(If you are interested in reading “Part One” make sure you click this link 😉 .)
Hopefully you already read Part I: The Science and Psychology of Dating.
If not, go read it.
Did you go read it?
Okay, just to be safe, here are some of the things that happened to you during the relationship. Most of them you didn’t even realize were happening until after it was over. It’s okay. Most people don’t.
Just to touch base, these are all the chemicals we discussed.
And this is a visual representation of the different levels throughout the relationship and after the breakup.
As you can see, after the break up the all of the levels drop except for Cortisol. By looking at these descriptions you can see what that means for you. I’m sure you’re feeling it about now.
It’s what caused that feeling of hollowness in your chest right after the break up.
Speaking of, even though I’m quite sure you already know what happens during the time right after a breakup, let’s look.
LACK OF MOTIVATION
Well, since Dopamine is your personal supply of motivation and it is now in short supply, you are now not only short on Dopamine but also on motivation.
Dopamine also helps regulate sleep. So, you guessed it. You are about to have yourself some sleepless nights staring at the ceiling wondering what caused your relationship’s untimely end.
Okay, I’m sure I sound like a broken record right now. But I bet you can guess what chemical controls your mood. I mean if you can’t guess, feel free to look at the cheat sheets I made for you above. If you do, you might n0tice that serotonin also has a hand in this. The lack of both results in highly unpredictable moods swings.
This is why so many girls these days get dubbed “The Crazy Ex.”
A low level of Norepinephrine and Serotonin results in lower mental alertness. That, paired with the lack of memory and ability to learn created by a lowered level of Dopamine.
INABILITY TO CONCENTRATE
Norepinephrine, also known as Adrenaline, can make your heart race and butterflies reside in your stomach when you are first falling in love. Adrenaline is incredibly useful and can make you more mentally aware and provide you with lots of energy. However, when the level of Adrenaline drops the ability to focus drops as well. Leaving you feeling like you’ve kind of lost direction.
Have you been having some trouble getting substantial sleep? I bet you thought it was just because you missed your ex. Well partially maybe, but the drop of Dopamine levels can be thanked for your inability to sleep as well.
LOSS OF APPETITE
Serotonin is responsible for regulating appetite. If you find yourself eating simply to comfort yourself and not because you are actually hungry, you are probably just feeling the effects of a level of Serotonin you aren’t used to since you’ve been in a relationship up until the point.
LACK OF LIBIDO
This one varies in most people. Although they still are experiencing a low Serotonin level, they may find motivation elsewhere, making their ex jealous. However, sleeping with someone solely to make your ex jealous or think you’ve moved on isn’t necessarily the healthiest thing to do. You’ll wind up either regretting or realizing how pointless that way of thinking is.
SUPPRESSED IMMUNE SYSTEM
This one is the most important, I think. As soon as I realize that I am feeling the effects from a breakup, I start being super-diligent in taking my vitamins and taking care of myself. Trust me, getting sick AND dealing with heartbreak at the same time is not an easy course.
How to Deal
There is a reason I walked you through the chemical happenings going on within your body. By cutting them down to nothing but chemical reactions, hopefully you now realize that these feelings can be controlled. All it takes is a little determination.
And yes I know that, according to that little graphic up there, you should be lacking in motivation. And I know it is tempting to sit and wallow in your sadness because it’s easy.
Letting your emotions control you will keep you trapped.
However, I know that you are stronger than that.
I know you.
Heck, I am you!
And I have done this… many times.
It is actually possible to create your own motivation cocktail of chemicals. You’d be surprised how simple it is.
Did you wonder why I kept reminding you that Dopamine is the Ring Leader of the chemicals? Well, it’s because it is. It is very important. You see, in a study, Dopamine deficient lab mice became so apathetic and lethargic that they lacked motivation to even eat. They would let them starve to death.
However, Dopamine production can be manipulated. And by manipulating it, you can increase its levels. This is where we can use the fact that Dopamine and Norepinephrine go everywhere together. By raising one we can raise the other, meaning you’ll be one step closer to getting things back to normal.
Doesn’t that sound great?
As with all things that are worth doing, it won’t be easy.
Don’t worry. I don’t expect you to do it all on your own.
Let’s Get Started
If you’re like college me and a majority of other women going through break ups, you shut down after a break up and lose all motivation.
I know that my apartment and my hair always got the short end of the stick for the first few weeks after.
I’d be looking like Elle Woods after Warner dumps her and she holes up in her room, for a week eating chocolates and watching soap operas.
Okay I didn’t watch soap operas, but I did watch Legally Blonde. That in and of itself wasn’t a terrible idea. I’m not ashamed to say that watching someone else regain their confidence and get over a crappy ex was sometimes exactly what I needed to get off my butt and do something.
If you read the first part of this article, you already know what I’m about to ask you to do. My guess is you’re not really looking forward to it, otherwise you would have done already.
So here’s the first step.
Take a shower and get dressed.
It’s funny, but I realized a long time ago that if I wanted to accomplish something I couldn’t maintain a steady level of energy and motivation if I was still wearing what I slept in, especially if I hadn’t put on real clothes in a week.
