“It actually feels like a real physical pain in my chest… I’m in agony and I can’t do anything apart from cry. I don’t think I will ever feel happy again” sobbed Hannah, a new client on my clinic sofa last week. Her boyfriend of three years had announced over dinner that he had fallen in love with a woman at work. He had packed his bag and walked out that night and left her utterly heartbroken.

Heartbreak is all consuming and has a ripple effect across your whole life. A breakup is known as the second most traumatic life experience after the death of a loved one and it triggers similar symptoms to grief. It can feel like the end of the world and that nothing can make it better. It prevents you from sleeping as your mind whirs away until the early hours, your concentration will be diminished and working will be a struggle, it will have an impact on your ability to parent well and your ability to do even basic daily tasks. On top of this it can have a devastating impact on your body too.

  1. Your brain thinks you are physically hurt – Heartbreak is an emotional injury although it feels as if you have been punched hard in the stomach and winded. Some people feel it in their chest and for others it seeps throughout their body. But whilst there is no real physical injury, your brain will tell your body that the pain is real. 
  2. Your body will be on a binge or an extreme diet – When heartbroken you either binge eat or eat nothing. It will depend on how you cope with sadness and loss. Some people will be so upset and anxious that they can’t even think about eating and the very thought of food makes them feel sick. Others will cope by eating their feelings and using food as a distraction and comfort. It’s a fast way to either gain weight or lose weight – unhealthy either way. 
  3. Your body will be flooded with stress hormones – This can be a real shock to your body after the good feeling of being in love when it has been inundated with the neurochemicals dopamine and oxytocin, making you experience feelings of happiness and pleasure. Stress hormones can make you feel lousy, sluggish, tired, and anxious. You may get headaches, feel nauseous and lack energy to do simple tasks. 
  4. Heartbreak can trigger depression – You will experience deep sadness as you grieve the end of the relationship which meant so much to you. Low energy and apathy towards life can be debilitating and negatively impact all areas of your life and also those around you.
  5. You will isolate yourself – You will want to cut off from others and wallow with chocolate and Netflix. However this is the complete opposite to what your body needs you to do. It needs you to get back out there to be able to recover and get those dopamine levels up again. 

The challenge with heartbreak is that the negative impact it has on your body and the ripple effect this causes is totally normal. In fact you have to go through this excruciating process to enable your body to heal and let go so that you can move forward in a healthy way. If you stuff your negative feelings down and refuse to face them you will be dragging this emotional baggage forward with you into new relationships. So whilst it can have a devastating impact, it is only temporary and a necessary evil for you to heal. There are some things you can do to speed up that healing process so it’s important to be proactive and take back your control again.

In fact if you want to attract the right partner for you then this is a great time to start to shift your focus from your broken heart to creating a better future for yourself. It’s important to take some time to consider what your ideal partner would be now that you are single again. Here are my top tips:

  1. Learn from your past mistakes – Don’t beat yourself up about them but take them on board so that you don’t repeat patterns that don’t work for you. Take responsibility for becoming aware of what works best for you. 
  2. Work out what you NEED from a partner, not just what you WANT. It’s easy to identify physical traits that you are attracted to but it’s important to look deeper than this. For example, do you need a partner who can talk about their emotions and feelings? Or someone who can cheer you up when you feel low?
  3. Rediscover your identity now you are single – Work out what makes you tick and what drives you now you are single? During a relationship it’s common to lose a sense of self and now is your chance to find out who you are again at this point in your life.
  4. Don’t look for a partner to fix the gaps in you – It’s important to learn to love yourself just as you are and not look for someone to save you. You are enough as you are and you are good enough to find love again. 
  5.  You don’t have to put pressure on to find Mr or Ms Right – It’s ok to look for Mr or Ms Right Now instead and they can be an important part of rebuilding your confidence again! Enjoy the process of dating again and reduce the pressure but treat it as fun and a great way of meeting new friends. 

Remember that it’s not what happens to you in life that defines you, it’s what you do about it that makes you the person you are. Although heartbreak is a painful experience it is a hugely important learning opportunity if you’re willing to listen and learn from it. You can take your experiences and use them to improve and enhance your life moving forward. Heartbreak can give you the chance to redesign your life just the way you want it. You only live once so it’s important to make the most of it.