Breakups are tough. It’s not just the stuff of country and western ballads or soft-focus romantic comedies, it’s a visceral and often debilitating pain to end a relationship in which you’ve most likely invested a great deal of emotional energy.
Even if you don’t live with social anxiety, healing a broken heart can be a rough ride. And if you are anxious and live with an inner commentary on your self-worth, it can be a potentially destructive period.
That said, those who are used to managing that inner monologue and dealing with their anxiety, are often well-armed with the tools and techniques to prevent the stress of a breakup from leading to a breakdown.
First, the science.
Understanding how the brain works when it comes to breakups is a great way to understanding why you’re feeling like you’ve been kicked in the chest by a wild horse.
Neuroscientists have revealed two good studies on this:
- In tests on volunteers who had been through an unwanted breakup in the past six months, the area of the brain which processed the pain of a hot probe on their arm also lit up when they looked at pictures of their ex.
- Different volunteers, who had also been through an unwanted breakup in the past six months and who were also shown photos of their exes, showed heightened activity in the area of the brain associated with reward, motivation and addiction.
In other words, the pain and cravings are real, and, just like the pain and cravings in everyday life, will pass.
In the meantime, there are plenty of mindfulness skills which go hand-in-hand with managing social anxiety and which can help you manage your breakup.
- Be mindful of your experience. Be aware of how your body is reacting to the stress and pain of the breakup and how your anxious inner-monologue is performing. You’ll notice the triggers which lead to feeling out of control and also catch all of those judgemental thoughts before you start to believe them.
- Would and could – not should. Whether the breakup was down to you or your partner, you must acknowledge the real feelings that you experienced – whether that’s anger, hurt or betrayal. Don’t dwell on what should have happened – acknowledge the emotions and the mistakes, and ask yourself how you could have done things differently.
- Let go of who you were. Change is always tough to deal with, and loss doubly so. By focusing on who you are now and finding the potential and the truth in what you find special, you’ll go a long way to banishing those cravings for the past.
- Find help in others’ experiences. Although a large part of dealing with grief is to find your own peace, there are plenty of others out there who understand your emotions. Whether it’s an online group, friends and family or a counselling session, being able to voice your emotions and hear how others deal with a breakup can be extremely beneficial.
Relationships are an integral part of who we are both as individuals and as a race – I hope you’ve gained some help or insights from our blogs on the subject. I’d love to hear your thoughts about any of the topics I’ve raised.
And for those of you that are part of my Private Social Anxiety Facebook Group, there will be more discussions on relationships over the next few weeks.
All the best, Kyle