Let’s face it — breakups are hard. You heart literally hurts, you feel a mix of sad/angry/confused, and you can’t stop thinking about the relationship. Then, after countless scoops of ice cream, Netflix nights, and BFF-filled heart-to-hearts, you’re left with SO many questions: Should you unfollow them on IG? Do you just act ‘cool’ when you run into them? Do you delete their number? Can you still wear their clothes? And then ultimately, the question of the year: Is there anything you can do to speed up all the pain?
Seventeen.com talked to Sundeese Borden, a licensed clinical psychotherapist at Thrive Mental Health Counseling, for the full scoop on getting over an ex. Here are some expert-recommended tips that are bound to help you get through your breakup.
When dealing with a transition like a breakup, Borden breaks it down into three phases: compassion, closure, and change. Let’s start with compassion.
Understand that it’s OK to feel the way you’re feeling
Don’t hide your feelings — it’s totally normal to cry, lay in bed with a good rom-com and a bucket of ice cream, and feel sorry for yourself. “You have to acknowledge that unhappy feelings are healthy,” says Borden. “They’re normal responses to abnormal situations.” If you bottle up your feelings, you could blow up at any moment.
Borden recommends using an emotional score to help you accept and process the way you feel. “Give yourself a score between one and 100 every day, and use a calendar to track how that score is going for you,” she says.
Evaluate your relationship
Identify the type of breakup you just went through. Was it completely mutual or one-sided? Who broke up with who? Take a step back and review why you broke up, what wasn’t working for your relationship, and why the split was probably for the best.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Borden suggests filling these four roles in your life: a BFF, parent or older sibling, therapist, and friend to hold you accountable and keep you in check. Having these people in your life will get you through this difficult time and back into the swing of things.
Establish your boundaries
Once you feel yourself getting back into your normal routine, it’s time to move onto closure. Make a list of things you need to STOP doing. Some suggestions? Stalking your ex on social media, looking through old texts and photos, and going through items that remind you of your relationship.
But while it’s important to set restrictions for yourself, Borden says to be careful of making permanent decisions based on temporary emotions. Immediately wiping out your social media of your ex or blocking his/her number could lead to ~drama~ or unnecessary harm. Bottom line: if it’s going to hurt you to see your ex living his/her best life, you should set some boundaries. If you don’t feel comfortable unfollowing or blocking your ex, mute or hide them from your feeds.
Focus on YOU
After you get your closure, you’re ready to make some changes. “Embrace the fact that your life has changed from ‘we’ to ‘me,’” says Borden. “What are things you can do now that you’re single, that would have jeopardized your relationship or made your partner feel unappreciated, offended, or disrespected?” This is the time to concentrate on your personal goals without any major distractions. Channel your energy into a new job, dive into finding your dream college, or take up an unfamiliar skill.
And pat yourself on the back for the goals that you have accomplished. Borden recommends making a list of challenges you’ve overcome that highlight your strength and resilience, and keeping it ongoing. You can even make it your phone background! “Remind yourself, ‘hey, I got through this, I got through that, and I’m gonna get through this.’”
Figure out what you’re looking for in your next relationship
Learn from your breakup and take those insights into future relationships. Borden advises creating what she calls a “DOA (Dead or Alive) list,” in which you write your top five non-negotiable traits you need in the next person you date. “You now have this experience that has increased your awareness and allows you to be more intentional in who you date,” she says. But with this exercise, really try to determine what you need vs. what you want — they’re different!
So you’ve taken all these tips into consideration… how do you know you’re totally over someone? Though it feels different for everyone, Borden says a good way to gauge how you’re doing and if you’re making progress is to see how much you’ve changed since the breakup. When a breakup is still fresh, you might experience changes in your day-to-day, like loss of appetite, bad moods, and no interest in social activities. So when you start to see that those symptoms are going away, you might feel that you’re finally moving on and getting over your breakup.
We also spoke to teens around the world about how they deal with exes, breakups, and getting over someone.
Here’s what they had to say…
“To be honest, it took years to get over my first love. It took an immense amount of support and love, but honestly talking about *everything* constantly really helped. I think if you don’t talk about all your feelings and get them out of your body, they’ll actually stay there longer.” —Becca, 16
“I think closure is really important. You don’t need to get closure from the person you used to be in a relationship with necessarily, but definitively deciding for yourself that you are done with a relationship will help you move forward. The more you think about the ~what ifs~, the more you’re just going to torture yourself. Repeat to yourself: You broke up for a reason, and you’re confidently moving forward.” —Sam, 17
“My first breakup actually just happened. He started seeing my best friend right after, and it completely shattered my heart. I am NOT over him, but I also know we shouldn’t get back together. My best breakup hack at the moment is blocking him on all forms of social media and meeting new friends. Hanging out with new people can be really healing and you might even meet a new crush on the way!” —Ruby, 15
“I usually give myself 10 days to mourn a relationship. I think a ten day pity party is a good way to get all the feels out. Afterwards, I always feel so much better and ready to take on ~life~ again.” —Sandra, 19
“You *must* constantly remind yourself in a breakup: This pain is temporary and won’t last forever. Feel it all.” —Rita, 19
“DON’T romanticize the past. Remember, you broke up for a reason! It’s hard to remember a past relationship for what it was actually like IRL, so try to be honest with yourself. Do you miss *them* specifically or do you just miss being in a relationship?”—Celine, 16
“I like to take personal space for a few months after a bad breakup. I like to really focus on myself during this time, do some self-care, and read tons of literature. Books can help transport you outside of yourself, your pain, and give you more perspective.” —Gracie, 14
“I am a really serious dancer and so after my worst breakup, I just really focused on my art. I think the key to heartbreak is finding other ways to fulfill yourself.” —Anne, 13
“I think after a breakup it’s hard to remember that you’re okay on your own. Of course, being single again takes some getting used to, but you’re always stronger than you think.” —Sandra, 14
“I didn’t get over my ex for three years, but I think moving forward with my dreams and passions really helped me find new things to immerse my emotional energy into. Also, Lorde’s Melodrama is totally the key to mending a broken heart. The lyrics are relatable and real and made me feel less alone.” —Haley, 19
“Turn the music up with your BFFs, sing at the top of your lungs, and dance around your room. Feel everything. Delete them on all forms of social media. Make new friends. Start a new hobby. Love yourself harder than you’ve ever loved before.” —Sara, 13
“Kissing someone else actually really helped me get over my ex because it reminded me that the girl I thought I loved wasn’t the only girl in the world I’d ever crush on.” —Hannah, 15
“Listening to a lot of Shawn Mendes honestly really helped me. His song ‘Like This‘ is totally underrated, and playing it on repeat became really healing. I also became really obsessed with travel Instagram accounts, because seeing that other places in the world even existed helped me understand how small this heartbreak was on the scale of the entire universe. Social media can be helpful in situations like this because it can remind you that you’re not alone out there.” —Ashley, 13
“I am currently heartbroken and I think the best advice that I try to follow is remembering that one failed relationship is not a reflection of my self-worth! Just because this didn’t work out, doesn’t mean I’m not still strong!” —Rachel, 13
“I wrote a lot of poetry and journaled and was unashamed to feel everything. If you don’t let yourself process your thoughts and feelings, they probably won’t go away.” —Emma, 13