Emotional pain can be overwhelming, and often feels like physical pain, says Robert Emery, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. A broken heart can literally make you feel as if you have been stabbed in the chest. Whatever has caused you a deep hurt -- be it divorce, rejection or a betrayal -- there is light at the end of the tunnel. The old cliche "time heals all wounds" is true, but you can also take positive steps to get over your hurt.
Embrace your pain, suggests Emery. The natural reaction to emotional pain is anger, because this eases the hurt feelings. This can result in disaster if other people are involved. For example, if you have been deeply hurt by the breakdown of your marriage and you have children, they will suffer if you cannot control your anger. Let yourself really feel your pain and concentrate on this instead of your anger.
Talk to a close friend or family member about how you are feeling. Bottling up the pain won't help you to move on. Talking about it may feel emotionally unnatural, but it may help with the healing process. If you don't feel able to confide in anybody, try putting your feelings down on paper. Keeping a journal can be extremely therapeutic. Seek professional help if you are struggling to cope with the magnitude of your feelings.
Give yourself time to get over your hurt. Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that you won't feel this way forever. Seek comfort from friends and family when you are feeling particularly low -- ask someone to keep you company if you're lonely. Depending on the specific circumstances, it could take weeks or even months before you start to feel better. Over time, the periods you feel better will last longer and become more frequent, advises couples counselor Elly Prior.
Train yourself to focus on the positive, not the negative. Limit negative thoughts to a certain time of the day, and impose a time limit of around 20 minutes, suggests Prior. The rest of the time, occupy your mind with positive thoughts. Spend time with people who make you feel happy and secure and avoid those who are negative influences on you. Plan ahead: Keep a diary and write what you are going to do differently each day to help yourself maintain a positive state of mind, such as doing more exercise or taking a meditation class.
Rebuild your confidence by engaging in activities that make you feel good about yourself. Set achievable goals, beginning with small ones and building up to bigger ones as your self-esteem grows. If you enjoy running, for example, start going for a 10-minute jog every other day. When you feel mentally and physically stronger, increase your running time. Enter a race and raise money for a charity that means something to you by asking family and friends to sponsor you. The sense of achievement will give you the strength you need to cope with whatever life throws at you.
- If you are feeling extremely low or are having suicidal thoughts, contact your primary care doctor or mental health professional immediately.
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