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How to Act After a Break-Up: 5 Things to Remember

You can help heal your heartbreak, but only when you want to get over the pain.

What we never believe at the end of a meaningful relationship—however long its duration—is that we can change the habits we've developed surrounding our love, desire, or simple focus on the other person. We can get over heartbreak, however, and it is precisely those old habits from our previous, failed relationship which we have to discipline ourselves to break.

1. Put the photographs away. Delete (yes, permanently) the loving messages. No Facebook stalking of the love object or his/her new love object. Put your phone and computer on some kind of psychological breathalyzer: no typing or calls after 10 p.m. or on weekends to anybody, if necessary.

2. Get out of the habit of speaking about the person. No mention of "The Name" or references to the last movie you saw together, the songwriter you both loved, or how much you miss the way he manipulated the bar staff into always giving you extra booze in your drinks (which secretly you hated).

3. Give yourself a time limit to mourn. We permit ourselves to become what I call "emotionally incontinent" after a breakup: By that, I mean we think we've earned the right to break or ignore the boundaries of ordinary behavior because we're in pain.

That's the first idea we need to dump after we've been dumped: No, sorry, you are not allowed to cry, snap, moan, miss work, get drunk every night (or afternoon or early brunch). Not for more than two weeks, anyhow.

4. Getting over a breakup is like recovering from a broken limb: For a while, everybody feels sorry for you and opens the door; after a certain point, you need to build up your own strength; otherwise, you'll always carry the weakness with you. You're better than that.

Get out of your house and give yourself space: Find new activities and meet new people. Sure, you might not like them, and you might not like the new thing you're trying for the first time (climbing wall, anyone?). But climbing the walls literally—the ones in a gym or an activity center—is better than climbing the metaphorical ones in your mind.

5. Avoid acting on the worst idea ever: "I'll take my mind off my last failed relationship by finding my next failed relationship immediately!" Does that even sound like a good way to help yourself get over a bruise—start a new, full-body contact sport as soon as you can catch your breath and crack a bitter smile? Sometimes, getting in touch with your feelings when your feelings are boiling hot and steaming over is like getting in touch with a hot stove-top and a cauldron of bitter herbs: Perhaps it is best to let things cool down.

You can survive the worst of love's lacerations, but only if you stop playing with heartache's open wounds and peeling your emotional blisters.

And here's the really interesting part: Organizing your time so that you are not thinking only about romance and happiness creates the groundwork for the possibility you might achieve both. And isn't that what you want and deserve?