I watched a video on how to deal with stress. Surprise! There’s an app for that.
The app cleverly (sarcastic font) tells you when you’re stressed. When your hair is flying out the sides from being tugged on; when anxiety causes you to continually tap your foot on the floor; when you realize you’ve chewed the end of your exam pen into oblivion and it starts leaking Indigo Indignation all over your bottom lip. These are signs of stress. Not sure you need your iPhone to decipher the code.
After a breakup, being aware of your stress, and its many causes, is only the first step. The next is to make a move to remedy the situation, so you’re not always caught in an anxiety trap. Sometimes it’s learning to accept. Sometimes it’s forcing change.
In response to April 16th’s National Stress Awareness Day (which is when we become aware that EVERY day is Stress in Action Day), I thought I would bring to light a subject close to my near-to-broken (but healing!) heart.
The age-old question: how do you get over a breakup?
Everyone is different, of course, and you have to find the balance that fits your situation. I won’t give you the typical “It gets better,” mostly because I don’t believe it. It doesn’t get better. YOU get better. Here’s how.
6 steps to get you started post breakup…
1) Get negative
Yep, you read that right. I’m fairly certain I am the only columnist in the world to suggest negativity as a way to make you happier, but in my experience, you have to start from where you’re at. Are you stressed because someone has smashed your soul into a million pieces and you’re thinking you’re a Humpty Dumpty lost cause? I firmly believe you have to start with the pieces of the broken masterpiece, not with the picture of what it used to look like.
So maybe the stress of the situation has you in a negative frame of mind. Use it. Write down all the things you won’t miss about this person. Were they constantly stealing your spotlight at parties by one-upping your best stories? Write it down. Did they have a weird Uncle Sal who liked to hug a little too tightly at family parties, but they insisted he was harmless? Scrawl it out. Did their feet have uber-gross, purple veins running through them that made you want to relent to socks and sandals as a fashion statement? Get it off your chest.
I cannot stress this second part enough: do not post this! It is just for you. Maybe share it with a girlfriend and have a good vent, cry or giggle fest. Especially if it was the purple vein one.
2) Get positive
Can’t stay in that funk forever, girly. Once you’ve released some of that negative energy, you have more room for the positive. This time, it’s about you.
Make a list of all the things you love about yourself. Fromage, I know. But, hey, you’re a catch! Create an itinerary of all your best qualities that someone else—i.e. your BFF, your family, yourself and, maybe one day, a new love interest—gets to enjoy, now that what’s-his-name is out of the picture. This should include both outward (your eye colour, the ski-slope shape of your nose, that super-cool scar you got from a Segway accident) and inward (your killer sense of humour, your aptitude for acing calculus exams, your sick skills at making cupcakes with really random ingredients from around the house).
Tape this list where you can see it, every day. Encourage your friends to add to it (they will probably know you need the boost and be happy for a way to be your perky cheerleader).
3) Get passive
Another shocker. But there’s a time to be positive and there’s a time to hole up in your bed, with PLL re-runs, comfort food (I recommend animal crackers), pillows and that warm blanket that reminds you of the ease of childhood. Perhaps a few tissues wouldn’t hurt. If you’re struggling to stay on track with whatever is going on in your world, sometimes the best thing you can do is allow yourself a day of feeling crappy. It’s bound to happen. Don’t fight it.
But give yourself a wallowing time limit. If you feel up to it, invite a friend. Make it a movie marathon, with popcorn and cry-worthy films.
Whatever you do, DO NOT watch The Notebook. You are so not ready for that emotional skydive.
4) Get active
When you’re ready to emerge from your blanket fort, it’s time to lace up. But first, make a plan. Set specific fitness goals and find ways to keep yourself on track. I’m a big advocate of the Nike Training Club, a free app for your phone, designed specifically for women. It walks you through interval training exercises, based on your fitness level and goal (i.e. slim, tone, strengthen or target). Or you can set up a 4-week program that will give you a workout plan, with or without runs—but the weather should be getting warmer soon, so I highly recommend the fresh air jaunts.
And it doesn’t have to be all on your own. Get your BFFs on board and share your results on Twitter and Facebook. To cheer or to compete, it will keep you moving forward.
Some fun tights can be just the thing to get you in the mood for this. I’ve been gifted these Nike Pro Magical Kaleidoscope Women’s Tights, which are sure to stop traffic. Like, it actually happens. Or, go for a more subtle, but still fun-for-spring, look with the Nike Pro Core Compression Aerial capris.
Not only will you be looking and feeling your best for that next random (read: unfortunate) run-in with the not-worth-your-time ex, more importantly, getting active will reduce your stress. Even just 30 minutes will increase calming brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Plus—not that you have to worry about this now, but—a 2010 study from the University of California showed that exercise slows down the aging process, reversing the effects of stress on our bodies on a cellular level.
5) Get Ugly
By this I’m referring to your mean face. Get it. Put it on. The one that takes no prisoners and doesn’t stop working toward a goal when one little roadblock says, “You shall not pass.” Find something to throw your passion into. Always wanted to get a black belt in karate? Do it. Want to get an early start on med school applications? Just do it. Dreamed about writing a novel since you were old enough to hold a pen? Just do it now.
Let punching/studying/writing be your romance. Chances are, the benefits of putting your steam into an activity you feel strongly about will far outweigh the perks of being in a romantic relationship with someone that may or may not pan out in the long run.
So where does the ugly part come in? Well, goals like the ones I’m talking about require a sacrifice of time. A lot of it. You may spend hours, days, weeks in the gym/classroom/cave of a bedroom, working away on your own. Your social calendar may suffer. You might realize that the last time you put on makeup was before your favourite shows went into syndication.
But, at the end, the sweet taste of success will cover over any bad one that lingers in your mouth on the fuzz that’s grown in from neglecting basic hygiene (I’m kidding—please still brush your teeth, folks).
6) Get Pretty
All work and no play makes PMS worse. I’m not joking. You can move your focus to something more enjoyable than your recent heart ache, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely remove all sources of fun. That will just take one source of stress and replace it with another. Then hello mood swings. Instead, let yourself breath now and again. It helps regain focus and stay on track for your goals.
Research from Brigham Young University says strong relationships with friends (and family) can increase your odds of survival by more than 50%. So, grab your best gal pals and find a reason to celebrate. It can be as simple as, “Hey, it’s the first day of summer!” or “The cafeteria served something sort of edible!” Plan a fun night out with the girls and get dressed up (for YOU, not to attract someone else) and dance around to music that makes you feel awesome.
Take it from Bob Marley who wrote, “One thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain. “ Listening to music is proven to relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers, help mood regulation and make you more self-aware. (Read about the Unexpected Health Benefits of Music)
The aftermath of a breakup can seem like the worst time in your life. But some of the best things can happen when you’re forced in a new direction. Be aware of the stress the breakup has added to your life, but don’t be a slave to it. Accept the negative, then finds ways to turn it on its stupid head.
Now, I leave you with Fifth Harmony and “Miss Movin’ On”. #etcha-a-sketch