Article: Self-Care When Relationships End

The distress of a relationship dissolution (especially a long-term one) can be enough to knock even the strongest people in to a spiral of self-doubt and toxic thinking.

It’s hard to stay self-affirming when you’re left sat there, alone, considering the fundamentals of why love just wasn’t enough. In such times, it’s so tempting to just sit there and ruminate over every aspect of the relationship and consider your flaws: how they may have impacted things, why you couldn’t make it work, why you weren’t enough. It can be absolutely maddening.

But if a relationship doesn’t work then sometimes the healthiest first step in honouring both of your lives is to know when to walk away. And then self-care is needed.

What Is Self-Care?

Myself (and many others in the sex positive and well-being movements) often talk about ‘self-care’ but it’s only recently occurred to me that I’ve never really defined what self-care is.

To some degree this is because self-care, itself, is a highly subjective and incredibly personal action.

Self-care is the action of identifying activities that you need to tend to your physical, mental, and/or emotional health and the act of doing those activities.

To some degree we all share certain self-care needs – cleanliness, food, water, exercise, etc. – but the limits and definition of self-care can wildly vary from there.

For example, when I want food there is nothing more comforting, nourishing, and reassuring to me than a nice piece of honeydew melon or a colourful salad. For others, it will be a huge chunk of Belgium chocolate cake. In both cases, mental self-care will be enacted if we pursue our food of choice, but the route we’ve taken is obviously wildly different (and with different outcomes).

In all cases what really matters is that you are taking care of yourself, hence the given name for self-care.

When Self-Care and Life Clash

But what happens when life makes it so that you don’t feel capable of, or simply don’t want to pursue, self-care?

That’s where problems begin to slip in, and break-ups can often be a huge ‘fuck you’ to the action of self-care.

A particularly complex break-up may hinder basic self-care actions – such as eating on time, finding opportunities to exercise, or having enough fluids – whereas, the mental drain of any break-up will often leave people feeling too drained to truly nourish their own needs.

When breaking-up you’re often very busy thinking about your ex’s needs, or beating yourself up about the state of your relationship (and maybe even life) which can heavily skew your perspective of what you deserve.

Heck, for what you need.

Real talk time: It is incredibly hard to get through a break-up if you stop giving yourself moments to replenish your batteries and appreciate the fundamental worthiness of your own existence.

Life doesn’t not always help accommodate self-care but this is when you’ve must be even more vigilant when it comes to guarding your own care.

Trust me, I’m going through it right now.

So, What Can Be Done?

As per the nature of self-care, I won’t be able to give you exact instructions for how to maintain self-care throughout the turmoil of a break-up, but I can offer up what I think helps.

I hope you find it helpful too:

#1 Become a Mother Fucking Warrior

No one is going to defend or enable your self-care for you because no one else can.

During hard times you need to become a mother fucking warrior, put on your finest ass-kicking outfit, and beat back anything that may hinder your self-care efforts.

This includes external issues – such as people demanding your time – but also internal ones.

We are our own worst enemies and our brains will probably be filling with all sorts of self-deprecating and neglectful thoughts when trauma hits. But fuck that.

Make sure that every day you make time to check in with yourself being brutally honest about what you need and if you’re actually giving it to yourself.

If the answer is no then something needs to change and you’re the one who has to change it. This is never easy, but that’s why you’ve gotta get your warrior gear on. Self-care is always worth fighting for, so be prepared to fight for it, even against yourself.

#2 Do At Least One Hobby-Based Activity Per Day

Even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Even if it’s just for 2.

Even if you’re a meditation enthusiast and all you can muster is one deep and releasing breath that’s enough. Just make sure that you don’t allow the things you love to slip.

This is most important after a break-up because such a time-period is usually one of shifting identity and a reforming of yourself as an individual with your own independent desires and needs.

Never let the things you love slip. Your health will reward you in the long run, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times.

#3 Write That Shit Down

Your thoughts, feelings, tasks for the day. Pretty much anything.

Writing is very therapeutic.

But if that’s not your style then Vlog or just record yourself. The form of expression doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you give yourself time in the day to acknowledge what you need and contemplate where you are physically, mentally, and emotionally.

When bustling about the break-up process it’s so easy to think you’re on top of thing whereas, really, your brain hasn’t had a moment to stop.

Putting a pause on everything else around you and actually dedicating time to your thoughts may reveal things you didn’t even notice when going through the rest of the day on auto-pilot.

These thoughts may end up being some of the most profound revelations you’ve had, or they may be just what you needed to remember you’ll need to buy washing up liquid from now on.

Any outcome as good as long as it’s a moment to yourself, for yourself, manifested outside of yourself.

#4 Put A Support Network In Place

Self-care is an individual action but sometimes that can involve time needed around, friends, family, or others with whom we can share our emotions.

Reaching out to others, will not resolve everything – nor may you even want it to – but it does allow you a platform of self-care that is just as crucial as eating: namely social interaction.

Solitude is lovely, loneliness isn’t, and feeling as if there is no way to express yourself in the wider world can lead to a feeling of captivity in one’s own mind. Counter that shit before it can even become a problem.

Just make sure that you’ve put the right self-care network in place. Some people will not be able to provide you with what you need (no matter how much they might want to) and that can make things worst in the long run.

#5 Maintain Your Sexual Health

If you derive happiness from sexual satisfaction then pursue those orgasms without guilt or hindrance.

If you prefer to leave your body alone in times of distress then know that you are not broken or wrong for wanting this bodily break.

Just know that sex is a powerful physical, mental, and emotional force – hitting all aspect of self-care by virtue of its role in life.

Taking stock of where you are sexually is an extreme act of self-care and self-love, no matter what society may say.

And, let’s face it, when it comes to break-ups self-love is one of the most radical and necessary efforts you can employ.