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Dec 06 2017
by Natalia Wurst

How to Cope with Heartbreak While Managing College Life

By Natalia Wurst - Dec 06 2017

So, this could not be more inconvenient. You have a psychology paper due in three days, fifty pages of math textbook reading you’re behind on, laundry that hasn’t been done in weeks and now, oh joy, a broken heart that needs nursing.

Maybe it was an internship opportunity you built up in your head—one that you spent weeks preparing for, filling out questionnaires for, writing and re-writing countless essays for, only to be let down. Maybe it was the realization that your first love needs to be let go, or that someone who used to mean the world to you cannot remain in your life anymore—for whatever reason. Either way, no matter what type of rejection it’s labelled as, heartbreak sucks. And if there’s anything more characteristic of a college student, it’s the bolded, underlined, neon-highlighted phrase “I do not have time for this.” Here’s how to make do.

1. Wallow

You heard me. The days after a heartbreak are the most out-of-body experiences imaginable, where every part of you aches yet is simultaneously completely numb. You go through the motions of your busy schedule—class, clubs, work and food—almost robotically. It’s normal to fear acknowledging your sadness because a part of you wonders if by doing so you’ll never be your normal self again, that this newfound sadness is just who you are from now until eternity. So the alternative is to tough it out instead, to ignore it, but wallowing for the brief (purposefully keeping this time frame ambiguous) period after a loss does not make you weak nor does it define who you are. It’s an important first step in healing. Cry to your friends, cry to your mom, cry in your room and eat your favorite junk food. Schedule this time into your life too: if you have a major upcoming test, then say to yourself: “Hey, so from 3- 5 p.m. is study time, and then for 30 minutes after that, I’m going to let myself be sad.” It seems strange and artificial, but it’s effective.

2. Journal

This is the pen and paper part. As someone who enjoys writing, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that journaling is therapeutic because the outcome of the therapy sessions is usually a multitude of emotional poems and detailed, intimate descriptions of my deepest emotions. But if you’re someone who doesn’t write on a regular basis, the concept of documenting your progress throughout the heartbreak may seem foreign. Tell yourself to have no expectations regarding the outcome. Tell yourself that even a bullet-point list of things that made you happy that day and a separate one of things that made you want to scream, is beautiful nonetheless. Write a letter to the entity that broke you, and be wholeheartedly unrestrained (profanities and all)—one day that you come across it once more, when you’ve moved on, it will serve as a reminder that you’re strong enough to get through anything.

3. Treat Yourself

A broken heart is a fragile being, and in the weeks and months that follow you must be kind to yourself. If there’s a favorite snack you haven’t indulged in for a long while, here’s your excuse to revisit it; if there’s a stand-up comedy show every Tuesday that you’ve been dying to attend, here’s your excuse to finally get around to it. If it’s Monday morning and you wake up incredibly sad, wear your favorite sundress and venture to your favorite coffee shop. Make an effort to do what fills you with joy, even if that’s once or twice a week. Make an effort to also leave your comfort zone for some time—pick up a new hobby, a new book, learn about why the sky is blue and the grass is green. Use this healing time as a time to grow.

4. Exercise

I know this may seem like the worst piece of advice ever. First of all, why would you even dream of spending any time at all being a sweaty mess when you could spend it doing literally anything else? Hear me out, though. The process of going to the gym was, at least for me, sort of like the process of growing to like coffee; at first, I was like “What in the actual hell is this hell? My body (or in the coffee case, taste buds) is not saying nice things to me right now,” and then after awhile, I was more like “Hey, is it crazy that I sort of look forward to this part of my week now?”

Working out is not only extremely beneficial for your body, it’s also an opportunity for some self-love and self-reflection—after all, for that half an hour or 45 minutes (or dare I say a full hour), your focus is entirely on yourself and it’s a fantastic opportunity to, if you need to, ruminate a bit. Put together a killer playlist (the more angst, the better), and mouth the lyrics like you’re performing in front of who or what broke your heart.

5. Know That It Won’t Last Forever

I know this pain feels like maybe this is just your life now. But think back to the last time you felt your world crashing down all around you, and think back to how in the end, it turned out OK; the scar it left clicheingly only made you stronger (I am making up words to prove a point here). Trust yourself enough to say that this circumstance is not much different, and you will be just fine, one day—maybe not in 30 seconds, maybe not even in 30 days, but one day.

You all are so strong and I am so proud of you!!

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Natalia Wurst - University of Southern California

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