Give yourself the boost you need to take on this goal I’m setting in front of you.
Clean your living space.
Whether you live in an apartment, a house, or you mother’s basement, the space you occupy reflects your mind. If there is chaos outside, there is chaos inside. And how exactly will you regain control of your life if you can’t make heads or tails of your thoughts.
This is the perfect opportunity to rearrange your space as well.
My ex, Will, spent a lot of time at my house. Most of the time he would just sit on my bed, play my guitar and sing me John Mayer songs. Now, even though I wasn’t super attached to Will, when we broke up it still hurt. Every time I looked at the place he used to sit, I would miss him and suddenly have the urge to listen to John’s song “Heartbreak Warfare.” See?
Even a relationship lacking love can leave you heartbroken and wallowing while listening to sad songs.
I spent a week or two dealing with a pang of loss every time I walked into my room and saw his usual spot vacant and my guitar in its stand, untouched.
My solution to this one is an easy one. Rearrange!
By the time I was done, not only was “his spot” history, my room was much more open and nice to hang out it. (perhaps because I had cleared out the ghosts of my exes)
But I digress.
Change things up. Get some artwork and hang it on the walls.
I always like to find motivational artwork to hang around.
My favorite one that I have currently is pictured below.
Clean up your Forms of Contact
- Put his number on Do Not Disturb
- Unfollow him on Facebook (Remember, unfollowing is different than unfriending.)
- Fight the urge to drive past his house and check in on him
- If you do see him, be cordial. As I tell my friends, “Keep it Short, Sweet, and to the Point.” It cracks me up. A couple of them have started to use it like a mantra for moments when they aren’t even actually faced with having to talk to an ex. Any time they’re tempted to text their ex, they shoot me a text instead that solely says “SSttP.” And I respond with a little positive reinforcement telling them how strong they are for not giving in. It seems silly but a there are a few times I don’t think they would have made it long without doing something drastic without a little outside encouragement
- That being said, ask your friends to hold you accountable.
I even struggle with this one from time to time. I hear a song I think my ex would like, or something else I think he should know.
But then I find myself looking at my screen on my phone.
Change the way you eat.
Yes, what you put in your body determines the type of energy you produce. My old roommate used to show up with tons of carb-heavy junk food thinking it would help me feel better.
Carbs and greasy foods will just make you feel heavy and more lethargic. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to cut them completely out. You just need to limit them.
Here are some foods known to increase Dopamine production.
By adding these foods to your diet and decreasing the amount of junk you eat, you’ll be giving your body ample amounts of the Amino Acid Tyrozine. Tyrozine is what is used to create Dopamine.
Even though sugar can increase Dopamine levels temporarily, and has a negative effect when it wears off. It could end up leaving you with less energy than you started with.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It improves blood flow which aides in the creation of new brain cells. Another side effect is that it slows brain cell aging. The major function of getting up and doing something active, aside from looking and feeling better, is that it helps form new brain cell receptors, which results in raising
Dopamine levels substantially.
Running has even been known to result in “Runner’s High” which stimulates the release of endorphins, a natural pain-killer.
Do you remember how we discussed heartbreak causing actual physical pain? Running and getting active can help with that as well. Not to mention, from my own experience, it is a great way to clear your head.
If you don’t necessarily want to go to a gym or be around people, there are plenty of trainer that put information out there on the web. ZuzkaLight and Emily Skye are two of my favorite. They both post what I call min-workouts that you can do from home.
I also mix this one with the next point I’d like to make by getting out on the roads with my bike. Nothing beats the freedom of feeling wind rush past my face as I race down the back roads a few miles outside of town. The sun alone is a great source of Vitamins that help revitalize you and helps you feel more alive and less like a zombie.
Pick back up an old hobby or choose a new one. Focusing on something that takes effort is a great way to calm the mind. Aldo, completing projects creates a great sense of accomplishment and raises the levels of Serotonin in the body.
Back in college I picked up crocheting after my ex and I split. Not only did I keep my mind focused, I wound up with a pretty awesome blanket that I gave to a friend as a gift. It was huge and took me about four weeks to finish.
When I handed it over wrapped in audacious wrapping paper that only a college kid would buy and along with it I handed over everything that was weighing down my heart.
I know how tempting it is to curl back up in your comforter and hide from the world and your problems, but clearly if you are reading this you are looking for that kick in the butt telling you to get up and do something about it.
Yes, you owe it to yourself to take a moment and be sad, mourn the loss of your relationship, if you will. I usually tell myself that I have ONE NIGHT to let my emotions overwhelm me and take over.
After that, no more!
You may feel like isn’t enough time, but I am telling you right now, if you don’t get up and do what needs to be done to make you happy, then you are going to miss so many great opportunities that are out there just waiting on you to go and get them.
This is just the first step in moving past a break up.
Yes, I know I basically just asked you to get up of your butt and re-enact an inspirational 80’s montage, but hey, if that’s what it takes!
Now, go grab life and make it your own!