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November 16, 2018

Healthy ways to deal with heartbreak in the digital age

Mental Health Relationships

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Heartbreak Representation Kelly Sikkema/

Splitting up is never easy. Coping with the tidal wave of emotions that hit you after a breakup or heartbreaking loss can be a difficult process, and it’s one that certainly doesn’t happen overnight. This experience can be even harder in today’s digital age — the ever-connected nature of things like social media can sometimes hinder the healing process – which is why it’s important to deal with heartbreak in a healthy, mindful manner.

According to the American Psychological Association, psychologists are increasingly finding that the way people engage in romantic relationships is markedly different in the digital age than it used to be. Researchers are actively studying how digital communications cause these differences in modern love, and they’re finding that technology often complicates relationships.

The negative impacts of social media

Social media can often lead to prolonged feelings of sadness after a breakup by causing those affected by the split to linger on old wounds and past incidents. Thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, users are able to easily keep tabs on ex-partners, resulting in greater distress and negative feelings toward the other person. One study found that students who were Facebook friends with their exes were generally more susceptible to jealousy and rumination, and had more trouble recovering from the breakup.

Not only has social media changed how we deal with a breakup, it has altered how we break up. Some people feel emboldened by the convenience of technology, and choose to end a relationship electronically via text. Then, of course, there’s the concept of “ ghosting,” which is when one partner suddenly and without explanation withdraws from all communication or further contact.

Regardless of the role of technology, the fact is that the post-breakup blues are a part of life. So, it's important to find healthy ways to deal with the stress and extreme emotions that arise after a major heartbreak.

How to healthily deal with heartbreak

Before you can do anything else, you have to allow yourself time to properly grieve and process your feelings. Use this time to ask for support from your personal network of friends, family, and coworkers, and talk to them about what you’re going through. If you find the matter too painful to discuss, wait until you’re ready — at the very least, it can be helpful to let your loved ones know that you’re going through a difficult time and need some space to deal with it.

Writing or journaling is another healthy practice that can be especially helpful if it’s too soon to talk it out. Recording your thoughts and feelings in a notebook has even been proven to lower your heart rate and help your body adapt more easily to psychological stress.

Especially when the breakup is still fresh, avoid the temptation to checkup on your ex-partner on social media. Something as innocuous as a quick glimpse at their profile can mentally set you back, delaying the healing process considerably. Whenever you feel the urge to start snooping online, simply turn your phone or computer off and take a walk. By the time you’ve completed a few laps around the block, your mind will be clear, and you may have even forgotten all about checking Instagram.

If your mood doesn’t improve over time, or if depressive thoughts persist or worsen, it may be necessary to seek the help of a trained professional. Therapists are a great mental health resource and can help people deal with a range of issues by facilitating transformative personal growth and promoting healthy healing.

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