You’re at home feeling end-of-the-world vibes. You’ve just binged watched Breaking Bad reruns. You wonder if you’ll have enough toilet paper to last you another month. Anxiety is peaking. The internet memes joke that during these trying times it’s totally okay to text your ex, and do whatever the F*** you want. So you send one innocent text:
Of course, you know he’s safe. That’s not really why you’re texting.
So, why are you texting?
You’re trying to self-soothe in all the wrong places.
You’re desire to text has nothing to do with your concern for how they’re doing, and everything to do with the uncomfortable emotion you’re feeling. Your mind has associated the following equation:
Uncomfortable emotion + contact ex = feel better / be okay.
Be it boredom, fear, sadness, or loneliness — you’re reaching out to your ex like a stress eater reaches out for a bag of Doritos. Contact won’t make the root feeling go away (it might temporarily give you a release), but you’ll need to deal with that uncomfortable emotion sooner or later.
The memes made you do it.
Human beings are great at rationalizing. We can find 100 reasons why it’s a good idea to buy those overpriced shoes, eat another slice of cake or have one more shot of tequila. When a friend eggs us on, that little push is all we need to ignore our better judgment and give in to the pursuit of pleasure of the moment. Right now, there’s an onslaught of memes circulating that it’s okay to text your ex, and maybe that’s just the devil in your ear you need to rationalize, ‘Oh just this one time.’
But that one time, spirals into something much bigger. If you don’t get a reply you’ll feel anxiety, wondering if you’ll get an answer. Or you’ll start to self-loath once the regret sets in. Or even worse, you do hear back and all that hard work you’ve done to get over your ex, begins to unravel.
Before your breakup, you had neural pathways that were wired together around your life with your partner. Every time you went for a walk together, gazed into each other’s eyes, and had make up sex, those neural pathways would deepen. You were also getting a hit of dopamine (the feel good pleasure hormone) when you were receiving affection and attention from you ex. After the breakup, your body enters a state of shock because your body is used to a homeostasis — and getting a fix of chemicals from your partner.
The hardest part of a separation is this recalibration stage. Your body has not yet adjusted to a reality without your ex yet. You go into a period of withdrawal. But after enough time apart and detoxing from the ex, you build new neural pathways and the old pathways begin to prune away.
When you open up the door again to your ex, you’re tapping into those old neural pathways. The more you engage, the more you strengthen those old neural pathways.
Remember, there’s a reason why it didn’t work out the first time, and you don’t want to have to go through a withdrawal process all over again when it fails a second time.
It’s not the end of the world, it’s a pause of lifestyle.
Catastrophic thinking is a mental trap that can cause us to act in irrational ways. The world is not ending, there are repercussions to your actions, whether you’re quarantined inside or back to brunching with your pals. Once the curve flattens, and life resumes, you’ll need to face reality.
What would future you want? When you’re back to living your best life, do you think you’ll be proud of yourself for reaching out and opening that door?
Who you gonna call?
We now know all the reasons why you shouldn’t contact your ex. So what can you do instead? Here are some tips:
Secure an accountability buddy— Think of your ex as a drug dealer, and you’re fiening for a fix. Ask one of your friends if they’d be down to be your go-to person that you can call when the cravings come. Replace the temptation of calling your ex and call your friend instead.
Boost your dopamine — Find other ways to get those feel good chemicals. Exercise gives you feel-good endorphins so this is a great time to try a virtual exercise class.
Write it out — Put down the Corona-tinted glasses and remind yourself of all the negative aspects of your relationship when you find yourself idealizing your ex. Write down all the reasons why it didn’t work out. Next write down what you do want in a partner. Ask yourself how you want to feel. Write down what healthy love looks and feels like. Having a clear idea of what it looks like on a cognitive level will help you understand what you’re looking for.
Join a virtual hang out — From group dance classes, live streamed sound baths to virtual dinner parties, participate in an online hang out and meet new people.
Learn something new — Now’s the time to take up a new hobby, and take advantage of the myriad of online courses being offered. It’s an opportune time to channel your energy into growth and creation.
Feel the feels.
Humans crave certainty, and the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a lot of uncertainty. All this unknown can create anxiety. This is an opportunity for you to learn how to process your emotions in a healthy way. Emotion means energy in motion. If it has nowhere to go, it gets stuck. If you’ve spent decades coping with emotions by shoving them down, suppressing, distracting, or avoiding them — your body doesn’t process the emotion. It gets stuck. And then it counts on your mind to do the job. This leads to rumination about the past, and imagining negative scenarios of the future. Both create anxiety.
This isn’t about your ex. It’s about how you manage your emotions. Contacting your ex is just a vice to temporarily distract you from what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission to feel, allow yourself to sit with the discomfort. Pause before you react. Now is the time to learn how to self-soothe and double down on your self-care rituals so you can stay grounded.
Put. Down. The. Phone.