“I don’t know why they call it heartbreak. It feels like every other part of my body is broken too.” (Anonymous)
Have you ever felt emotional pain as though it was a literal pain inside your body? Have you ever wondered why heartbreak hurts so much, and whether it’s possible to physically feel your heart hurting from the effects of a traumatic breakup?
You’re not alone. I’ve had many clients come to me saying that during and after a bad breakup they have not only been feeling emotionally bruised and battered, but physically, too. From aches and pains to sleeplessness and fatigue, heartbreak wreaks havoc on the best of us, and it’s not only our emotions that hurt!
Because we’re so used to talking about our emotions as if they were a separate part of our body, it’s easy to see why some people forget that heartbreak can be a very real physical experience. But actually in many cultures the term for ‘heartbreak’ actually translates as ‘heart pain’.
So, why does your heart hurt when you’re sad and experiencing a nasty breakup? Here are some ways that heartbreak can affect your body – and what you can do about it!
Your Brain and Pain
Did you know that when you experience heartache your brain reacts in the same way it does when you experience physical pain? It hurts, not just because of ‘the feels’ but because your brain is literally registering pain.
When you experience pain from a physical injury, like breaking your arm, your brain responds by sending pain signals to the area that was injured. This is a natural response to injury – it helps you to locate where you are injured and do something about it.
But what about emotions like sadness, grief, and anger, which are all common when you experience rejection and heartbreak?
Well, the pain from these emotions also registers in the body – often in very specific places. If the emotion isn’t resolved or is overwhelming, it can often cause the physical sensation of pain where the brain is attempting to create a reaction. The reaction might be to get you to express how you are feeling, or remove yourself from the situation that’s hurting. It’s really your brain’s attempt to counteract what you are experiencing and get you to seek help to heal.
So, yes, it IS perfectly possible to feel physical pain from your broken heart! It’s even truer if you have emotions and responses which feel overwhelming and trapped.
Where are Emotions Felt Physically During Heartbreak?
Image Source: Huffington Post
We’re very used to thinking about our emotions and our body as separate entities that communicate with each other but behave like different ‘systems’ inside us. We talk about our physical health and our mental health and see different professionals for help when we have a problem with one or the other.
But as the picture above shows, our emotions can literally be felt in our body, and it’s impossible to truly separate our minds from our feelings. Your experience of feeling your emotions as pain in your body might be specific to you, but it’s important to identify them so you can allow them to heal.
“There is an intimate and dynamic relationship between what is going on in your life, with your feelings and thoughts, and what happens in your body.” – Helen Shapiro
Heartbreak can seriously impact your ability to function. You might have heart palpitations, insomnia and restlessness, chest pains, loss of appetite or feel hungry all the time, alongside many others.
Take a look at the image below – have you experienced any of these during your breakup?
What can You do to Help Yourself?
Beginning to heal can often depend on understanding what’s happening to you and why. If your heartbreak is expressing itself through symptoms such as:
- Stomach ache, bloating and problems with your digestion
- Headaches and ‘brain fog’ or inability to concentrate
- Aches and pains, or feeling energy surges such as tingling or itching and uncomfortable heat in your body
- Aching shoulders and neck
- Racing heart, chest pains and tightness in your heart area
- Fatigue and weak muscles
- Restlessness or insomnia
Then it’s very likely that the stress and pain that your emotional body is experiencing is also being expressed physically. You will also be suffering in your spiritual or energy body into the mix – which is the subtle way your energy moves and influences your thoughts, feelings and physical body. All these different aspects can impact each other negatively, leading to a downward spiral of pain and hurt.
Taken together, these ‘layers’ of your being create the whole you, or your holistic self. For healing to truly take place you need to start working on soothing and tending to yourself as a holistic being.
Holistic Healing For Heartbreak Pain
If the concept of healing on so many levels feels daunting, I have some good news for you. Because your holistic body is the way that y
our mind, body and spirit all interact with one another, when you take positive healing action in any area it automatically has a positive effect on other areas.
Because right now you are experiencing many of your holistic healing needs as physical manifestations of your pain, it’s a great idea to start with reducing the pain you are feeling in your body.
Simple, Gentle, Self-Care is a must when it comes to soothing your physical body. Treat heartbreak like you would having the flu or breaking a bone, especially in the early days. You have been injured, so treat yourself with care and consideration.
- Reduce pain by using gentle, calming stretches and exercises, having a massage, or taking a saltwater bath to help cleanse you. More on how to do this can be found here.
- Eat food that is easy to digest, and is healthy and will nourish you. Soups and bone broths can be ideal, as well as eating lots of protein and fresh fruit and vegetables. This will help to ease that nervous/fluttery feeling in your stomach and help guard against causing your body more stress with junk food.
- Soothe your body with rest and give yourself time to recover. Try and sleep as much as you reasonably can.
Allow Your Emotions
There’s a famous quote by Carl Jung which says “What We Resist, Persists.”
One reason you may be experiencing your heartbreak in physical ways could be that you are not truly allowing yourself to experience the fullness of your current experience.
This makes sense because feeling rejected, sad, grief-stricken or filled with regret or longing about your ex isn’t exactly fun.
For some people, trying to circumnavigate the true depth of these emotions can lead to them being expressed physically. Resisting can actually make some emotions more intense because they then become locked down and trapped deep inside our emotional and energetic body. But until you accept your true feelings and experience they will continue to linger.
Accepting doesn’t mean you have to sit inside your pain 24/7!
By spending some time really allowing yourself to feel how you feel, without judging yourself or the emotion, it gives that energy space to move. Some of this might mean actually sitting with the physical pain you are experiencing.
Remember – this doesn’t mean you have to sit in pain when it becomes overwhelming. Combining allowing your pain to express itself and using self-soothing methods and deep self-care you can allow what you are ready for in each moment.
Not all Pain is ‘Bad’
When you’re recovering from heartbreak it can seem like there is nothing positive about your pain. We’re conditioned to think that all pain should be avoided and that we can’t cope with the pain of heartbreak.
Sometimes, though, the pain you feel when you are heartbroken can lead to deep and profound holistic healing. Pain from heartbreak can tell you about deeper wounds, as well as showing you where you have space to learn and grow as a person.
Figuring out where you feel emotions like grief, loss, rejection and anger in your body can help you to manage them when they arise in other areas of your life.
The trick is to balance allowing how you feel with calming, healing and soothing techniques to understand yourself better so that you can move forward and past the pain of heartbreak.