A break-up can leave a person feeling lonely, depressed, anxious and confused.
But a recent study found that the key to a happy life after a breakup is to make sure you take the time to focus on what matters most in your life.
“People who are feeling isolated or depressed tend to have a lower sense of self and to be less able to cope,” says study author David Litt, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge.
“The idea is to find the things that are really important in your lives, and then to do those things as quickly as possible, and to then see if it’s improved your life in a positive way.”
Litt is one of a number of scientists working to understand how the brain works when you’re feeling stressed, so he wanted to find out how we cope with a breakup.
“We wanted to get people’s thoughts on why they ended up at that point,” he says.
“And how they thought about how to cope, and how they reacted to each other.”
So we put them in a lab, and we showed them a series of scenarios where people were experiencing a break-down and then we told them that if they could take a break from those things, they would feel better.
“If you can make that happen, you’re in good shape.”
In the study, participants were shown a series on five different kinds of people, all of whom had experienced a break down, and asked how they felt after the breakup.
They then received a questionnaire that included questions about their coping strategies, how they dealt with each of the stressors, and whether they found it easy or difficult to return to their daily routine.
“In terms of how the different people responded, we had about 90% of the people saying that they found the break-ups to be relatively easy, while about 20% of them said they felt somewhat difficult, and a small proportion of them felt that they could not go back to the same routine,” Litt says.
This allowed him to create a short questionnaire that people could use to gauge how they would cope.
“It asked them, for example, if they felt they were feeling worse off or worse off in the future, what was the main thing that they were going to do to deal with the stress that they felt was coming up, and also whether they were likely to be feeling worse on the other side of the table,” he explains.
“To do this, we asked them about how they had felt in the past and whether or not they were experiencing any stress in the short term.”
The results showed that people who had experienced the break down in the lab were more likely to report feeling more stressed and stressed out in the long term.
“But they were also less likely to feel they had been in a bad place,” he continues.
“They were actually more likely than those who had not experienced a breakup to say that they had not been in the same position as they were in the first place.”
This suggests that the stress response to a breakup may not be as acute as previously thought, but it does mean that the more time we spend in each other’s company, the less likely we are to feel stressed.
“There are two things going on here,” says Litt.
“One is that it’s an emotional response that’s taking place, and the other is a cognitive response that is taking place that is affecting the brain.”
When people feel stressed, they are more likely not to be able to think about things in a clear way, and when they think about those things they may start to look at the situation through a different lens, or they may see the situation as being a failure to deliver, or as a failure in a relationship, or a failure of their goals.
“These two cognitive processes then take over.
So the more people experience stress, the more likely they are to think that their stress response is not as acute.”
To help people with a break between people, Litt and his team have created a smartphone app called ‘Stress, Calm and Break’.
It’s designed to help people get to grips with their stress levels, and help them find ways to manage it.
It includes a range of different tools to help you stay in control of your emotions, and allows you to record yourself with a video diary.
The app also includes a free online app for people who are struggling with depression and anxiety, as well as a new book that is aimed at helping people to learn how to get through life.
The research was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.