Author: Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC
Aug 16, 2023
The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Breakups can be emotionally challenging and can lead to feelings of sadness, grief, anger, and even self-doubt. To manage these emotions, it is important to establish healthy coping strategies for your emotional healing and overall well-being. Breakups can leave emotional wounds that need time and care to heal. Healthy coping strategies promote healing by allowing you to acknowledge and process your feelings, rather than suppressing them. They provide a safe outlet for expressing your emotions, whether it's through journaling, talking to a supportive friend, or seeking professional help if needed.
A breakup can often impact your self-esteem and leave you questioning your self-worth. Engaging in healthy coping strategies helps you prioritize self-care and build your self-esteem. Engaging in activities that promote this, such as exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones, can help boost your confidence and remind you of your value as an individual. Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is vital. This can involve activities like exercise, meditation, practicing mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a balanced diet.
Reaching out to friends, family, or a therapist who can provide a listening ear and guidance can be immensely beneficial. Talking about your feelings and experiences helps you process emotions and gain perspective. Allowing yourself to feel and express your emotions in healthy ways, such as through writing, art, or engaging in creative outlets, can be cathartic and help you release pent-up emotions.
Healthy coping mechanisms, like the ones discussed above, provide constructive ways to process these emotions and navigate through the healing process. Healthy coping mechanisms encourage introspection, allowing you to learn from the experience and gain insights into yourself and your relationships. Breakups provide an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection. They can involve setting healthy boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and engaging in activities that foster personal development, such as reading self-help books or attending therapy.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms can exacerbate the pain and hinder your personal growth. Turning to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances as a means to escape or numb the pain is unhealthy and can lead to dependence and additional problems. Engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting or excessive risk-taking, is dangerous and harmful. It does not address the underlying emotions and can also worsen the situation. Ignoring or suppressing emotions, avoiding dealing with the breakup, or refusing to acknowledge the pain can prevent healing and prolong the recovery process.
As a therapist, I look for blocking beliefs, which are negative thought patterns that hinder personal growth and healing. They are often self-limiting and can keep you stuck in a negative mindset. Examples of blocking beliefs after a breakup might include "I will never find love again," "It was all my fault," or "I'm not worthy of love." Unhealthy coping mechanisms can reinforce these blocking beliefs by perpetuating negative thoughts and behaviors, making it harder to move forward and find happiness. By engaging in constructive ways to process emotions, practicing self-care, seeking support, and hindering blocking beliefs, you can navigate the challenging aftermath of a breakup and emerge stronger and more resilient.
Four Reasons Why Working Out Can Be Helpful After A Breakup
Working out after a breakup can be incredibly beneficial for your physical and emotional well-being. Here are some reasons why engaging in exercise during this time can be healthy:
Breakups can disrupt hormone levels in the body, leading to fluctuations in mood and emotions. Regular exercise helps regulate hormonal balance, which can contribute to stabilizing emotions and promoting overall well-being. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercises like running, cycling, or dancing, stimulates the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are often referred to as "feel-good" chemicals. These neurotransmitters contribute to a sense of happiness, satisfaction, and overall mental well-being. Additionally, exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. These endorphins can help reduce feelings of sadness, anxiety, and stress, and promote a sense of well-being and positivity. Conversely, while increasing the production of endorphins, exercise also helps reduce the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. This combination can help alleviate tension, clear your mind, and promote a more relaxed state.
Breakups can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to insomnia or restless nights. Regular exercise can help regulate sleep by promoting better quality and deeper sleep. Improved sleep quality contributes to overall well-being and emotional stability.
Engaging in physical activity can serve as a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and emotions associated with the breakup. Exercise requires concentration and focus, diverting your attention to the present moment and allowing you to temporarily escape the pain.
