The American Psychiatric Association is considering adding “heartbreak” as a new diagnosis. While they’re not using that term per say, they’re acknowledging that the emotional stress of losing of a loved one through divorce, death or any other circumstance can have as powerful of an impact as full-blown depression. That’s something I’ve been saying for years.
Not only can heartbreak have a devastating impact on your emotional health, the loss of a vital connection can lead to the literal breakdown of the functions of the heart.
The reason is that heartbreak is an emotional stress that sets into motion your body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response. When your body enters into this response, the released adrenaline raises your blood pressure and increases your heart rate and breathing.
If your body remains in this alarm mode for any length of time, you become prone to stress-producing conditions, ranging from aching neck muscles and headaches to ulcers, allergies, diminished sexual desire and heart disease.
Protect Your Health From Emotional Stress
The good news is that if heartbreak touches your life, you can take steps to protect yourself—both emotionally and physically—by reducing your emotional stress.
Reach out and connect with someone close to you. Call up an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, get in touch with family members or take your dog for a long walk. If you don’t have a pet, consider getting one—living with an animal is a great way to open your heart to love and diminish emotional stress.
Ask someone close to you what they like, their favorite color, flower, food. What causes him or her to laugh? What good books have they read lately? What movies have they seen? What secrets can they share? By caring about someone else, you break outside your own self-absorption.
Take 30 minutes a day for you. Be with yourself: take a long bath, meditate, read or listen to music. Let down your defenses, free your emotional side. Give yourself permission to cry, laugh, play—whatever action you’ve been holding back.
Laugh more. A good sense of humor can do wonders for your health. Rent a video or just tune into your favorite TV comedy. Invite some friends over to share in the fun.
Try to become a little more compassionate toward yourself and others. Start by accepting yourself—faults and all. Naturally this goes for others in your life. The pursuit of perfection is a one-way ticket to loneliness.
Reclaim your spiritual side. Contact your priest, rabbi or clergyman for consultation. Do some spiritual reading as often as you can. It will help you appreciate life’s ups and downs.
When you experience the emotional stress of heartbreak, remember to take your time, be aware of your feelings and “feel” them, and give yourself the time to heal—both emotionally and physically.
Now it’s your turn: How have you coped with the emotional stress of heartbreak?
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