.

If you have never been through a breakup before, tell your self this based on faith and your observation that others, perhaps even close friends of yours, survive breakups and soon start feeling much better. If you have been through a breakup before, remember the experience from the first moments of loss through your transition to feeling better and presumably to being “in love” again. You should find comfort in knowing that you will get through your heart break and despair to feeling better. In many ways, getting through a breakup is a kind of surviving – you can do it, you will get through it to better times.

Start working on acceptance of your loss.

This is the third priority in the self care portion of your recovery for a reason: it is less important than taking care of your physical and emotional self. At the same time, acceptance is the path to full recovery. From the first days “float” the thought, “I can accept this outcome and move on”.

Self care or self help is a way to start and accelerate your recovery from the heart break of a broken relationship. Taking care of your physical and emotional self along with starting to accept your loss are the first steps on the path to feeling better.

Be active in helping your self. Be well.

dr. lebo is a licensed psychologist who has been practicing for twenty years. he can be reached by email at [email protected]. you can also visit the selfhelpinsight.com website for additional information on recovering from a lost love and heart break.

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Listed: November 4, 2008 4:08 pm