It’s over. The angry barbs have flown, the terse accusations blown up and the day old trail of tears has dried. Your guy is gone but in the quite of your solitude the aching hurt remains. Your brain feels like it’s going to pop out of your skull, your stomach is on overdrive and you’ve not had a requisite eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in at least a week. Your friends and family tell you to get over him. He wasn’t worth it. You’re better off without him. All may be true but so are the aching feelings you are experiencing. It all cannot simply be dismissed like a snap. You are allowed to tell everyone, it’s not that easy, what you are feeling is “real” and although uncomfortable, completely normal. Tell them to chill and give yourself a break. What you are experiencing physiologically is your brain reacting to the break up. It is signaling your body to respond to the dumping as an actual “hurt”.
When you are in love certain areas of your gray matter are happily pumped on dopamine and oxytocine, hormones that give you a joyful buzz. When your guy blows you off your supply of feel good natural chemicals takes a nose dive, it gets replaced with a pile of unyielding stress hormones.
It’s a natural reaction. When any upsetting situation occurs your brain pumps out cortisol, epinephrine and other stress hormones, which, in limited quantity, help you, react quickly to dangerous situations like avoiding a car accident. But when a long-term upset, like heartbreak, happens, the stress hormones kick in to overdrive and can be harmful. The overabundance of cortisol tells your brain to send too much blood to your muscles, making them tense. This is helpful when trying to avoid that driver that just cut you off, but you’re not going anywhere. Instead your swollen muscles have no release. The chemicals in your brain cause headaches, a stiff neck and a tight chest. The cortisol also diverts blood away from your digestive tract, leaving you with an upset tummy. If all this weren’t enough, the over amped stress hormones play havoc on your immune system making you more susceptible to that all too familiar post-relationship stuffy nose.
There is a way to diffuse the negative hormone OD though and it is NOT Haagen-Dazs, old black and whites or drunk dialing your ex, those activities will only lead to more physical negatives. Calm your nervous system with some deep breathing and relaxation stretches. Then quell your crazy stress hormones with a healthy dose of aerobic fitness, like bicycling, running or swimming. Exercising switches on the release of endorphins in your brain. Or better yet, throw your healing into high gear and go out for a long walk with a friend, the oxytocin release from being with a favorite companion will turn up the burner on your happy hormones.
Fill the time that you would have spent with your ex experimenting with a new activity. Get involved with a local charity. That kind of giving back is a proven natural happy hormone booster. Sign up for those tennis lessons you could never fit in before or take a class at your local community college. Diverting your headspace to a new venture that diverts your focus and feeds your mind will leave little room to wallow in the past.
Whatever it takes to move your mind to into a happy place will ultimately cure your body aching blues.