By: Shaila Anjum
Heartbreaks can have an emotional and physical impact on everyone, no matter how strong someone may seem. Heartbreaks can also occur within other relationships in our lives besides significant others. We have all been hurt by family, friends and those we no longer call family or friends. Sometimes even hearing a stranger's stories can feel heartbreaking and tear wrenching. All heartbreaks can leave us feeling hurt, resentful or angry – sometimes we feel these emotions in different phases, other times, seemingly at once. It's important to understand how heartbreaks can impact you emotionally and explore the ways to help you manage and cope with the emotions that come from various types of heartbreak. Many people will say "just get over it." I’m sure we’ve all heard that at some point and felt completely hopeless or even unjustified for simply feeling. That's not easy to hear when you're feeling hopeless and emotional.
Emotional pain activates similar receptors in your brain as physical pain (Eisenberger, 2012). Author, Meghan Laslocky talks about the effect heartbreak has on both the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system (2013). When these two team up, there is an increased risk of physical health problems like chest pains or cardiac issues, and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, panic attacks and more (Laslocky, 2013).
Having resentment against someone who has caused you pain is often a typical response. Especially if we do not understand why we were treated the way we were. Lack of justification naturally makes us want to feel more justified. Not being able to achieve that can sometimes lead to resentment. However, who does all this really hurt?
The hardest thing to do is stay away sometimes and focus on healing rather than keeping yourself at a constant exposure to the person that is contributing to your heartbreaks. The best thing you can do is to keep yourself busy by either developing new hobbies or revisiting old ones.
Things I have found helpful in the past include:
• Joining the gym and forcing myself to go even on the days I really don't want to.
Exercise has shown to be an effective intervention for depression and anxiety related disorder because it helps elevate mood by releasing endorphins that communicate with your brain (Szabo, Griffiths & Demetrovics, 2018).
• Improving my diet kept my body feeling better and in turn, elevated my mood.
Clean diets rich in Omega 3 fatty acids have shown to improve mood (Strasser & Fuchs, 2015).
• Reconnecting with old hobbies like reading.
• Developing new hobbies or trying new activities like horse-back riding, knitting and sewing.
• Putting a positive spin on events causing negative emotions.
The factor all these have in common is the element of self-awareness. Knowing what emotions you are feeling, and being honest with yourself about feeling these emotions allows you to be realistic when setting goals for yourself to overcome emotional distress.
Eisenberger, N. I. (2012). The pain of social disconnection: Examining the shared neural underpinnings of physical and social pain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(6), 421-434. doi:10.1038/nrn3231
Laslocky, M. (2013). The little book of heartbreak: Love gone wrong through the ages. New York: Plume.
Strasser, B., & Fuchs, D. (2015). Role of physical activity and diet on mood, behavior, and cognition. Neurology, Psychiatry and Brain Research,21(3), 118-126. doi:10.1016/j.npbr.2015.07.002
Szabo, A., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2018). Psychology and exercise. In Nutrition and enhanced sports performance (pp. 63-72). Academic Press.