Self-care is always important, but when you’re going through a breakup or divorce, it might be even more critical. Life is hard enough, and the emotional stress and turmoil of a breakup just makes it worse.Self-care won’t make it all better, but it will help if it’s done correctly. Self-care during a breakup or divorce requires you to cover all areas of life: psychological, physical, emotional, professional, personal, and spiritual.
It’s all too easy to throw yourself into work to forget your relationship troubles, or to get so focused on trying to stay mentally stable that you lose your job. That’s why balanced self-care that covers all areas of life is so important.
But how do you do this? I suggest starting with the physical.
Physical self-care includes things like having safe housing, regular medical care, eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. There’s many more things that can be considered physical self-care, but I recommend starting here because often in a breakup or divorce, these areas are the ones that are most endangered. One partner usually has to move out of a shared home, and in some cases, there may be health concerns due to cheating or abuse. It’s also incredibly easy to stop taking care of yourself.
Making sure that you have a safe roof over your head, eating nutritious meals and getting regular exercise and quality sleep are critical. These things can help prevent depression and anxiety because your body is getting what it needs. That’s not to say you won’t experience any depression or anxiety, but it can prevent or ease the symptoms.
Emotional is the next area you should take a look at when going through a breakup or divorce. Naturally, your emotions are going to be all over the place. You’ll be sad one minute and angry the next. You’ll miss your ex, then hate him.
Emotional self-care includes self-love and self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up by convincing yourself that the breakup was all your fault. Even if something you said or did directly contributed to the breakup, remember that you’re only human and humans make mistakes. Learn from it, but show yourself some love and compassion.
If you need to cry, cry. If you need to scream, scream. Bottling your emotions up is not good self-care. They’ll still be there, and when you bottle them up, they’re more likely to explode in a less than appropriate way.
Look for other ways to express and handle your emotions, too. Watch a funny movie to make you laugh. If you’re feeling less than confident, flirt with someone — with no intention of taking it anywhere, just to get that “I’ve still got it” feeling.
Psychological self-care can be very similar to emotional self-care. It’s about taking care of yourself mentally, finding methods of self-soothing and eventual happiness.
Psychological self-care can include going to therapy. Therapy can be very beneficial when you feel that you’re not handling the breakup well, or if you’ve begun to notice a pattern to your relationships and breakups. It can help you figure out where the difficulty is and how to remove it from your life.
But psychological self-care can also include things like painting or drawing, journaling, aromatherapy, gardening, finding a support group, or even just thinking about your positive qualities.
It’s about easing your mind, stopping the wheels from turning relentlessly and often without purpose. It should either help you not think about the breakup or make your thoughts more productive so that you can move past it. If all it’s doing is making you dwell on the relationship or breakup without any feeling of forward progress, that’s an indication that you’re not engaging in self-care, but wallowing instead.
While you want to avoid throwing yourself into work to the detriment of the rest of your life, you do want to make sure that you don’t neglect your job either. Finding balance here is especially critical, because without your job, everything else has the potential to be jeopardized.
Professional self-care includes things like taking time for lunch, setting boundaries with bosses and co-workers (including refusing to discuss the breakup, if necessary), or taking a mental health day. It can also include things like planning your next career move, taking a class, or getting support from your colleagues.
If you need to take your vacation to give you time to deal with the breakup and the time is available to you, take it. It’s better to take that time and get yourself together than to risk your job doing shoddy work because you’re not completely focused.
Depending on your own spiritual beliefs, this may mean religion and church to you, or it may mean a connection with nature or the universe. Whatever it means for you, a deep spiritual connection to something can help you get through a breakup with support from another source outside yourself.
This can mean finding or reuniting with a spiritual community such as a church or religious group. It can also mean cherishing yourself, enjoying some self-reflection, going into nature, taking a yoga class, or volunteering for a cause that means something to you. Meditation, singing, dancing, and being inspired by things around you are also spiritual self-care.
Feeling a spiritual connection to others who share your beliefs or a power or source that is bigger than you can remind you not only that you’re not alone as you go through this, but also that you’re not the only one to have gone through this. Those reminders can help put your pain into another perspective and that can make it easier to move past the pain more quickly.
Self-Care during a breakup or divorce won’t magically fix anything
You’re still going to hurt. You’re still going to cry and be angry and wonder what happened or why it happened. Unless the relationship was over long before it officially ended and you already dealt with all of your emotions, there is no getting around dealing with them now.
What self-care will do is ensure that you don’t neglect yourself during this time. It will also equip you with the tools to really deal with your emotions, rather than ignoring them or handling them inappropriately by, say, screaming at your boss.
One final note: Remember that the suggestions you see here or get from other people are just that, suggestions. If dating feels right to you, then date. If being celibate for a while feels right, then be celibate. If wallowing with sappy romantic movies for a night feels like the right way to deal with your sadness, go for it — just don’t make it a habit or it’s likely to do more harm than good.
The most important part of self-care during a breakup or divorce is that you’re honest with yourself. Do what feels good to you, be honest about how you’re feeling, and understand that it will take time.