Breakups are the worst.
Nights spent crying on the couch in cozy leggings, eating ice cream and chocolate-covered pretzels.
Looking through old photos, reading old texts, and wondering what went wrong.
Dividing up belongings…What do you keep to cherish the relationship and what do you return?
These are just a snapshot of what you may be facing if you recently ended a romantic relationship.
If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), breakups might be particularly challenging for you.
Breakups can be especially soul-crushing for HSPs due to their tendency to experience emotions more deeply, their empathy, and their depth of processing.
As an HSP, you connect deeply with others, so when you find yourself at the end of a relationship — regardless of its length – it might feel devastating.
While you have a rich inner emotional life, you might struggle to process the intense feelings that arise during and after a breakup. If you’ve experienced any type of abuse or trauma, these feelings can be even more complicated.
Additionally, your depth of processing (aka deep thinking) as an HSP allows you to carefully consider every situation.
Under stress, this depth of processing can turn into ruminating and overthinking about the past relationship, which can extend and complicate the healing process.
Being an HSP also means you have countless strengths to help you cope with a breakup and move on from your ex.
As an HSP, you have strong emotional intelligence, empathy, and self-awareness, which can be harnessed to navigate this challenging time and move through this process with strength, integrity, and resilience.
Getting over an ex is not always easy, but here are some steps to help you move on & heal:
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions: It is natural to feel a range of emotions after a breakup, including sadness, anger, and disappointment. As an HSP, these feelings may feel intense and prolonged, but if you allow yourself to feel them, they will pass. Consider movement, journaling, talking to a close friend, or any practice that helps you safely process your emotions.
- Cut off (or limit) contact with your ex: While it may be difficult, cutting off contact with your ex – even for a short period of time — can help you start to move on. This includes not checking their social media accounts or engaging in any form of communication. If you must be in contact due to shared responsibilities (a home, children, pets), set parameters around what this communication looks like and keep it only focused on what’s needed for your shared duties.
- Remove any reminders of your ex: This may be challenging to do, but if you can remove things that remind you of your ex, that can help expedite healing. As an HSP, these reminders of your ex impact you more deeply than most due to your ability to process things deeply and sense subtleties. Even if you’re not ready to get rid of these items, you can put them in a box in the back of your closet until you are.
- Be gentle on yourself: Western culture tells us that healing is linear. Just do step 1, 2, and 3 and you’re fine! Tah-dah! That’s just not the case when it comes to heartbreak, my friend. You deeply cared for this person and the difficulty of the break up will ebb and flow. It’s important to realize that hard days do not mean you’re going backward. It’s actually in your nature as an HSP to revisit your emotions in layers.
- Focus on your passions & small joys: It might feel hollow at first, but throwing yourself into hobbies or other personal interests can provide healthy distraction and purpose after a breakup. As an HSP, it can be easy to focus on your ex and what they may be feeling, but now is the time to lean more into you and your identity. What are your values? What’s important to you? What are the small delights in your day? Make sure those are being expressed right now.
- Lean into your support system: Schedule time with the people who support and uplift you. If you have solid friendships, send them a text to get something set up. You’ll feel better even just initiating. If your friend circle might have thinned out during your relationship, don’t fret. You can reach out to old friends, join a support group, and attend meetups to make new friends.
- Seek professional help: Sometimes we need a little extra help to heal from a nasty breakup. Maybe the relationship was toxic or abusive, and it left you reeling and afraid to trust anyone again. You might be craving closure, but know that it will never happen. If you are struggling to move on, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor.
Remember, everyone heals at their own pace.
As an HSP, it might take you a little bit longer, so be patient with yourself and don’t let others dictate when you get to move on.
If you find yourself especially struggling to move on after a breakup, it might be time to talk to a trusted therapist — that’s where I can help.
I’m Arianna Smith (she/her). I’m a licensed therapist, EMDR Clinician, and HSP Specialist.
I’m also a fellow HSP who has deep feelings, a busy brain, and won’t think it’s weird if you cry at sentimental baby animal videos (cuz, same.)
I can help you make sense of the breakup, integrate lessons from the relationship, and move forward with clarity and confidence.
I’m especially versed in helping HSPs and LGBTQ+ folx heal and recover from past toxic or abusive relationships. So if it wasn’t your “typical” break up, there’s space for that, too.
I will call upon gentle, yet effective approaches, such as EMDR or IFS, to help you move through any particularly stuck places that arise as you process your past relationship or step into a new one.