Here's Exactly What To Do Right After A Breakup

(And absolutely what NOT to do.)
PHOTO: istockphoto

For something as frequent and, frankly, as normal as breaking up is, there's a lot of bad advice out there on how to get through the experience. Sure, movies involving hilariously sloppy nights out with besties or cathartic revenge plots are fun and all, but if you want to bounce back in a healthy way, drowning your sorrows wouldn't be my first recommendation.

I can tell you from personal experience that using your breakup as a springboard for a spiritual glow-up feels so much better, even though yes, it's harder and yes, it requires way more maturity than drunk-swiping through Tinder. Follow these steps if you wanna move on with your life as soon as possible.

Block, unfollow, mute—do whatever you need to without shame.

Look, I get it—if your ex is a smug POS and you're a stubbornly proud Leo like me, hitting that "unfriend" button or purging all the pics of the two of you from your Instagram can feel like a pathetic surrender. What if knowing I'm hurt makes him even happier? What if people are screenshotting my feed and coming up with breakup theories? Hell to the no.

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The thing is...even if people do actively care about your love life like you're a celebrity, you're still putting the public opinion of your breakup above your own health.

"When your heart is still raw, it's dangerous to your own wellbeing to leave yourself vulnerable to even passively viewing news and photos showing what your ex is up to after the split," explains Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., chair and professor of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University. She notes that before the age of social media, people had to put serious effort into seeing an ex again, which made it way less tempting. But deep-diving after they pop up on your timeline? Too easy!

Even actual celebrities do digital cleanses because they work. "That can do wonders for actually getting past a heartbreak," Degges-White adds. "When someone is totally over you, it can be best if you take the 'rip the Band-Aid off quick' route versus the slow torture of letting go, bit by bit."

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If possible, line up something that you really look forward to.

This is especially useful if you're planning to break up or somehow know that it's coming, but you're still dreading the aftermath. Knowing that your life won't be completely bleak after you've done the deed can help make sure you don't back out at the last minute.

"We all need something to get our minds off a breakup, and when it’s something like a reward, we might savor it even more," Degges-White says. "The old saying that time heals all wounds is really about the fact that new experiences take up more space in our heads."

If you're moving out, get pumped about decking out your new place. If you can swing it, set up an impromptu trip to visit a friend or go somewhere with your BFFs (or Eat-Pray-Love-solo-trip it up). Even smaller things, like signing up for a class you never had time for because of date nights, can do the trick!

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Keep your body moving.

You're allowed one week—okay, two—of cocooning in a blanket and eating queso out of the jar. But TBH, you shouldn't even wait that long to go for a walk. "Research shows that one of the best self-help treatments for depression is physical exercise,Degges-White says. "Exercise produces endorphins and serotonin, which both promote a positive outlook."

If you have it in you to sign up for your first 5K or a barre class, great! But even just making yourself go for a walk, however short, is a win. You can listen to your breakup playlist during your entire stroll, and you'll still feel so much better after moving your bod for a bit.

Find new friends to fill the space your ex left.

If your ex was also your BFF, breakups can be particularly lonely. "It's hard to lose a person who holds a lot of different social support roles in your life," Degges-White says. "Know, though, that it happens and that people survive, and that it can benefit you by encouraging you to become a little more independent as well as resourceful."

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In addition to offering relationship advice, your friends are excellent people to turn to problem-solve your latest work issue, or share in some of the LOLs you and your boo used to enjoy. Don't forget that.

Be reaaaaaaal cautious about hookups.

It's completely normal for your body to miss sex and spooning and cuddling. Even if you don't miss your ex specifically, craving physical intimacy can be enough to motivate people to get back together, or find solace in someone new.

"Primal instincts may drive us to seek out rebound relationships, but it’s essential to take precautions against making detrimental choices in your next potential partner," Degges-White says. "Research suggests that when we are on the rebound, we typically see the 'next great thing' as more attractive than we normally would."

That's right—the guy who goes down on you better than your ex ever did might seem like your soulmate...until you realize he only texts you to hook up and has some pretty terrible political views to boot. (Also, now that you're out of the sex haze, you just noticed he doesn't have any posters in his bedroom, or an actual bed frame. RUN.)

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All of which is to say, not all rebounds are bad, but just...take it slow.

Let yourself grieve without making it your whole life.

Obviously, heartbreaks are rough, and you won't get through it if you're not honest about your feelings. But there's a limit.

"You might know it’s time to get back into the world when you realize that your indulging in self-care is making you feel worse instead of better," Degges-White says. "If you’re heading into week three of Netflix, espresso chip swirl, and Prosecco, you need to take action and recharge your routine."

Even if declining every social invitation to sit at home in sweatpants feels like you're honoring what you want to do, it can, over time, trick you into wallowing more than you should.

"The human brain was designed to seek pleasure over pain, but when you spend too much time ruminating on a breakup, the brain grows more familiar with the negative thinking," Degges-White says. "It begins to find pleasure in the mental anguish pain you’re creating for yourself, because it becomes what’s familiar and comfortable."

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So go to that party, even if you know you'll only stay for an hour. Join the book club in your office even though you'd rather watch trashy TV than chip away at The Idiot. All the yesses add up.

Learn to genuinely love being single before you let anyone into your life.

Chances are, you'll want to date someone again someday, but the question is when.

"You're ready to go back into the pool when you’ve given yourself time to get back in touch with your own identity, rather than that of 'half of a couple,'” Degges-White says. If you're meeting up with people because you're worried about being "on track" for getting engaged before 30 or just hate the idea of being single, that ain't it.

Ideally, even in a relationship, you should have your own separate life, so why not practice now? If you can do all of the above and genuinely revel in being your best unpartnered, busy AF, starfishing-in-your-bed self, the worry won't be "Am I ready for a new relationship?" as much as "Am I ready to give up part of my bed?" (The answer is no, but love makes us do crazy things.)

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Follow Julia on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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