Featured article: How to Survive a Break-up

By Lauren Drouillard (she/her), MSW, RSW, Wellness & Resiliency Counsellor, Health & Counselling Centre

Most of us have been there; and there is no getting around the fact that breakups stink! They are also a very common and natural part of dating.  The truth is that most folks will experience a break-up at least once in their lifetime. Consider these tips for getting through this challenging and painful time: 

Don’t invalidate your pain! Grief is a human emotional response to loss, and breakups are loss of a relationship and all that it meant to you.  The relationship might have represented your hopes for future, emotional support, a close friend, daily routines and much more. Remind yourself that no matter the length or type of relationship you were in, loss is loss and it’s okay to grieve. 

Try to avoid using “should” statements.  For example, “I shouldn’t be this sad, we didn’t date long.  You feel how you feel and sometimes there is just no getting around that! 

Another thinking style that may make things worse is having black and white expectations of “getting over someone” by using comparisons.  For example, My ex is dating someone else already and I’m not.   These comparisons can make us feel that we aren’t living up to an invisible standard that we are imposing on ourselves.  Everyone deals with this loss differently, it doesn’t mean that we are better or worse than anyone else.

Build a new routine! When we date someone, they typically become integrated into our lives and daily routines, perhaps now more than ever, due to the pandemic. Maybe you engaged in a certain hobby with your partner, watched a weekly TV show together, hung out on weekends or talked on the phone each night. When we break up, we can find we’re missing that person as well as the routine we had with them. Try challenging yourself to build a new routine: reach out to old/new friends, explore hobbies, and find ‘replacement activities’ to fill the time you are used to spending with your ex. 

Maintain your mental health! There’s no better time than the present to go back to the basics of self-care: sleep, nutrition, kind movement, and social connection. Try creating a new bedtime routine for yourself; make sure you are getting enough food to eat, with a variety of nutritious and fun foods; move your body in ways that feel good and reasonable with your mood and stay connected to loved ones for social time – even if it has to be virtually right now.  Remember, be kind to yourself and keep your own care top of mind. 

Be mindful of social media! Social media does not make breakups any easier. To help with this, be mindful of WHEN and WHY you use social media, WHAT accounts/platforms you use, and HOW you feel afterwards. For instance, if using social media when lonely at night, to look at pictures of your ex, or to compare yourself to others who are “doing better”, it’s likely it makes you feel lousy. Try being aware of this, using it at a less ‘low’ time of day, mute-ing upsetting accounts, and instead following new accounts with more positive content 

Reach out! At the end of the day, most people have been there and can genuinely empathize with how hard breakups are. It can feel helpful to chat to safe and supportive friends or family about how you’re feeling to reduce isolation. That said, we all need some extra support at times, and the HCC is always there for counselling – we even offer same day appointments. Just call (905) 828-5255 or email health.utm@utoronto.ca.