I went through a breakup last year. It was terribly sad and unbearably painful, as all breakups are. But I do this thing — even when I believe that breaking up is the right thing to do (as I did in this case) — I HOLD. ON. FOR. DEAR. LIFE.
My anxiety is so great when a romantic relationship ends that I cling and bargain and problem-solve when the problem to solve has long ago been deemed unsolvable. The last thing on my mind is taking care of my body.
This time, though, when I finally came to a place of acceptance — when I finally cried "uncle!" to the universe — I kicked into self-care mode with a vengeance. I suddenly understood that focusing on me — what I ate, how I moved my body, what I did to feel connected to myself and others — was the only way things would get better.
Breakups can send people onto the couch with a bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream, staring out the window or at the TV, sobbing themselves into a puddle of complete despair.
And yeah, I did some of that.
Until I realized that that's not what I was supposed to do. That this change really was — as cliché as it sounds — a call from the universe to change myself.
Not in an "I hate who I am, I need to change" sort of way, but in a "How can I figure out what I'm supposed to learn from this … so I can actually learn it?" way.
I learned that self-compassion is the key to overcoming every challenge, and that compassion for the self is the path to compassion for others.
For me, self-compassion meant not only taking care of my physical body, but also looking inside to uncover the really terrible things I’d been telling myself for years, and learning how to stop doing that.
If this sounds familiar and you’re in that dark place, maybe these tips for relentless self-care will help you get through. And you will get through, by the way. I believe in you.
1. Eat healthy food, even if you don’t feel like it.
Choose nutrient-dense foods that will give you massive nourishment with little effort. Oatmeal, beans, prepared vegetables, avocados, nut butter, quinoa, and smoothies are all good options. I lived on smoothies for a while; they’re an easy and palatable way to get lots of nutrition in your body in a small package.
2. Support your body and your mind.
Try something passive, like acupuncture. I found it particularly helpful in the weeks after my breakup for keeping my body functioning and my mind quiet.
3. Give yourself little treats.
It’s amazing how far a pedicure or massage goes when nothing else feels good. The spa comes with the added bonus of getting you out of the house when you’ve slipped into isolation mode.
4. Relentlessly search for your center.
I started a personal “30 days of yoga” challenge about a week after my breakup. I’m pretty convinced that yoga kept me sane.
5. Do whatever you have to do to sleep.
I struggled with anxiety attacks when I should have been sleeping. You can't process anything or move forward through a tough transition without sleep. A soak in the tub with some bath salts or 10 minutes of restorative yoga before bed often did the trick for me.
6. Allow yourself time to heal.
Don't try to force yourself back into your normal schedule before you're ready. I’m an exercise junkie, but yoga was the only exercise I did for weeks. My body eventually called out for a run, but it needed something gentle for a while. I cut myself some slack at work, too, so I could focus my energy on healing.
Now, I’m not saying that taking care of you will magically make the hurt go away. But I can say with some assurance that it will get you through the pain much faster than letting yourself completely unravel.
Each time you take care of your body and your mind, you get just a little stronger.
Until one day, you feel like you again.