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FAQ: How Can I Stop Thinking About My Ex?

Q: So it’s been 3 months since me and my ex broke up and I can’t seem to stop thinking about them. Help?

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: Breaking up is hard! And the tough part doesn’t end with the actual break up conversation. Depending on the connection you had to the relationship or the person, you may find them on your mind a lot in the coming days, weeks, months, and yes, even years.

The only thing that for sure helps with break ups is time. We’ve covered that (and more) in these two articles:

It’s normal to carry lots of memories from a relationship, and there shouldn’t be any expectation to act like you don’t have any feelings about them. Connecting with your feelings and giving yourself space to feel them can be a helpful part of the break up process. It can be overwhelming if thinking about it is dragging you down or making you feel bad. In this post we’re going to try and cover some strategies for changing your focus when you find yourself spending too much time thinking about your ex and your break up. And if you have any suggestions for things that work for you, let us know!

Give Yourself Time for Dwelling

It’s unlikely that you’ll stop thinking about an ex just because you tell yourself to forget them. It’s also really easy to lose hours just fretting and feeling bad over people or past events, so sometimes it can help to try to have limits for how long you’re willing to dwell. Maybe try setting a timer so you only look at old photos or their social media for 5 minutes at a time, or maybe only listen to your special song once a week. Another thing that can work is to each day take a moment to write a short paragraph or two of your thoughts and feelings about the person. The benefit with this is that you’re creating a record you can look back on, and see how your feelings are changing as you get more distance from the break up.

Talk to People

Other people are great distractions! This is doubly true if you pick activities where you have to interact with each other a lot (like going for walks, eating together, or playing board games). It’s hard to be thinking too much about your ex if someone else is engaging you in conversations about something else. Friends and family can also be good for pointing out when you’re talking about your ex too much, or if you’re just letting yourself get into too much of a funk about them.

Learn Something New

Finding something new to engage your brain with is a great way to occupy your time and attention. You can try learning a language or instrument, enrolling in a class, or just taking a deep dive into a new subject you’ve always wanted to know more about. Aside from learning new things, this is also a chance to join new communities or create memories that are separate from your ex.

Try an Active Hobby

It’s easier to dwell on your thoughts if you spend time doing things that don’t fully demand your attention (like watching Netflix or Youtube, playing video games, exploring stuff on social media, going for a run alone* etc.). Activities that require more of your attention or engage more of your senses have a better chance of distracting you from what’s on your mind. Physical activities and group sports can be helpful, but even something like baking or cooking food can be good for requiring more brain power. All of this goes double for active hobbies you do with friends!

Why not Running?
Running can become a very automatic and meditative activity. Lots of runners find that after a bit they can just go on auto-pilot and get a bit lost in thought (which is not great if you’re trying to avoid thinking about something or someone in particular). This might be more of a thing for people who run on treadmills or at a track. Solo physical activities (like running, swimming laps, going to the gym alone) aren’t always as effective at getting you out of your head as ones where you have to talk and interact with other people (like team sports, taking a class with an instructor, or doing something active with a friend).

Try Dating Again

It’s an oldie, but also true – sometimes the best cure for getting over an ex is to start seeing new people. This isn’t in the hopes of replacing your ex – meeting new people, having conversations, etc., can be good distractions from thoughts that weigh you down. If you’re still feeling raw or hung up from your break up, remember that not all dating has to be about pursuing a serious relationship. Try being open with your new dates if you’re just looking to have a good time/temporary distraction so that everyone can be on the same page with expectations and emotional investment!

In general, these are suggestions for things you can try if you just want to distract yourself from thinking about your ex and your break up. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by your feelings about the relationship, or if you feel like you’re experiencing things like depression or directionlessness because of it, that could be a sign to talk about it with friends, family, or a counsellor. Sometimes talking about your feelings and working on them is the only way to lessen the impact that they’re having on your mind and mental health.

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]