Not everyone expects to feel anxious after a breakup. Sad and grieved, absolutely. Rejected and angry, quite possibly.
But after a breakup, you might feel as if one of your worst fears has already come to pass. The relationship is over, so what else do you have to worry about?
Anxiety involves more than just worry, though. Research suggests anxiety often shows up as part of post-breakup distress.
- intrusive thoughts
- trouble sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- feelings of panic or pessimism about the future
- physical restlessness
- racing thoughts
You might also find yourself ruminating, or fixating on thoughts about what happened in your relationship and the breakup.
These feelings won’t last forever, but you can take steps to speed them on their way. You’ll find eight strategies to help you begin working through post-breakup anxiety below.
Feeling a little lost after a breakup is natural. Romantic partners often help shape your identity and sense of self.
The loss of a partnership can create an absence where you once felt love and connection, triggering pain, stress, and anxious thoughts.
When you feel alone and hurt, spending time by yourself might be the last thing you want to do. You crave the comfort a partner can provide, so you might end up turning to someone else — a friend, family member, even a rebound partner.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking social support. Still, taking some time to reconnect with yourself can help reduce anxious feelings and make it easier to begin the healing process.
To start rekindling your relationship with yourself:
- Reflect. Explore how the relationship and breakup experiences clarified your needs and taught you about yourself. How can you use that new insight to build stronger, more satisfying relationships in the future?
- Pause. Consider waiting to pursue a new relationship before you truly feel “over” your ex-partner. Looking for a new connection before you’re ready can get in the way of self-exploration and healing. Any anxiety and fears you didn’t fully address might resurface with your new partner.
- Take inventory. Explore any new habits and beliefs you adopted during the relationship. Do these changes accurately represent your desires, interests, and values? Or did you adopt new traits in the hopes of building a stronger bond with your then-partner?
Mindfulness is far from a magical cure-all, but making an effort to live more mindfully
When you experience emotional turmoil like anxiety, your instinct might lead you to turn away from that pain, to squash it down and ignore it entirely until it goes away.
Avoidance doesn’t make a good long-term coping strategy, though. The emotions you avoid and block can often grow and intensify until they become too overwhelming to manage alone.
Facing your distress head-on can help you regain control. When sadness and anxiety surface, acknowledge and accept those thoughts.
As painful as they are, they help signify the importance of the relationship and what it meant to you.
Naming and sitting with those emotions can feel a lot more difficult than simply pushing them away — at first. Over time, you’ll likely find it easier to identify difficult feelings and let them go before they affect your mindset.
Mindfulness-based practices help you increase awareness of your thoughts and emotions, but mindfulness also involves staying present in the moment instead of letting anxiety and worry consume your consciousness.
Living more mindfully, then, can mean practicing gratitude for daily experiences and loved ones, and taking time to enjoy the small pleasures of life.
Breakups can hurt quite a bit, especially when you didn’t want to break up in the first place.
If your partner ended things, thinking of the breakup (or your ex-partner) can intensify feelings of abandonment and rejection. This can, in turn, fuel a cycle of intrusive thoughts and rumination that eventually begins to disrupt your daily life.
There’s also the issue of rejection, which can prompt self-doubt for anyone. Taking on all the blame for the end of your relationship and accepting any “flaws” your ex pointed out without question can do a lot of damage to self-esteem and self-confidence.
Vilifying your ex and pushing all the blame on them might help you get over them faster — but research suggests that this could leave you holding on to negative emotions.
Adopting a more balanced frame of mind, however, can offer a smoother path toward relief.
Breakups often happen in response to several different factors. So, no matter who ended things, there’s a decent chance you both contributed.
Acknowledging your own role along with theirs, as well as any external or situational factors involved, can help you look at the breakup more objectively.
Maintaining a relationship requires you to invest time and energy in your partner and yourself, so after a breakup, you might find yourself with plenty of extra time on your hands.
Free time can be great — when you’re doing well. But when you’re dealing with a breakup, those empty hours might offer what feels like an eternity to mull over what happened and cycle through frustration, uncertainty, and grief.
Eventually, you’ll need to address what happened to process your emotions and move on.
This typically isn’t something you can achieve all at once, though. It’s also important to take breaks from heavy emotional lifting and give yourself space to breathe and relax.