Going through a breakup can sometimes leave you feeling insecure or doubting yourself. Regular exercise can help boost your self-confidence and self-esteem by improving your physical fitness, body image, and overall sense of accomplishment. Setting fitness goals, such as running a marathon or improving strength and flexibility, can give you a sense of purpose and direction. Working towards these goals can provide a positive focus and a feeling of accomplishment, boosting your self-confidence and motivation.
Stress reduction, distraction, sleep improvement, and hormonal balance are all compelling reasons to engage in physical activity during this time. Remember to choose activities that you enjoy and that align with your fitness level and preferences.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Exercise After A Breakup
Exercise and physical activity can be a platform for personal growth and self-improvement. Establish realistic fitness goals that align with your current physical abilities and preferences. Whether it's improving endurance, strength, flexibility, or achieving a specific milestone, setting attainable goals will provide you with a sense of purpose and motivation. When you find joy in what you're doing, it's more likely to become a consistent and fulfilling part of your routine. Choose exercises and activities that you genuinely enjoy. This could be anything from running, cycling, swimming, dancing, yoga, or martial arts. Consistency is key to maximizing the benefits of exercise so establish a regular exercise routine that fits into your schedule. Aim for a balanced combination of cardiovascular activities, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
View exercise as an act of self-care and prioritize it in your daily routine. Dedicate time to focus on yourself and your physical well-being. Treat it as a time for self-reflection, stress relief, and an opportunity to nurture your mind and body. Pay attention to your body's cues and adjust your exercise intensity and duration accordingly. Respect your limits and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Exercise should be challenging but not excessively strenuous or harmful. If you're new to exercise or would like additional support, consider working with a certified personal trainer or fitness professional. They can provide guidance, help you set goals, and ensure you're using proper form and technique to maximize results while minimizing the risk of injury.
Remember that exercise is a journey, and progress may come gradually. Be kind to yourself, celebrate small victories, and don't be too hard on yourself if you miss a workout or face setbacks. Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer a close friend.
Recommended Exercises After A Breakup
Mix it up! Variety can help keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom. Incorporate different types of exercises and activities into your routine. Try new classes, explore outdoor workouts, or engage in cross-training to challenge your body in different ways.
If you thrive in a social environment, consider joining a gym or fitness center with an active membership. Group classes or team sports can provide opportunities for social interaction and support. Surrounding yourself with positive, like-minded individuals who share common fitness goals can create a supportive community and help you feel confident. Alternatively, you can participate in small classes or one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer for personalized attention and guidance. Online platforms like Peloton also offer virtual community-based workouts.
When Exercise After A Breakup Can Become Unhealthy
While exercise can be incredibly beneficial after a breakup, it is important to be mindful of potential unhealthy behaviors or motivations that may arise. Here are a few scenarios where exercise after a breakup can become unhealthy:
Using exercise as a means to deny reality: Sometimes, individuals may use exercise as a way to avoid facing their emotions or processing the breakup. While exercise can provide temporary distraction, it is necessary to acknowledge and address your emotions rather than using exercise solely as a way to escape or suppress them. It's important to find a balance between exercise and allowing yourself to heal emotionally.
Poor body image and seeking validation: If you have a poor body image, there is a risk that exercise can become unhealthy if it becomes the sole focus of your self-worth or if you use it as a means to seek validation from others. It is important to engage in exercise for the purpose of improving your health and well-being rather than solely for external validation or to conform to societal beauty standards.
Using exercise as a motivator to get your partner back: If your primary motivation for exercising after a breakup is to change your physical appearance in an attempt to win back your partner, it can be an unhealthy approach. Relying on exercise as a strategy to regain someone's affection may lead to disappointment, low self-esteem, and an unbalanced perspective on your own worth. It is important to focus on self-care, personal growth, and healing rather than using exercise as a means to manipulate or control a relationship.
The focus should be on maintaining a balanced approach to exercise that aligns with your overall well-being and self-care. If you find yourself exhibiting any of these unhealthy behaviors or motivations, it may be beneficial to seek support from a therapist or counselor who can help you navigate through these challenges and establish healthier coping mechanisms.