Here are some grown-up strategies for feeling better sooner.
1. Get some physical contact
We are primates. Mating has biological effects other than making babies. In Northern European and North American societies, non-romantic touch is uncommon. If your girlfriend/boyfriend was your main source of physical contact, a breakup is gonna hurt because we literally go through a biochemical withdrawal.
Solutions: do all or some
– pet your cat or dog more. Get or borrow a pet from someone.
– get a regular massage if you can afford it for a while to take the edge off the pain.
– if possible, make a booty-call and have a spell-breaking fuck!
2. Beware of All-or-Nothing thinking
Yes this is difficult. After a breakup, most people think the opposite sex is a hopeless waste of time or, at best, completely impossible to understand. Women are all whatever; men are all whatever. Be rational: that cannot be true because you are smart. If women are all one way, you’d have figured it out by now, adapted your behavior, and would always be successful! Your failure is actually your assurance that variety prevails and that there is someone out there for you, someone who will respond to your method and your way of interacting, someone who is ‘crazy’ or ‘dysfunctional’ in a way that is complementary to your form of imperfection.
All-or-nothing thinking, if it is a regular habit, is very hard on you. In addition to being an inaccurate picture of the world, it is a key element of depression. It is both a symptom of depression and creates depression.
Resist the urge to determine why you do this or to think about childhood factors. Now is not the time for self-analysis or wallowing. You are too biochemically vulnerable. Save that for a few weeks from now! Instead, take a look at this helpful website on breaking depressive habits. One of the key ideas is that brooding causes changes in dream activity and makes it harder to get deep sleep. This then leaves you with too little energy to do anything but overthink and so creates a cycle of helplessness. There is also a good book written in a similar vein which can be ordered through the British Amazon if you don’t like the (very excellent – no I don’t work for them) audio and book combo available on the above website.
3. You must do some form of exercise!
This may be the last thing you feel like doing anytime, let alone at this moment. But you must force yourself, even if you are embarrassingly unfit, overweight or feel horrible. Studies seem to indicate that even very basic exercise is often as effective as anti-depressants for mild to medium depression. Even if you are just feeling bad, it will work in your situation. As little as a 30 minute walk everyday will lift the horrible feeling. That, you can manage! You may even feel small shots of joy after a week or so. Really. See this article or this one. Guys especially: Since sexual dysfunction can be a side-effect of anti-depressives (and of depression itself), this is a good method to try first. Interestingly, new research seems to indicate that exercise creates new neurons in the brain, as do anti-depressants.
4. Get adequate light
If you are staying up all night playing Guitar Hero or eating ice cream, you are making your situation worse. We need light for our bodies to work right. Go to a tanning salon instead! No, not every day but the light and heat will make you feel better. If you have money to spare, consider also buying a lightbox. Remember how invincible you felt after a tropical vacation? That was the light’s effect on your body. That is the way we are supposed to feel all the time.
Incidentally, in all of Canada, the northern US and much of northern Europe during winter, you are probably not getting enough daylight – especially if you have an office job. The angle of the sun makes it impossible to get enough vitamin D. If you are brown-skinned and live in those places, your vitamin D levels are even lower since you have natural sunscreen in your skin. Take supplements.
5. Force yourself to interact with other people
It is normal and healthy to need approval and recognition from other people. Our species is naturally social and like other primates becomes unhealthy without social contact. Ignore the common nonsense about ‘learning to love yourself first’. We feel better getting some recognition from others. Just accept this and go get some recognition! Do some volunteer work. Anything. Feeling useful will make you feel like a god. Men: there are a lot of people out there who need your help; lots of old ladies and shut-ins who need things lifted and fixed, lots of single mothers who are taking care of too many people and letting their own needs slide, lots of boys who are having trouble with schoolwork or getting into drugs, lots of churches doing community work that are short of men, lots of immigrants who don’t know where to get cheap furniture or how the banking system works. You will be a hero to any one of these people.
If even three people thank you for helping them in some way, honestly, you will feel like you’ve arrived. It doesn’t matter if they are rich and powerful or the kid down the block. It will affect you the same way. No task is too small to bring this on. You will be amazed how quickly your self-image will change and how life will mysteriously develop meaning again. Why do you think so many other people do volunteer work in the first place?!