Getting Back Out There While Staying In: 5 Ways to Cope with a COVID-19 Breakup
By: Caitlin McNulty
As much as I would like to sugarcoat it, the truth is that breakups are hard. Add a global pandemic and months of quarantine into the mix, and you are in for a real treat. To those of you who are going through a breakup or divorce in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, know that you are not alone. China has seen a significant rise in divorce filings since their quarantine lifted slightly in March, which unfortunately may be paralleled in the United States as the pandemic continues and stay-at-home restrictions prolong. Although divorces and breakups in general are occurring for a multitude of reasons, the pandemic has increased financial troubles, lack of control, too much time with your partner if living together, too little time with your partner if long-distance, and, frankly, too much time to reflect on your relationship and whether or not you are satisfied with your partner – all of which can be detrimental to a healthy or already-suffering relationship.
As social distancing has become part of our “new normal,” it is especially difficult to experience a breakup in today’s world with the inability to travel, spend quality time with friends and family, and stay occupied in public as a means of speeding up the breakup recovery process. If you are having a difficult time processing how to move on from a relationship while the world is almost at a complete stand-still, try engaging in the suggestions below to help get you back on track and thriving by the time the pandemic is over.
1. Restart or Find New Hobbies
Although it may have been months or even years since you have been single, remember the time before your relationship – when you were your top priority. What activities did you enjoy doing? How did you de-stress? It may feel strange to have to relearn what you once enjoyed doing, but this is actually a very common challenge for newly single people. Depending on the length of your relationship, you may have invested in and relied on your partner in your everyday routine for a long time, which makes the recovery process especially difficult. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, slowly reintegrate yourself into activities that tap into your strengths and make you feel your best. Although options are limited while staying at home, there are still a myriad of things to do to make yourself happy. Remember that book you have always wanted to read? Order it online. How about that show you heard everyone talking about but never had time to watch? Play the pilot episode. Do you want to master your apple pie recipe? Head to the grocery store and get baking. Do whatever will make you happy in the long-run.
2. Feel all the Emotions
Although you may wish you could just erase the horrible feelings that are associated with a breakup, it is important to work through what you are feeling in order to move forward. If you are having a bad day filled with self-doubt and worries about the future, embrace that feeling and cry it out instead of attempting to suppress those negative emotions. Psychologists have found that attempts to suppress any negative thoughts and emotions actually cause you to obsess over the exact thought that you are attempting to ignore – a psychological phenomenon called the paradoxical effect of thought suppression. In turn, this pattern prolongs your negative emotional state instead of allowing you to feel the negative emotions when they arise and move on quicker. Especially in quarantine, we have lots of time to ourselves to think about what went wrong in our relationship, what qualities we did not like in our partners that we will aim to avoid moving forward, and what qualities we did not like in ourselves that may have contributed to the breakup. Whatever the case, feel when you are sad, feel when you are happy, feel when you are grateful, and feel when you are angry. Do not suppress your feelings because you think that will make you stronger. It actually makes you stronger to tap into your emotions and fully understand how your relationship has impacted you and your emotional well-being. Be mindful that if you have previously been diagnosed with depression or if your negative emotions become too overwhelming for you to handle on your own that it is strongly encouraged seek help from a professional.
3. Get Creative with Social Support
Although there has been mixed evidence about the role of social support in speeding up the breakup recovery process, it is especially beneficial to reach out to your loved ones, especially if quarantining alone, in this time of extreme uncertainty and increased loneliness. The myriad of social networking apps and websites can help you get out of your antisocial slump while social gatherings are essentially non-existent due to nationwide capacity limits, closed bars and restaurants, cancelled events, and stay-at-home restrictions. Schedule a Zoom happy hour with your high school or college friends, host a Netflix party and watch your favorite movie with your loved ones, have a socially distanced hangout in your backyard, or even keep it simple with a quick text, phone call, or FaceTime to a friend. Although it is preferable to see someone face-to-face, it is simply not realistic during COVID-19, and you will be shocked at how good it feels to just talk to someone virtually and gain some sort of social interaction during quarantine.
4. Soak Up Some Vitamin D
Vitamin D from the sun has been proven to buffer humans from a variety of mental health conditions, but most notably from depression. While many Westerners have deficient levels of Vitamin D regularly, the rate is likely rising due to being cooped up inside while following COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Increased negative emotions due to the breakup and decreased exposure to Vitamin D is a bad combination that could lead you to develop depression or other mood disorders. Therefore, to minimize your chances of sinking into a psychological slump, head outside every day to obtain Vitamin D and recharge your battery. The sun is always a good choice (with SPF, of course!), and getting outside is one of the only safe activities we can participate in these days. If you live near the coast, hop in your car and take a day trip to the beach. If you live near the mountains, research open trails and go for a hike. Even without exquisite landscapes, taking daily walks around your neighborhood will allow you to leave your house, soak up the sun, and clear your mind. You can even lie by the pool if that is an option for you at home. The possibilities are endless with outdoor activities, so soak up some Vitamin D to help you get back on your feet and decrease your chances of accumulating a negative mental health outcome due to the negative combination of the breakup and quarantine.
5. Step into the World of Online Dating
Although you may not want to take this step for weeks or months post-breakup, the world of online dating is extremely beneficial in the age of COVID-19. Since we are limited in exposure to potential partners in the “traditional” setting of bars, gyms, and the like, take advantage of the plethora of online dating platforms. There are so many focus areas in online dating apps and sites (including by interests, geographical location, and other background factors) if you are looking for someone who matches some specific aspect of your personality. Or, you can go rogue and use the more mainstream, lackadaisical, trending apps. Although there are skeptics of online dating as a successful way to truly connect with a partner, recent research has shown that couples who met online were less likely to divorce or separate and were more likely to report higher marital satisfaction compared to couples who met “traditionally,” or offline. This finding should make you hopeful that although you cannot go out and meet anyone in the public sphere, you may actually have more luck finding a long-term partner online. Keep in mind that everyone recovers from a breakup at their own pace and has a different timeline of when they feel ready to get back out there, so take your time, feel what you need to feel, and know that online dating is just a click away when you feel ready to take that step.
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