Rewarding activities can fill your time and offer positive distractions throughout the day. There’s nothing wrong with taking your mind off unwanted thoughts, as long as you don’t deny those emotions completely.
Since anxiety can make it tough to concentrate, relaxing hobbies can help you cope with those moments when settling on a specific task feels impossible.
Watch your favorite comedy, curl up with a good book, or set out for a long walk through your favorite park. Whatever you choose, the key is to pick something that’s easy and brings you joy.
Breakups can sometimes trigger embarrassment or guilt, especially when you know your family and friends liked your partner.
Depending on the circumstances of your breakup, you might not know where to begin explaining what happened.
If your ex-partner abused you or broke your trust, you might hesitate to renew that pain by discussing their actions. It’s also hard to open up if you think no one else will understand what you’re going through.
You never have to share anything that feels uncomfortable or causes you further pain. Yet isolation and loneliness can worsen anxiety, so staying connected can help improve well-being.
It’s normal to worry about how loved ones might react, but these important relationships can be a great source of emotional support.
Your friends and family care about you, so they probably want to help in whatever way possible.
Loved ones can listen when you talk through thoughts making you anxious. They can also help comfort and distract you when you feel overwhelmed.
Even if you don’t discuss the breakup, knowing you can talk to someone who cares can make a big difference.
Good self-care always matters for optimal health and well-being. It’s even more important when facing stress, anxiety, and other distress.
Tips for physical self-care
To boost wellness and manage physical distress associated with post-breakup anxiety, try these strategies:
- Aim to get at least 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity each day, if possible. To reap the benefits of sunlight and fresh air, take your exercise outside.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol, since alcohol can make anxiety worse.
- Eat regularly, fitting in nutritious, anxiety-reducing foods where you can.
- Try to go to bed and wake up around the same general time each day. Whenever possible, aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Tips for emotional self-care
Various coping strategies can ease anxiety’s effects on your overall outlook:
- Keep a daily journal. Just 10 or 15 minutes of writing each day can help.
- Try meditation to practice accepting challenging emotions.
- Listen to music.
- Set aside time to relax each day.
- Remind yourself it’s OK to grieve your loss.
It’s not at all uncommon to have plenty of questions after a breakup, especially if your ex chose to end things without giving you a satisfying explanation.
If they cheated, you might also find yourself grappling with diminished self-esteem or wondering why you “weren’t enough.”
Perhaps you go over the same questions in your head, or with loved ones, again and again:
- Where did I go wrong?
- What if I can’t ever maintain a relationship?
- How can I stop loving them?
- What do I tell people?
- What if I see them somewhere?
- How can I get them back?
Finding answers might seem like the key to feeling better, but this belief can trap you in an unpleasant emotional space.
For one, your ex may not actually have clear answers. People often end relationships when things no longer feel “right,” even if they can’t put into words exactly what feels “wrong.”
If the answers they offer aren’t the ones you want, you might even end up feeling worse.
Reconnecting after the breakup may seem like a good way to get answers, but it’s almost always best to avoid the temptation to text your ex.
It’s a slippery slope toward getting caught up in a back-and-forth exchange that prolongs the breakup or leads to an off-and-on relationship — both of which can add to anxiety and distress.
If you have some questions you really need answered, try taking time to begin the healing process before pursuing the topic with your ex.
As time passes, you may just find that the answers you seek aren’t that important.
Moving forward without clarity isn’t always easy, but resolving to stay true to your needs and values can help you begin letting go of anxious thoughts.
When you’re living your best life, you may no longer care why they chose to end things.
It’s not unusual to experience some anxiety after a breakup, but anxiety that doesn’t improve after a few weeks can begin to affect your relationships, performance at work or school, and your quality of life in general.
You might also notice physical health changes, including disrupted sleep, head pain, stomach problems, and changes in appetite.
Breakups can be deeply distressing. It’s entirely normal to need some extra support.
A therapist can help you uncover the roots of your distress, outline helpful coping strategies, and explore other factors that might contribute to persistent anxiety and other emotional distress.
Breakups can leave you reeling in more ways than one. If you’re feeling anxious and lost, you’re not alone.
Take heart: Time can help relieve even the most intense breakup grief. As your anxiety begins to fade, the calm that replaces it can nurture new growth.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.