Today I’d like to do a deep dive on why breakups are so hard. I’ve been a breakup coach for more than ten years and I see firsthand every single day how difficult it can be to experience relationship loss.
So, let’s tackle the obvious stuff first,
- The Science Of What Happens To You During A Breakup
- It’s All About The Cortisol Baby
- Why I Believe The Landscape Today Makes Breakups So Much Harder
- What’s The Best Way Forward
Let us begin!
The Science Of What Happens To You During A Breakup
Probably the most logical place to start is by taking a look at what happens to your body during a breakup.
If you haven’t read my article on the anatomy of a breakup I’d highly recommend that you check that out.
But to give you the quick crash course here should be simple enough.
Take a look at this graphic,
This is a visual representation of the many different chemicals inside your body at the beginning of a relationship.
Take special note how dopamine, norepinephrine and seratonin are quite high.
For your reference here’s what those chemicals do,
These three chemicals are often why the “honeymoon period” is considered to be so potent.
Now lets take a look at what happens to the chemicals in the middle of a relationship,
Here you’ll notice that dopamine, norepinephrine and seratonin have come down but oxytocin and vasopressin have risen.
The honeymoon period has worn off. Things aren’t as wild as they used to be BUT we still have some elevated chemicals,
It’s that pair bonding bit that you see in the vasopressin graphic that’s of note.
But the real horror begins at the end of the relationship,
All of the other chemicals with the exception of cortisol go down.
Cortisol goes WAY up and that’s why I believe people struggle so much with breakups.
It’s All About The Cortisol Baby
Here’s a quick graphic to help you understand what cortisol actually does,
Basically consider it the stress hormone.
One that is going to be at the vanguard for the following post breakup behaviors,
- Lack of motivation (because your dopamine is low)
- Mood Swings
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Sleep problems
- Loss of aptetite
In fact, I recently filmed a video where I talked about cortisol a lot in relation to the no contact rule and some of the findings I stumbled across in researching for that video are very relevant to this discussion,
So, what amazing research did I stumble across? Well, I was frequenting this website called “health quotient” when I saw this quote by Dr. Jamie Lee,
It can take three to four hours for your cortisol levels to return to normal after a stress response (like an argument or high-stakes meeting), but if your levels have been high for some time, it can take up to six months to balance them out.
So, the argument here is if your cortisol levels stay at a high rate for a prolonged period of time then it will take much longer than the traditional three or four hours to balance them out.
Rather, it can take as long as six whole months.
My hypothesis is simple,
I believe that today’s landscape makes going through a breakup more difficult than ever before.
And to prove that point I’d like to take a look at that landscape.
Why I Believe Our Landscape Makes Breakups So Much Harder
So far we have one piece of this complicated puzzle.
But the other piece of the puzzle has more to do with our environment. First, let’s take a look at some statistics from Tech Jury,
- There are 4.76 billion social media users which are 59.4% of the world’s population.
- An average user spends 2 hours and 31 minutes daily on social media.
- Teens showed an increase in their daily screen time from 7 hours and 22 minutes to 8 hours and 39 minutes.
- There are 26% of social media platform users are aged 18-29 years.
- Half of our time on our phones in 2022 is reserved for social media
Here’s why I believe that my average client struggles so mightly with breakup.
2. They can’t help themselves from checking on their ex via social media.
And every single time that they do guess what happens?
They keep their cortisol levels raised.
Let’s go through this thought experiment for a moment.
Let’s say that it’s day seven post breakup. Your cortisol levels are finally beginning to dissipate and you can’t help but check your exes social media account. What you see their triggers you. They are out on a date with someone else.
Your cortisol levels shoot through the roof again.
This process repeats over and over again until your cortisol levels have been raised so much that it becomes your new norm.
Because of social media, because of the environment we live in it’s harder and harder to go through breakups and if you understand anything about how the social media algorithms work you’d realize just how difficult it is to get out of the quicksand.
Let’s say you obsessively check your exes profile multiple times in the span of a week. Because you did that the algorithm starts serving your exes content, their new posts, new updates first.
It’s literally the first thing you see.
It’s impossible to escape from.
Back in the baby boomers day it was really and out of sight, out of mind experience. There was no checking social media to see if your ex is dating someone new.
In fact, the only way that information would ever be acquired would if they saw it with their own two eyes or if someone close to the ex told them.
So, now that we know why breakups are so hard let’s take a look at the way forward.
What’s The Best Way To Handle These Elevated Cortisol Levels?
Are you familiar with my holy trinity concept?
If not, here’s a quick summary,
It’s essentially a philosophy for how to live your life. You basically look at your life and divide it up into three distinct categories,
But after doing this for ten years I’ve observed that there’s a synergistic principle at work with the trinity.
- What affects one aspect positively can affect the other aspects positively.
- What affects one aspect negatively can affect the other aspects negatively.
For example, you’ve just gone through a breakup and have struggled badly with it.
This means the “relationships” portion of your trinity has taken a hit,
As a result, you decide you don’t want to get out of bed and go into work. You decide to take a “sick day.”
But one sick day turns into two, two into three and so on and so forth.
Eventually your boss calls and reprimands you.
All of a sudden your “wealth” has taken a hit.
This downward spiral can continue and get worse and worse unless you step in and do something about it.
But do you remember how I said that all aspects of the trinity are connected synergistically?
That means positive gains in “non relationship” categories can eventually lead to positive gains in the relationship category and that’s actually one of the biggest mistakes I see my clients make.
They focus all of their energies into their ex.
Into fixing things.
Into trying to understand what went wrong.
This just often prolongs the breakup. This prolongs the cortisol levels being in that elevated state. I’d actually rather individuals focus on the areas of their life that have nothing to do with their ex.
Because ultimately it does impact their relationships in a positive way, just not right away.
But slowly and surely things begin to turn for them.
For those of you who abide by the law of “too long didn’t read” here’s a quick recap of the main points I made.
- When you go through a breakup your cortisol level shoots through the roof
- If you put yourself in a situation where your cortisol levels are in a high state for too long it can take as long as six months before they start to come back to normal
- With the advent of social media it’s really hard not to have those cortisol levels constantly being triggered, making your more anxious or stressed
- The best way forward is to adopt my holy trinity concept. Focus on the areas outside of your relationship to rebuild your life