You have just ended a relationship or a marriage, or maybe you were on the receiving end of the decision to split. Either way, a life-changing decision was made. It felt like someone had just pulled the rug out from under you. You feel a great sense of loss. You are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the emotions. Read on to learn how to care for your overwhelming emotions.
Breakups and divorces are hard for everyone, and everyone responds to the pain differently. Maybe you feel overwhelmed and have suddenly lost all direction in life. Maybe you’ve been in a daze for some time. Maybe your mind is filled with questions and scenarios on how to get back together. Maybe you are in such inconsolable pain that you can’t function. Your brain sees this as a threat to you.
Here are a few things you can do to slowly take control of your life again:
If there is a breathing exercise that you are familiar with, do it. Otherwise, you can give the 4-7-8 breathing exercise a try (1). Put the tip of your tongue at the back of your teeth, empty your lungs, inhale for 4 counts while keeping your teeth at the same place, hold the breath for 7 counts and exhale with a “whoosh” sound for 8 counts. Dr. Weil—the developer of the 4-7-8 breathing technique—recommends repeating this cycle 4 times, twice daily.
Name your feeling
Name the emotion you are experiencing. For example ‘I’m so sad’, ‘it hurts so much’. Research shows (3), labeling the feelings decreases its intensity response in the brain.
Grounding exercises (2) are activities that help you to detach from your emotional pain for a moment. When we are going through a breakup or divorce, we tend to ruminate. In order to stop ourselves from ruminating, we can distract our mind with grounding exercises, which help us focus on the present. There are many different kinds of grounding exercises available on the internet. Here’s one that my clients find easy and effective.
- Name 5 things you can see around you. A green wall, a leafy plant…
- Name 4 things that you sense – the room is cooling, smooth but hard wooden table…
- Name 3 things you can hear. The car honking outside, TV going on outside…
- Name 2 things you can smell or you like the smell of… peppermint, oranges.
- Finally, give yourself a loving hug.
Talk to someone
Talk to a supportive friend. Ask for a hug when you are crying, as many of us don’t know what to do to console a friend. Sometimes you need to tell your friend or family member what you need from them to feel better at that moment. If they aren’t sure what to say to console you, tell them that they don’t need to say anything. Them being there for you is the best thing they can offer. Talk to a counsellor to process the complicated and overwhelming emotions that you are experiencing and assuage your pain.
Talk to a counsellor/ therapist
Talking to a counsellor helps to process the complicated emotions that you are experiencing. And a counsellor will be able to equip you with tools to face the future.
In summary, breathing exercises, name your feelings, grounding exercises, talk to someone – these are things you can do to refocus when you are overwhelmed by your emotions when you are going through a divorce or a breakup.
Disclaimer: You are encouraged to use the content from this site to improve your mental health. However, this is not a substitute for professional help (be it medical and/or mental health care, treatment and/or diagnosis).