OPINION: Breakup Recovery to Use for Life Setbacks

Crystal Jackson

Photo byPhoto by Jarritos Mexican Soda on Unsplash

I woke up today with an emotional hangover. If I’m honest, I’m getting really tired of setbacks. While I’ve mastered the art of recovering from them, I’d love the opportunity to master the art of a peaceful, stable life instead of overcoming one obstacle only to be met with another.

These feelings are familiar. The gut punch of rejection, the shock of loss, and the overwhelming strain of grief all remind me of my last breakup. As much as I hate to feel like this again, I know that I can apply the same recovery process to what I’m going through now with a recent job loss. These same rules can be applied to nearly any life setback.

5 Breakup Recovery Rules that Can Be Applied Beyond Breakups

The breakup recovery rules aren’t written anywhere in stone. These are the rules I’ve followed for every relationship ending — whether I realized it at the time or not. They can be applied to other life challenges to help us survive loss and begin to thrive again.

1. Feel Your Feelings First

There is no getting around feeling our feelings. If we don’t go ahead and do it, we can guarantee that it will hit later at the very least opportune time. We cannot outrun them, escape them, or even deny them. It’s important to take time to feel the way we do — even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. Whatever we feel at that moment is valid.

Any loss or setback is going to send us through a grief spiral. We’re likely to cycle through anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and hopefully end up eventually at acceptance. It’s going to take time, and it rarely happens all at once. These feelings can linger, but it’s important to feel them.

2. Assess the Damage

No matter the loss, we can’t just sit with our feelings forever and do nothing else. My go-to move once I’m over that first wave of feelings is to assess the damage. I ask myself what needs to be addressed first. I might need to deal with a sense of rejection or injured feelings. I may need to process anger. But I also ask myself what practical steps need to be taken.

After my last breakup, one of the very first things I did was walk through my house and remove photos and obvious mementos. I did not need the daily reminders of my loss. It was a priority to get that done before I was simply too sad to manage it.

With a job loss, the first thing I did was cry about it. Then, I grabbed a pen, paper, and my budget. I needed to figure out what income I had coming in, what bills were going out, and what expenses I could stand to cut back for the foreseeable future. I needed to have an idea of exactly what I needed to close the income gap before I even thought about looking for freelance work.

Assessing the damage and taking a small action to deal with it can fill us with a sense of purpose. It can give us something practical to focus on while the feelings are still raw.

3. Implement Self-Care Strategies

We can feel our feelings and put some action steps into place, but it’s also important to incorporate extra self-care into our daily routines. One of the most important things we can do is increase our hydration. Life’s setbacks can take a lot out of us. It’s important to do what we can to take good care of ourselves while we’re struggling through the muck of it.

More water, nutritious food, exercise, extra sleep, and even a few pampering rituals can help us get through it. Leaning on our support system of loving friends and family can also be an important part of caring for ourselves. Whether we’re spiraling from a breakup, job loss, medical setback, or other life upset, we can make sure we do what we can to make the process just a little easier.

4. Commit to a Glow-Up

Most breakups are followed by glow-ups. They aren’t usually immediate, but they do happen if we feel our feelings and then decide how we want to get better. Everyone does glow-ups differently, and there’s no one right way to do it.

Some people will focus on outer beauty with fitness or a new look. They’ll get in shape, cut their hair, or figure out a new style. Others decide to learn something new, retrain for a different career, go back to school, or simply indulge in a new hobby. It doesn’t matter what we choose. What matters is that we commit to taking advantage of this setback to make our lives even better.

After a breakup, I took a class and tried some new hobbies. I made new friends. I even dove deep into trauma therapy to process old wounds as well as new ones.

After my job loss, I decided that I didn’t need to look at it as how to make up the difference in income. I wanted to do better than that. I wanted to blow that income out of the water and do it with freelance work instead of outside employment. I didn’t want to just break even. I wanted the full glow-up.

5. Step into Your Power

Deciding on the glow-up direction can help us step into our power. There comes a point when we, hopefully, realize that most things that happen to us just aren’t personal. Instead of wondering what I’d done and what I could have done differently, I woke up and decided not to take it personally. I know my strengths and my challenges, and I’m no longer willing to stay in positions that don’t recognize my value.

I started to take back my power. I focused on my strengths, the lessons I’ve learned and the ones I can learn from the current setback, and my innate resourcefulness. I decided to turn this setback into the ultimate comeback.

I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself. I did for a little while there. Then, I decided that I’d had enough of that. I looked at all that I had overcome before, and I decided to view this loss as an opportunity.

Being able to see the possibilities is a power move. I woke up and realized I was free of the absolute tedium of the work I was doing before. I was free of the constant criticism and the overwhelming feeling that my work was being taken for granted. I woke up to an opportunity to decide how I would live my life.

In the relationship I lost, I had the same sort of epiphany. I woke up and didn’t have to wonder if the person I loved still loved me back or if each day would be the day that relationship came to an end. I was freed from the uncertainty, that terrible feeling of being in purgatory awaiting his judgment. The worst had happened, and I had survived. I decided that anyone who wasn’t choosing me wasn’t for me, and I accepted it.

No matter the type of loss, there are still challenges. The hard things didn’t just disappear because I decided I was going to have this major glow-up and seize the day. It just gave me the courage and confidence to move forward.

I’m still battling an emotional hangover and practicing self-care. I decide how I’m going to spend the day and what steps I need to take to feel better. I accept that there will be tough moments ahead, but I also embrace the knowledge that there will be beautiful ones, too, if I’m open to them.

I never thought I’d need the breakup recovery rules outside of a broken heart over a relationship, but then I realized that life’s setbacks can be heartbreaking, too. I’m still mired in my feelings, but I can already see a glimpse of my glow-up. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes, that’s enough.

Originally published on Medium

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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