Heartbreak Survival Guide

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Tuesday, February 14, 2023
By Victoria Carney-Paine, LCSW

“This just isn’t working for me.” “I’ve been seeing someone else.” “It’s not you, it’s me.”

We have all heard either these or a combination of these words at least once in our adult lives. The feeling is almost exactly the same in any person who hears them. Stomach drops. Heart races. Eyes swell. Heat envelopes you like a blanket. Pain swallows you whole.


Heartbreak is traumatic. When we are broken up with, our physical and emotional body has a stress response. Cortisol and adrenaline are swimming through your body. Our brain tells us “You’re in danger, something is wrong!” In simple terms: it hurts!

To make things worse, we even experience withdrawal symptoms following a break-up that mimic those an individual withdrawing from drugs feels. I’m guessing that’s why the term is heart break. It can actually physically hurt, and we crave the person. If only we could see them, we’d feel better. Fortunately, there are ways to heal and move forward from this inevitable ordeal.

These are my (almost) fool proof break-up survival tips:
1. Let yourself feel the pain. For a while. Schedule some time in your day to cry, look at the old photos, listen to your old songs, whatever. But once that time is done (give yourself 30 minutes a day, for example) change your environment and do something else to distract yourself.

  • Plan to go see a movie with a supportive and kind friend.
  • Drag yourself to a spinning class.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Organize your closet.

Do SOMETHING to take your mind off of it.

2. Surround yourself with loving, supportive people.

  • Reach out to your friends.
  • Call your mom.
  • Go to therapy.

Social support is everything.

3. When you find yourself fantasizing about what “could” have been, give yourself a reality check. Write down 5 reasons why this person isn’t right for you, no matter how trivial or serious.  For example: they like pineapple on pizza, they don’t like cats, they called me names, they
dumped me.


4. Get gorgeous. Dress up in your absolute favorite outfit. Get your nails done. Buy the new shoes and strut to work in them. If we feel good on the outside, the inside can follow.

5. Do an inventory of your new life and create a single-life bucket list. What did single you love to do and start to neglect when you met your partner?

  • Dance til the early hours on Saturday nights?
  • Take improv classes?

What do you want to do – that when you’re in a new relationship might not be possible?

  • Travel and work remotely for a month?
  • Take a solo trip?
  • Eat the foods your partner was allergic to?

Think creatively! Relationships are beautiful but there are some things that are much easier to do when you’re flying solo. Now’s the time.

6. Give yourself a break. Eat the ice cream. Forgive yourself for the “should haves.” You’re here
now and you’ve survived.

Until your next love story begins, remember: you’re not alone in this feeling. It won’t last forever.

P.S. If you want to grow, as a couple or an individual, don’t forget to check out the Tough Love retreat we have coming up March 19, 2023.  You can reach out by emailing retreats@coralgablescounseling.com – On the fence? Watch the video below from our last retreat.

(If you’re reading this blog after the fact, don’t worry. We should have more events coming soon. Stay tuned!)


enjoy today sign