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Breaking up with a toxic person can sometimes feel like your world has crumbled in on itself. While you will eventually feel free from their clutches, it takes a while to get there.
Because of something called trauma bonding, abusive relationships can be incredibly hard to leave. Over time the abuser – especially if they are a narcissist – will have made you feel like you can’t live without them.
But you will eventually realise how much better off you are without them in your life, and will be better equipped for relationships in the future.
During the toxic relationship, you probably forgot to take care of yourself. David Brudö, CEO and cofounder of the mental well-being and personal development app Remente, told Business Insider there are several ways to practise self-love after a bad relationship has ended.
These can also be applied to any break-up, not just the end of a relationship with an abuser. Here they are:
1. Learn to let go
“Easier said than done but learning to let go is one of the most important steps to take if you want to relieve yourself of a toxic relationship,” Brudö said. “Accept that everyone makes mistakes and that they are in the past, and only take away what you learnt from the situation.”
It’ll be difficult at first, he added, but the more you practise, the easier it will become.
2. Have some “me” time
It’s more important than ever to do the things you enjoy doing. Brudö said it’s the perfect time to take up a new hobby, or complete that project you just didn’t get around to doing.
“Set aside a couple of evenings a week to do something you truly enjoy outside of work, as that will drastically decrease your stress levels and help keep your spirits high,” he said.
3. Take control
Once you’ve taken enough time to get your feelings under control, you can channel your energy into something else.
“Whenever we feel strongly about a situation outside of our influence, it can be hugely empowering to take charge of something that is entirely under our control,” Brudö said. “It can be anything from a new project at work, to prepping your meals for the week ahead. Seeing something you do make a difference can go a long way in preventing you from feeling angry and frustrated.”
4. Minimise your bad habits
Although it might be tempting, try to avoid turning to drinking, smoking, or other unhealthy habits. It may feel like escaping in the short term, but you won’t thank yourself in the long run.
“It doesn’t help you address, or deal with your feelings, but instead creates a temporary escape and additional bitter feelings,” Brudö said. “Instead, do something else you enjoy and focus on feeling healthy and happy instead.”
5. Make your health a priority
Rather than turning to junk food and watching TV all day, Brudö said you should eat healthily and make sure you do some exercise. It will boost your endorphins, and help you sleep.
6. Communicate with others
A break up, especially a tough one, can make us lose perspective. Brudö said having friends and loved ones you can speak to can help you deal with your emotions.
“Discussing how you feel following the breakup with someone else as this will help you see the problems facing you in a different light and perhaps lead you to let go,” he said. “Even if you don’t find an answer, socialising will take your mind off the breakup and help you relax.”
7. Try practising mindfulness
After a break-up, it can be tough to focus on anything else. In fact, we might not even realise we are letting negative, obsessive thoughts take over our minds.
“This is where mindfulness can be very useful,” Brudö said. “Taking as little as three minutes to focus on your breathing and actually focus on all those flashbacks from the toxic relationship, thus bringing you closer to letting go and moving on.”
8. Focus on the positives
It will take some time to get into the right frame of mine to do this, but when you look back on the relationship, try to find a positive that you learned from the experience.
“Finding a positive in emotional baggage can actually turn the negative experience into a positive, turning the ‘baggage’ into a learning curve,” Brudö said.
9. Be patient
Building up your confidence again is going to take some time, so be patient. You might think of yourself as damaged, and that you’ll never trust again, but in time you’ll realise this isn’t true.
“Practicing different ways of thinking and exercising new habits will eventually help you to let go of the past and become much more confident,” Brudö said. “So, don’t despair if you don’t see changes happening overnight, as they will take time, but when they do happen, you will feel much happier.”