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Survival guide: From heartbreak to happiness
Richa Pant
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November 21, 2006

Have you, at any point in your life, suffered a broken heart? Those waves of intense grief, emptiness, sadness, anger, confusion, heaviness and low self-esteem?

Depending on the kind of person you are and the situation, break-ups can be traumatic enough to affect your emotional and physical health. "They may say that no one ever died of a broken heart, but when you're suffering from one, it sure doesn't feel that way, at least initially," says Sanjeev Sharma, 29, a software engineer who felt let down immensely when his four-year relationship with his girlfriend ended in 2005.

Rishi Gupta, 29, a manager in a telecom company says his best friend Amit Sharma* was so emotionally traumatised by his heartbreak that he had heart palpitations and other health-related problems. 

"Most people will tell you that you'll get over it or you'll meet someone else, but it seems easier said than done," observes Pankaj Sharma, 28, an executive in a recruitment consultancy in Delhi, who experienced heartache when he broke up with his first girlfriend.

There are strategies that can lessen the pain. Here are 20 steps that can help:

Be aware of your real intentions

Do you want to move past the break-up. Or do you harbour hopes of getting back with your ex? Define your emotional goal. You can't move on until you've truly accepted that the relationship is over.

Make a clean break

Don't do the 'on-again-off-again' routine. It will only prolong the inevitable. Also, resist the urge to call your ex.

How do you know if you are over your ex? That's the million-dollar question. "A good indication is when you no longer want to get back together with the person. Additionally, when the thought of your ex having a relationship with someone else doesn't affect you. Although you might not necessarily be 'happy' for him/her, but if you have gotten over your ex, you won't care either way," says Pankaj.

Don't get self-destructive

Getting angry (or desperate), trying to hurt yourself or someone else, drinking or taking drugs to become numb and feel better, or locking yourself up in a dark room are not going to do anything to help your situation. "These things don't actually deal with the pain, they only mask it, which only prolongs the sadness," says Shalini Nigam, 24, a senior executive with an MNC in Delhi.  

Share your feelings

It could be with a friend or family member. Talking is a great way to cleanse your soul and ease your tension.

Cry it out

Getting some of those raw emotions out can be a big help, so it's okay to cry as much as needed, irrespective of whether you are a a guy or a girl.

Give your heart time to heal

It takes time for sadness to go away. This depends on what caused your heartbreak, how you deal with loss, and how quickly you tend to bounce back from things. "Getting over a break-up can take a couple of days to many weeks -- and sometimes even months," says Pankaj.

Keep yourself busy

This can be difficult when you're coping with sadness and grief, but it really helps. Just make sure you busy yourself with positive activities like doing projects around the house, going on a trip, exercising, friend-time and focusing on studies or work. "Don't get self destructive and at all costs avoid excesses of any kind," says Sanjeev.

Watch a movie

To distract yourself, choose a comedy that has cheered you up before. Or watch one that's guaranteed to make you sob -- you might be surprised how good that makes you feel.

Take a holiday/vacation or weekend off

Visit an old friend or go back home to your roots. A change of environment does wonders for the spirit. "It recharges your batteries. It also gives you some time to think and find closure in a different setting," says Pankaj.

Surround yourself with friends

Interacting with others will help you in resuming a normal life balance. It may open up opportunities for new friendships too. "Consider dating other people, but be wary of rebound relationships," advises Sanjeev.

Remind yourself of your good qualities

Often people with broken hearts blame themselves for what happened. Getting your self-esteem back on track is the key to your recovery.

Focus on yourself

"You're going through a tough time, so do the things that make you feel good again," says Shalini.Pamper yourself. Get a new hairstyle, have a spa day, dance, or go shopping. Get lots of sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly to minimise stress and depression.

Improve yourself

This is an opportunity to make a journey into self-discovery. Discover what you want from life and go after it.

Get rid of the memories

"Do your mourning and then put everything that reminds you of your ex in a box and seal it. Return it to them, throw it away, donate it to charity or ask a friend to hold on to it indefinitely. Get rid of anything that keeps you in the past, if it hurts," advises Rishi.

Learn from the break-up

Take the positives from it, and even more importantly, learn from the negatives. "There's nothing worse than dragging your negative habits along with you to future relationships, because you'll just end up with the same result until you learn from your mistakes," says Sanjeev.

Get out

Force yourself to go out even if you are feeling depressed. Go for a cup of coffee or a long walk.

Move on

People who are dealing with a break up tend to play over past events in their head ad nauseum. This behaviour is normal in the early days of a break up but it can quickly become a dangerous and defeatist coping strategy. Remember that the end is just the beginning. Visualise your future, block out the past. Pick up the pieces and go after the kind of life and relationship you deserve.

Don't punish your next partner

Judge future relationships on their own merits. Don't let paranoia from the past enter the present. If you live in the past too much, you aren't ready to be in another relationship yet. Learn to trust again. Don't let a bad experience keep you from living your life to the fullest.

Consider getting professional help

Sometimes the sadness is so deep -- or lasts so long -- that one may need extra support. For a person who isn't starting to feel better after a few weeks or who continues to feel depressed, talking to a psychologist or counsellor or psychiatrist can be very helpful.

Take charge

Find the courage to pull yourself out of this rut. "Take charge of yourself and you will find that there actually is life after 'What's-His-Name' or 'What's-Her-Name'! You just need to make the decision so you can move on," says Shalini.

Take tiny steps each day and you will be amazed that you are starting to feel better. Lean on your friends and family, and remember, time will heal all wounds.

* Name changed to protect identity

Have you ever broken up with a loved one? How did you cope with your loss? Share your experiences



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