Stressed & Sad Over a Breakup? There's an App for That
The end of a relationship can be heartbreaking and anxiety-inducing. Your smartphone can help. by Claire Gillespie Health Writer
There’s an app for everything these days. You can order takeout, book a vacation, and keep track of your spending. Plan your week, your month, your year. But it’s not just the practical stuff that’s covered. A growing number of apps focus on improving and supporting mental health, with some of them designed to help users navigate life’s difficult times.
Like breakups. (Yes, you can find love on an app and then use another app to get over the subsequent heartache.)
“Getting through a breakup can be incredibly tough,” says clinical psychologist Daniel Sher, who's based in Cape Town, South Africa. “The experience is comparable to grief, and you can end up experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result—not to mention a whole lot of loneliness and insecurity about the future.”
In most cases, it’s the initial stage following a breakup that can be the most testing, says Jovica Grey, a licensed mental health counselor in Boyton Beach, Florida. “It can be quite difficult to avoid self-defeating thoughts, question what went wrong, and to resist urges to reach out to the ex,” she says. “Some people engage in self-destructive behaviors as a form of coping to feel better.”
This is where apps and other resources can be really valuable. “When a relationship ends, emotions are heightened and people may find themselves feeling more vulnerable and sensitive,” says Grey. “When we experience weighted emotions, we often feel them in our bodies and that can intensify those emotions further.” Apps can be a tool to help you relax and stay present.
The goal isn’t to distract yourself from those intense emotions, but to sit mindfully with them. This might be the last thing you want to do, but it’s an important part of the healing process. “Bottling up emotions or trying to avoid them is like trying to hold a beach ball under water," says Rockville, Maryland, therapist Jennifer Rollin. It becomes exhausting, and when you finally let go the ball will fly above the water with force. The alternative is to experience your emotions like waves—they will naturally rise and peak on their own if you are able to sit with them.”
Apps to Get You Through a Breakup
Rx Breakup (free; iOs and Android) is a breakup-recovery app developed by a team of professionals, including a marriage therapist. The app, which Sher recommends, gives you prompts and alerts to assist you in navigating and coping with intense emotions.
__Mend__ (free; iOS) includes meditation and journaling prompts, helpful articles, and a mood tracker, says Miami clinical psychologist Erika Martinez, Psy.D. Mend is also linked to the “Love is Like a Plant” podcast, which covers all aspects of dating, relationships, sex, and heartbreak, and is hosted by app’s founder Ellen Huerta.
Another of Mend’s features is a self-care log—a crucial part of your getting-over-them toolkit. “It’s important to remember that during this time of emotional turmoil, self-care is vital,” Martinez says. For this aspect of breakup recovery, apps like Headspace and Calm (both free; iOS and Android), which guide you through the practice of mindfulness, can be great resources.
Moodnotes ($4.99; iOS) helps you track your moods (each one is represented as a color and an emoji) and the possible reasons behind them, allowing you to give as much detail as you wish. The app prompts you to figure out why you feel the way you do, which helps you understand what’s driving your emotions. It also helps you identify emotional traps and offers ideas on how to avoid doing so in the future.
“Journaling is a great way to process your thoughts and emotions,” says Grey. “We may not always have access to others to share how we are feeling, or feel comfortable talking about the breakup right away, so this provides a way to process and release those emotions in a healthy manner.”
Sweat It Out
While there’s no shortage of apps to help you survive the end of a relationship, it’s important to remember all the other ways you can help yourself recover. One of the most basic but effective? Exercise. “Any physical activity helps to boost the 'feel-good' endorphins in the brain,” Grey says. She also advocates healthy eating and getting enough sleep. Again, these are basic elements of good mental health, but anyone who’s been through a breakup knows working out, eating a decent meal, and getting a solid seven hours of shut-eye can be tough tasks when you’ve nursing a broken heart.
If you need a little digital help, Grey suggests investing in a fitness tracker like Fitbit, which helps you create goals and holds you accountable. “It doesn’t just help you create a healthier lifestyle—it can also serve as a good distraction,” says Grey.