Ending a relationship is often devastating under normal conditions — but add a pandemic that’s left you housebound into the mix, and it can feel even more challenging to move forward. There are lots of reasons why healing from breakups is harder in quarantine: not only is the coronavirus outbreak itself a stressful situation, but it’s also made many of your typical distractions and coping mechanisms unavailable to you. Normally, you might meet up with your besties at a bar or take a class at the gym to quell the pangs of loneliness, but for now, you have to settle for virtual meetups. So, if you’re having a tough time healing from a split that happened before or during you started quarantine, rest assured that your struggle is completely understandable.
Everyone has different ways of dealing with breakups, and whether you typically bury yourself in work, keep busy with your social life, or eagerly plunge back into the dating pool, all of those strategies are far more challenging RN. Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear, tells Elite Daily that a breakup feels less traumatic when your life feels full and busy — which needless to say, doesn’t exactly describe your life in quarantine.
“The constraints of the coronavirus pandemic have left many people feeling confined, disconnected, and stuck in place,” she says.
Not only do you have fewer distractions, but you also may feel like you have decreased in-person support. Sure, you can still hop on FaceTime or Zoom with friends and fam, but it’s not exactly the same — a hug can prove remarkably comforting, and that's obviously not possible over video chat. Not only that, but your loved ones are all dealing with the various challenges of quarantine in their own lives, so it may feel like they’re less emotionally available to you. Or, as Dr. Manly points out, you may feel hesitant to reach out to them since you know they’ve got their own pandemic-related issues, whether health concerns, financial troubles, or mental health difficulties.
“It’s rare that all of your friends and family are sad, scared and grieving at once,” says licensed clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus. “Usually you have at least one or two upbeat people who can help you feel better. Right now, your whole social circle is stressed at the same time.”
It goes without saying that a solid support system is key to recovering from a breakup, and that’s especially true under the current uncertain circumstances. Unfortunately, the conditions of quarantine life are far from ideal when you’re craving more human interaction.
“After a breakup, it’s natural to want to stay connected with friends and loved ones for support and comfort,” says Dr. Manly. “Although friends and family may be offering support via phone, messaging, or video chats, the isolating effects of quarantine can make these connections feel lacking.”
Considering all of these factors, it's not surprising in the least if you're having trouble healing from your breakup in quarantine. Fortunately, experts say there are several steps you can take to get through it. If the support of friends or loved ones isn’t sufficient right now, Dr. Manly recommends reaching out for professional mental health support. Lots of therapists are offering video sessions right now, and many insurance plans offer telehealth coverage.
If virtual therapy isn’t feasible or you just don’t think the experience will be as effective for you, Daramus suggests seeking out online support groups. For example, the support group offered by Growing Self meets once a week over video chat. Heartbroken Anonymous, which was launched by a former producer on The Bachelor, also hosts meetings that are held monthly over Zoom.
Dr. Manly emphasizes that self-care, while always important after a breakup, is especially critical in quarantine. She proposes engaging in meditation, yoga, reading, or baking — whatever makes you feel good. Since spending time outside has been linked to improved mood and mental state, she highly suggests taking a stroll around your neighborhood daily if it’s safe to do so. Additionally, journaling can be a powerful way to process your feelings, and Dr. Manly advises not re-reading your entries so that you can vent without any self-criticism.
“Allow yourself to write freely without any judgment or censorship,” says Dr. Manly. “Let your journal be your ‘safe space.'"
As Daramus points out, ending a relationship triggers a major life change — and it’s even harder to adjust when the coronavirus pandemic is causing a slew of other life changes you’re being forced to accept. That said, there are ways to embrace these changes in such a way that can be beneficial for your healing process. If you’d normally get back out there and start seeing new people, why not schedule a FaceTime date? If you’d usually hit the gym to work through some of your post-breakup feelings, you can try one of the countless virtual workouts available online. Or, if your typical breakup recovery tactic is to hash out your feels with your BFF over a bottle of wine, you can totally recreate that experience over Zoom.
Breaking up during quarantine may not be ideal — but provided you can lean into your feelings, seek support as needed, and show yourself a little compassion, I promise you will get through it.
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist
Dr. Aimee Daramus, clinical psychologist