9 Women on the Wellness Practices That Helped Them Get Over a Bad Breakup
There's no right or wrong way to get over a broken heart—each experience is unique and intricately personal. The movies suggest you spend night after night with a tub of ice cream and a sappy movie, and friends will recommend you keep yourself busy 24-7. I usually land somewhere in-between, using hobbies and friends to keep my mind from wandering but also allowing time to sit, do nothing, feel sad, and slowly mend my heart. Ultimately, you have to figure out the best way to care for yourself, free from judgment or pushy advice.
I reached out to women who have been there—through the ringer when it comes to breakups—searching for their best lessons in self-care. From exercise to literature, keep reading to find their best wellness practices to get over a breakup.
"At 25, I found myself single for the first time in six years. My long-term boyfriend and I broke up, not because we didn't still have feelings for each other, but with his cross-country move for medical school on the horizon, the timing just wasn't right. I was devastated, but my typical way of handling these sorts of things is a more out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. But after bottling up my emotions for far too long, I realised I needed to take better care of myself and to let myself be sad. For me, self-care was in part about being kind to myself, indulging in small treats, etc. But it was also about giving myself the right to grieve. Instead of overbooking my calendar with nights out and drink dates with friends, I let myself indulge in evenings alone with sappy music, journaling, candles, and ice cream. Sure, it may have been playing into a certain breakup trope, but it allowed me to take time with my feelings and to heal, which is something I'm not always so good at doing."
"After a particularly heart-wrenching breakup a handful of years ago, one of the (many) things that made me particularly sad was how empty my calendar and apartment felt in the aftermath. I dreaded coming home after work because I had all these hours to fill before I could go to sleep and I didn't know what to do. I also knew I was depressed and had read an article about how doing 30 minutes of cardio had a similar effect as taking low-dose SSRIs, so I figured I'd fight two sad birds with one empowering stone.
"Rather than puddling on the floor of my apartment every night in front of the TV, I started scheduling nighttime workouts at Tracy Anderson. Her only studio at the time was in the Valley, so I would spend the 30-minute drive listening to the happiest music I could find, and then would do her extremely challenging dance cardio class for an hour. By the time the class was over, I was physically exhausted and had given my mind at least 60 minutes of release from thinking about my breakup, which was the greatest gift ever.
"It was also great because it gave me time to get a life, something I'd sadly neglected during the final months of said breakup. Now with my nights full of these classes, I didn't feel so lonely or depressed, and I slowly started strengthening my neglected friendships while also strengthening my body and giving my mind a break. The fact that I also got in killer shape didn't hurt either, though frankly that wasn't even on my radar at the time. The point was I was investing in self-care and that in turn helped me heal in a healthier way than my normal MO of trying to eat and drink my sad feelings away."
"For me, I did a ton of journaling and read a lot of Brené Brown's books, specifically Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, which is about self-acceptance and embracing vulnerability (she also has an amazing TED Talk on this!). I actually ended my relationship because I felt like the timing wasn't right and that I wasn't in the best place emotionally to be in a relationship, despite still feeling very strongly for him (which made the breakup very hard and confusing). I think a lot of self-reflection allowed me to figure out what I wanted and work through some of the issues that were holding me back in the first place. I also started working out a lot, which was a great stress reliever and confidence booster."
"My ex-boyfriend broke up with me over FaceTime last summer three days after I confessed to him that my mental health wasn’t doing well. It was unexpected, painful, and left me in a daze of confusion and sadness. After a week of sleeping in till 12 p.m. every day, I finally made it back to the kickboxing gym I had been going to for a few months. Invigorated by a newfound anger, I kicked, punched and wrestled the bag harder than ever before. Exercise has always helped me relieve stress, but kickboxing helped me release my anger and stress faster than other workouts. Externalising my anger at the bag helped keep me from beating myself up over the breakup. Getting over him took time, but giving in to my emotions every night at kickboxing class helped me keep my cool when I eventually saw him a month later to exchange each other’s personal items. I got stronger mentally and physically, developed new friendships at the gym, and gained a renewed appreciation for the freedom that comes with singledom. Having a new pair of semi-abs didn’t hurt either."
"I started dating this guy super seriously, and a few months in, he told me he wasn't ready for a relationship. So we took a weeklong break while I traveled, and then we had a date when I made it back home. Everything seemed back to normal until he ghosted me for a month. Two weeks after I hadn't heard from him, I crashed my car on the freeway. Granted, it was traumatising, but it was one of the first healing moments from me because it reminded me that I was spending SO much time consumed with why this guy didn't like me and at any moment my life could be over. So now when I'm dealing with breakups, I like to have a similar mental check-in with myself where I write my feelings and goals down to remind myself that a breakup is not the end of the world.
"After I came to this realisation, he came back and we started talking again. He apologised, we saw each other, and then silence—AGAIN. About two weeks later, I found out he was dating another girl via social media. I blocked him and her (which is another tip I strongly suggest), and then I decided to start a hobby I had always put off: boxing. I think when you're going through a terrible breakup, it's essential to find something to channel your energy into and make you feel as if you're moving toward becoming a better off person; boxing was that for me. It teaches you how to protect yourself—which is what I wasn't doing when it came to my heart—and it reminds you you're powerful! Two other things that helped me were writing and dating. Writing allowed me to say all the things I never got to say to him and dating reminded me that there is so much opportunity in the world. While I lost one person I cared about, I learned that the universe would one day align me with who I was meant to be with, and that experience allowed me to grow into the type of lover I'd want to find."
