Work, money, relationships, and daily hassles are common sources of stress — but a breakup is the worst stressor of all. How do you stay positive after a stressful breakup when you feel anxious, sad, lonely and tired?
These seven practical ways to deal with the stress of breaking up won’t just help you stay positive, they’ll distract you from the emotional pain. You’ll learn how a breakup affects your body, mind and soul. The more you know about the physiological and psychological effects of a stressful breakup, the easier it’ll be to recover and bounce back.
These tips are inspired by a She Blossoms Reader who asked for help dealing with anxiety after a stressful divorce. “I need practical advice on how to detach from my spouse who I spent six years with,” she says on How to Break Free From a Toxic Ex Relationship. “I’ve been reading about breakup stress and spending a lot of time on healing. But there is still anxiety and fear. I don’t know how to deal with the stress of my future with money, health and family. The divorce had to happen and the relationship is over but I need ways to stay positive while dealing with the stress of my ex-husband breaking my family up.”
Two places to start: 1) Identify the specific stressors of breaking up (e.g., What exactly are you feeling anxious, angry, frustrated, depressed or scared about?); and 2) How have you dealt with stress positively in the past?
When you make your list of specific breakup stressors, think about how to address them in positive ways. Expect yourself to have one way to deal with the intellectual stress of financial planning, a different way to deal with the emotional stress of feeling unloved and unwanted after a breakup.
7 Ways to Deal With Breakup Stress Positively
Remember that dealing with stress after a breakup is a slow process, like eating a chocolate cream pie one slice at a time instead of shoving it all in your mouth at once. Staying positive and upbeat — even if you have to force yourself — will help you deal with the most stressful emotions.
1. Start small
The biggest mistake I see many women make after a stressful breakup is expecting too much and looking too far ahead. They “borrow trouble for tomorrow” by imagining how scary and lonely it’ll be to grow old. They create stress and anxiety by obsessing on the worst case scenario, the scariest problems and situations. Breaking up is painful and difficult— there is no doubt about it! Your breakup needs to be grieved, passed through, and released. Pain can’t be avoided, but the stressful feelings after a breakup can be dealt with if you start small and refuse to rush into the future. Remember what Jesus said? “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:24. “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
2. Learn how stress shows up in your body
Stress — whether it’s a stressful divorce, unexpected breakup, or sudden loss — commonly appears as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, muscle tension, headaches, migraines, ulcers, sexual dysfunction, and irritability. The good news is that there are positive ways to deal with stress, and that your breakup may not even be the worst stress in your life! This means you can choose what to focus on. Take care of your health first. Listen to the basic advice, because it works. Walk, run, hike, swim. Practice prayer and Scripture meditation to help you deal with stress and anxiety in positive ways. Ask for support from family, friends, and colleagues. Remember that clutching or hiding your anxiety will stress your body and negatively affect your organs and immune system.
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For physical ways to deal with breakup stress positively, read How to Heal Your Body After a Breakup.
3. Find a positively furry way to deal with breakup stress
Many people find that petting dogs, snuggling kittens and even handling slithery snakes are healthy, positive ways to deal with stressful relationships (and the breaking down of those relationships). Research studies show that engaging with animals does decrease the stress hormone cortisol and enhance the “happy hormones” (oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, among others). This is a natural, healthy, positive way to create a sense of well-being and serenity. Dealing with stress doesn’t have to be serious or sad! A breakup is hard enough; find light-hearted, uplifting ways to reduce negative feelings.
4. Forgive yourself for your role in the breakup
Some people are anxious, stressed and frustrated because they expected themselves to succeed or even save the relationship. A breakup can feel like a personal failure because of something you did (or failed to do). In other words, breaking up becomes all about you and all your fault…and this is positively stressful! Instead of blaming yourself, forgive yourself for your part in the breakdown of the relationship. Allow yourself to be a normal, flawed, lovable, valuable human being who made mistakes and is now moving into a new season of life.
5. Stop talking about the breakup with friends, family and coworkers
You may often hear breakup advice that encourages talking, writing, and expressing your feelings. Yesterday I read that talking too much about the grief and pain of a breakup prolongs negative feelings. Once you’ve told (or written, or expressed) your breakup story, find ways to distract yourself and move on. Learning how to deal with the stress of breaking up involves disciplining yourself to think and act in different ways. This is positive in the long run — as long as you learned how to deal with regret after the breakup.
6. Focus on what you did — and are doing — right
What positive things have been happening at work, home, or life in general? How far have you come since the breakup, and how are your attempts to deal with stress helping you grow forward? Remember that what you pay attention to will increase. In other words, “where attention goes, energy flows.” Don’t allow your joy and faith to die because of this breakup. Refuse to surrender your peace, hope, and childlike innocence to the darkness. You will heal, and you will become the person God created you to be — but only if you focus on the positive things you’re doing to deal with the breakup! Fight the darkness, and you will eventually punch through to the light. And if you ask for and accept God’s help, you’ll find more power and strength than you could ever imagine.
7. Look after your body, mind, soul and spirit
The healthiest, most positive way to dwell with post-breakup stress is to take good care of your body, mind and soul. This includes your spirit! Eat well, get enough sleep, have adequate exercise and have enough time with friends. Rebuild your relationship with God. Explore your old beliefs about Jesus Christ; learn who the Holy Spirit is and how He affects your day-to-day life. You aren’t just a physical body, and you can’t learn how to positively deal with stress unless you re-orient yourself to God. He created you for a reason. Find out why, and you’ll create a whole new set of reasons to be stressed out! And those reasons will change your life.
Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back
If you struggle with negative self-talk and an unhealthy or destructive self-identity, read Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. I wrote this book to help women flourish after loss and move into a fresh new season of life. I share my story of dealing with the stress of breakups, loss, infertility, and family estrangement – but even better, I offer effective, practical “Blossom Tips” to help you take small yet powerful steps toward healing and letting go. You’ll discover how God shows His presence and power in the valleys, deserts, and storms of life. Growing Forward isn’t just filled with positive ways to deal with stressful, painful losses in life, it also encourages women of faith to blossom into who God created them to be.
You may find How to Let Go of Someone You Love helpful — especially if your breakup stress is caused by holding on to the past. Letting go of a relationship is hard, even if that relationship was unhealthy or stressful. Dealing with a breakup is never easy. Give yourself time to heal. Be gentle and compassion with your process and progress…and keep reminding yourself that you matter. We need you to be as happy, healthy and whole as you can be.
Bonus tip for dealing with breakup stress positively: spot the lie!
Sometimes a breakup causes hopelessness, helplessness and even severe depression. The following thoughts (lies) often cross newly single womens’ minds:
- I was mistaken to think I could ever be loved or in a healthy relationship
- I’m not worthy to be loved
- Every time I try to be in a relationship, I fail
- There’s no point in trying again because nobody will ever love me
Not only are these thoughts wrong, they are destructive lies that will eat at your heart and soul.
Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If your efforts to deal with the stress of breaking up haven’t been positive or effective, try something new. Grounding yourself in God and opening your heart to Jesus has the power to change everything about your life. Look up, and meet the gaze of the Father. You’ll be glad you did.