“It is easy to spot us: women facing divorce. We’re the ones with the dark circles, pasty complexion, bitten nails…we are not a pretty sight,” YouBeauty reader Nina* writes in her divorce blog.
The sting of a breakup can take its toll and mimic physical pain—a hardly surprising research finding for those who’ve gone through it.
STUDY, EXPLAINED: Breakups Can Feel Like Physical Pain
Though the beauty pitfalls of a breakup are often swift and obvious, most ladies instinctually know they have to “get it together” to get out of a funk.One motive for looking great is to show off to your ex, as Steve Carell’s character Cal tries in the latest romantic dramedy “Crazy Stupid Love.”
It’s not fiction: Some people become “committed to proving how much their ex is going to lose,” as YouBeauty Relationship Expert David Sbarra, Ph.D. puts it.Although it may seem great to flaunt your fab self in front of your ex, that’s merely a bonus of bettering yourself for you. “A beautiful new style enhances your self-image. It can improve your self-esteem to look in the mirror and see a new you,” says Psychology Advisor, Art Markman, Ph.D.
So skip crash dieting or maxing out your credit cards on a new wardrobe. You can hone in on renewing your body and mind, so you start your single life as beautiful as ever.
COLUMN: When Leaving Your Ex, Love Yourself
1. Release built-up energy.
“When we go through something as emotionally draining as a breakup, we hold the pain of these situations in our bodies on a muscular level,” says beauty expert and hairstylist Eva Scrivo, author of “Eva Scrivo on Beauty.” She finds that the connection between mind and body influences how we project our own personal beauty.
One great way to release negative energy is to exercise—it’s proven to makes us more beautiful. Try yoga, a Rocky-inspired run or just a mindful walk.
Exercise lifts mood and sends nutrients rushing through your bod for your skin’s healthy glow. It may even help you tackle those skinny jeans you’ve been eyeing in your closet.
And it goes deeper than that. “Bodywork [like yoga or a massage] gives the opportunity to release toxicity and emotional pain. In yoga I’ve seen tears streaming down women’s faces. It gives our bodies a chance to shed some of the armor we’ve built up through difficult periods of our life,” says Scrivo.
A year after her divorce, Nina started yoga. She first found it difficult to muster up confidence when she “felt mediocre-looking and tired.”“Are you kidding…What women look like this these days?” was Nina’s first reaction to the yogis at class. “Their bodies are gorgeous. Now I’ve got to compete with Yoga Barbie?” she jokes.Nina may not have mastered her headstand or have designer yoga duds, but she’s stuck with it (admittedly, for the better).
MORE: Your Complete Guide to Yoga
If you feel intimidated in your workout place, particularly with yoga, “You need to go to numerous classes, instructors and facilities to find the type of yoga and environment for you that makes you feel comfortable,” Scrivo advises. Some classes are very competitive, while others are “very ‘granola’ and nurturing.”
2. Primp your style.
Few beauty changes are as deliberate as a drastic haircut—one to announce that a new woman has arrived. Who hasn’t known a woman who chopped off her hair or dyed it bright red post-breakup?
“By making a significant change in your appearance, you are establishing control over yourself. The big change is a way of stating to the world that you are in control of your appearance,” Dr. Markman says.
After nearly every breakup, YouBeauty reader Candace Albert has changed her style up, from hair to dress. “I would always cut my hair after a breakup just to say, ‘look at me, I don’t need you. I can do fine all by myself’…and I did.”
But before you order your stylist to “just chop it all off,” consider this:“It’s a time to be cautious and not take it out on your hair,” Scrivo warns. Not that you shouldn’t try a new cut. “When women are going through a transition, it feels like memories are being shorn with their hair. Even though hair doesn’t have nerve endings, you can actually feel a sense of relief as those dramatic changes occur and help us psychologically,” she says.
MORE: What’s the Best Hair Color for Your Skintone?
But, your bold decision could lead to regret if you haven’t learned to blow-dry that crop, or figured how you’re going to maintain a dye job. Scrivo suggests scheduling a consultation to look at pictures and talk about the expectations from your cut or color. You’re essentially “interviewing” the stylist, and if she makes the cut but you’re still not completely sold, come back for a blow-dry to see how she listens and handles your hair. Only then will you understand if you’re on the same page with your stylist, and you’ll be ready to have fun with your cut and color.
If you decide short suits you, check out ways to donate your hair, like Locks of Love.
3. Eat right, sleep tight and stay away from infomercials.
If you find yourself up at 3 a.m. in the glow of the QVC, take yourself to bed. It’s at that hour that you become vulnerable to thinking the fountain of youth comes in a jar.
“Sleep deprivation and stress both decrease the function of the frontal lobes of your brain. Those frontal lobes are the ones that help stop you from making bad decisions. If you find yourself awake and stressed at 2 a.m., you are much more prone to give in to the temptation of an infomerical and make an impulse purchase,” says Dr. Markman.
And impulse-buy is just what Nina did. Late at night, she ordered products promising “radiant skin in less than six weeks…100-percent guaranteed.”
It was an enticing offer, especially because she “had been feeling like there were no guarantees left in life, so with one simple call…I felt my whole outlook on life improve.”
Spoiler: the hairstyling tools and jars of cream didn’t change her outlook. But getting good rest is one of the only scientifically proven ways to better skin.
MORE: How Sleep Improves Your Skin
Instead of looking for hope in a jar, focus on “eating pretty.” Nina advises her divorce blog followers to “take the time to get fresh fruits and vegetables and cook nutritious meals for yourself and those you love.”
Candace added more salads to her diet after her breakup, refusing to give into the comfort-food cycle you can easily fall into when you’re feeling down.
4. Give love to your community.
After a breakup, it’s tempting to sit around eating ice cream from the carton. Instead, follow the lead of women who give love to their community. “We organize dinners for families with newborns or if the moms are sick,” Nina says about her friends.
It’s a smart coping mechanism. People who volunteer monthly are five percent more likely to be happier (seven percent more if it’s weekly charity!).
STUDY, EXPLAINED: Doing Good Makes You Happier
Candace has rallied together with friends, holding local car washes and bake sales for people who have fallen on hard times. “And you meet people there, too,” she adds.
However you choose to help out in your ‘hood, giving back will give to you. Candace adopted a black lab four years ago. “They’re always there with you,” she says, and encourages people to visit an animal shelter after a breakup. Pets are also proven to be healing friends. “Who needs a man when you’ve got a dog?” Candace jokes.
5. Give yourself some credit.
When you get back into the dating scene after a hiatus, “there are no widely regarded ways to do it or not do it,” Dr. Sbarra says. You might not even feel the need to meet someone new right away. And that’s OK to strengthen yourself before you enter a new relationship.
“Dating in midlife, you understand a lot more about how relationships work,” Dr. Sbarra says. “You expect people to grow and not make the same mistakes again.” And this can completely be the case. “There may be wisdom along the way,” he adds.
Nina agrees. “When you’re finally on the other side of an unhealthy relationship, give yourself a pat on the back,” she advises.And, might we add, treat yourself to a beauty breakthrough.
MORE: Get a Virtual Experience of Finding Your Best Look, with Eva Scrivo *Name has been changed.