"Perhaps my most earth-shattering breakup was with someone I wasn't even really dating. Those can hit the hardest because they're less cut-and-dry and incredibly confusing. Because we hadn't made any official declarations about the nature of our relationship, I wasn't able to vent the way I wanted to or wallow in my sadness the way I needed to. I forced myself to be self-aware and unaffected when all I felt was a dull heartache, like nausea, during every moment of the day. For whatever reason, my gut told me this one was different, that it was something. I think more so than my feelings for this human, that's what broke my heart—that I could be so wrong. I was so hard on myself.
"For a while, I performed FBI-level stalking. I was a masochist while I searched for evidence of a new girl or some piece of information that would undoubtedly make my stomach drop. That went on for months until I decided I couldn't keep hurting myself. I finally allowed myself to feel the pain of it, to grieve this loss (because it still is a loss, even if it didn't fall into the confines of a traditional committed relationship). I cried a lot and wrote letters to myself in the notes section of my phone. I talked to my friends about it for hours. I stopped acting chill and cool because that wasn't how I felt. My dad's a yoga teacher and has taught me a lot about setting an intention—a purpose for your day based on how you're feeling or what you'd like to accomplish. It can be anything, even as simple as I'd like to feel better today. So that's what I did. Now that I've gotten over it, I feel even stronger for having let myself feel pain without explaining it away or brushing it off."
"During this particularly bad breakup I had in my mid-20s, I was doubly heartbroken for leaving behind not only my first true love and a great relationship that was still—for all intents and purposes—going strong but also what had been my entire life in Australia for more than three years. After three very happy years with my boyfriend, I made the heart-wrenching decision to move back to Canada where I grew up because I knew deep in my heart that he would never want to leave his Australian hometown, and I knew I wanted to build my life stateside. The love I felt for that Australian boy I met only a few weeks into my semester abroad wasn't enough for me to justify a life away from my family and friends, and to effectively give up on a career I had only just started building. So after very tearful goodbyes, I reluctantly jumped on a 30-hour flight back to Montreal.
"To say that my first few weeks back home were tough would be the understatement of the year. During that particularly difficult period, the only thing that helped me feel better was exercise—I know, eye roll—but hear me out. I'm by no means the definition of a fitness junkie (a taco junkie, maybe). That said, running proved to be very cathartic whenever I felt overwhelmed, sad, or confused. Not only did it help me clear my mind from all of the emotions and overthinking my decision, it also helped me visualize a path forward and give me perspective on why I had made that choice. Hot yoga also really helped to clear my mind and to be present in the moment, as opposed to lost in thoughts or stuck in the past. Bonus: I got pretty fit after a few months, which gave me an extra confidence boost once I was ready to date again."
"When I was 22, I went through a pretty serious breakup. It was my high school sweetheart, and we had been together for more than eight years. My parents had been together since they were 12, so I just thought, That's what people do! I didn't really know how to find the strength to move on and what really did it for me was yoga. During class, I would sometimes cry, sometimes have visions of my future self walking with my future (nonexistent) kids, dreams of what I would want to do with my life. It forced me to be with myself and love myself without the other person. It also forced me to stop thinking about the breakup for an hour. I felt so much better after a class. I would walk out feeling strong—that I could be there for myself and get through it. It taught me to have a relationship with myself; that self-love during a break up is so important. It's that time to understand your feelings instead of forcing yourself to move on quickly. It allowed me to hear thoughts and feelings and find some peace and clarity. That's when I realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to yoga, and now I've been teaching private clients here in L.A. for more than five years and I have my own yoga brand. Even though I'm happily married now, I still love how yoga can provide that self-love whenever I need it."
"The most painful breakup I've experienced was in my mid-20s after I completed graduate school. I had been living with my boyfriend for nearly two years, and our relationship was a mess. He was very emotionally abusive, and it took me a long time to come to terms with that reality—I was full of embarrassment and shame. One afternoon we were in a bad argument at our apartment where he yelled at me for confronting him about lying, and I snapped.
"It was the most surreal feeling. I remember briefly closing my eyes and the room fell silent. I took a deep breath, picked up a cup that was sitting on the nightstand in our bedroom, and threw it at the wall next to him. It shattered on the wall. This is not a moment I am proud of, but after two years of the craziness, that was our relationship, I woke up. I took another deep breath and calmly said, "I can't go on like this. I cannot do what we are doing anymore." The next day we separated our belongings, and he moved out.
My biggest struggle after we split up was navigating the intense shame I felt about continuing to stay in a relationship that I knew wasn’t supportive for me. Thankfully, I had been to therapy in the past with positive results and decided to go back. That was one of the best decisions I made post-break up because it helped me find the clarity I needed to heal, move on, and not repeat that relationship again. As difficult as it was, I reached out to my close friends and filled them in on the entire story and let them show up for me. I was fortunate to be part of a loving, supportive, and nonjudgemental community of women who brought me food when I was too sad to cook, helped me turn my apartment into safe space, and when I was ready, took me out on the weekends so I didn’t have to be alone on my couch.
Looking back, the self-care practice that helped me the most was giving myself permission to be vulnerable. Showing my therapist and close friends the depth of my sadness and shame around being in a relationship that made me feel terrible about myself was the way that I healed and eventually opened my heart and life up to someone worth sharing my life with."