LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer, Megan McKone gives her guide on how to deal with heartbreak.
Heartbreak sucks, we all know that but what is going on in our brains when we feel like our hearts are breaking?
The feeling of heartbreak is different to a lot of human emotions and that’s probably because heartbreak is a mix of sadness, grief, anger, and countless other feelings. Heartbreak is not just a result of relationships, anyone can be heartbroken whether that be over a bereavement, a job, a breakup or even a friend breakup. In terms of relationships, I just want to remind you that even if you were not actually a couple, or if you were not together long or in absolutely any instance your heartbreak is valid. You can still feel heartbroken even if you were the one to end the relationship.
When you lose someone, you may feel like you have lost yourself – especially if they were a big part of your life – you may have lost friends, you may have been close to members of their family, but no matter what you have lost you are not alone in this feeling.
It may not be something you want to hear right not but time is a healer of all things, and during the beginning everything will feel dark, but you will find the strength to carry on and each day as you do it will hurt just a little bit less. You won’t even notice it at first until one day you’ll realise you’ve gone a whole day not thinking about them, then you’ll realise you can listen to songs that used to remind you of them, and it won’t anymore. As more time passes, you will grow more and more accustomed to life without them and you will move on to new loves and new life experiences but more importantly you will grow, and you will flourish.
The brain registers the emotional pain of heartbreak as a physical pain which is why it feels like your heart is physically aching. The hormones dopamine and oxytocin are hormones involved in the feeling of love, when you are in love levels of these hormones rise but when heartbreak occurs dopamine and oxytocin levels drop as the levels of the hormone cortisol rise, causing you to feel distressed. Excess cortisol can cause acne, weight gain, and anxiety – the physical manifestation of heartbreak. Studies have shown that heartbreak triggers withdrawal symptoms, these symptoms are similar to withdrawal symptoms in a drug addict. My point is to take it slow, it is okay and even if you feel like you will never get through this, you will.
But how can you healthily deal with heartbreak?
Feel your emotions but don’t let them dominate your life.
The way you are feeling is completely normal and it is okay to be sad. You will probably cycle through a lot of emotions and feelings. There will be good days and bad days. Remember crying is good! Crying allows stress hormones (such as cortisol) to be released from your system, which is why you feel better after a good cry. Crying can also be a way to let your friends know that you need support. Try speaking your feelings aloud, try journaling, try telling your friends or family how you feel, it is important to process your emotions for you to move on.
Unfollow and Delete!
Unfollow them off all social media. Delete your pictures and text messages, or if you cannot bare to do that send them to a trusted friend or add them to a folder that you will not look in. Delete their number. Do it. It will hurt when you first do it, but it will help your healing considerably. You do not want to constantly see their faces, remember the good times you had, or see something that reminds you of them while you are trying to move on. It is like opening old wounds and it will hurt, so save yourself the trouble and unfollow and delete them. I’ll say it one last time. Unfollow them. Delete them.
Talk to your friends.
They are your friends for a reason, right? It is important not to abuse your friendships, they have their own lives and problems too and your friends should definitely not replace professional help, but your friends are there to support you. Try to talk to your friends, organise movie nights or facetime chats. Keeping busy will distract you from ruminating. It is important to grieve your loss and move on when the time is right. When you’re ready, your friends will probably be the ones to help you move on and soon you will see that the qualities you admired in your partner can be found elsewhere.
Be respectful but remember the bad times.
They were not perfect, and neither were you and that is normal. Remember all the things about them that annoyed you, maybe it was the way they chewed, maybe you felt ignored by them or unloved or maybe they just did not fulfil your needs. It is important not to romanticise what you had, yes there were definitely good parts but there were also times that were not as good. Remember that. Be respectful, the world does not need to know their secrets, you once loved this person or at least had very strong feelings toward them. Treat them the way you would like them to treat you.
Buy a sex toy.
If you were in a sexual relationship you may miss sex and that is completely okay! You probably have a lot more time to yourself so now is the time to invest in yourself and your sexual pleasure. There are a huge range of sex toys available (guide coming soon), there is something for everyone regardless of gender, and your sexual needs are important. Take this time to focus on you and what you like in the bedroom.
Get an STI check
If you are thinking of having sex or any type of sexual activity with another person you may want to consider getting an STI check. STI checks are incredibly important and we should aim to have at least one a year or between each new partner. Your sexual health is important and often there are no initial symptoms, it is essential that if you do have an STI it is caught early to allow for the appropriate handling and medication and to allow for the best possible outcome. HIV is a lifelong disease but the earlier it is caught the better it can be treated, and knowledge of a positive test result is imperative to avoid passing HIV on to others and allowing for safe sex. If you are having sex with someone new or if you are unaware of their sexual history make sure to use a condom as condoms are the only way to prevent STIs.
Know when to get help.
There is nothing shameful about heartbreak and the feelings of grief and sadness it can bring. Regardless of whether you did the breaking up or if you were broken up with your thoughts and feelings are important. Sometimes professional help is necessary, and it is especially important for those who were in emotionally or physically abusive relationships. You do not deserve to feel permanently sad or guilty or lost or whatever you may feel, you deserve to heal and to move on. This is your life, and it is your duty to take control and live it.
If you are in need of professional help, please see the following links (this list is by no means exhaustive):
Loughborough Heads up on Instagram @lboroheadsup and Loughborough Heads Up on Facebook
Loughborough Nightline on Instagram @lboronightline and Loughborough Nightline on Facebook. Available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 8pm and 2am.
Number: 01509 227650 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Loughborough University Counselling Services https://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cds/wellbeing/counselling/
Loughborough Consent and Sexual Health Association on Instagram @lsucash and LSU Consent & Sexual Health Coordinator on Facebook
Loughborough Women’s Network on Instagram @lborowomentsnetwork_ and Loughborough Women’s Network on Facebook
https://sh24.org.uk/ (STI testing)
https://www.jasminehouse.org.uk/ (for female survivors of sexual abuse/sexual violence/rape)
https://www.survivorsuk.org/ (for male (and trans/non-binary) survivors of sexual abuse/sexual violence)
https://www.refuge.org.uk/ (for females experiencing domestic abuse)
https://www.mankind.org.uk/ (for male victims of domestic abuse)
Header image by Christos Alamaniotis.