The Journey Inward Continues: Where I’ve Been

I’ve been off social media since the end of 2018 when I began a last-ditch effort tech detox to stave off burnout and regain control of my own attention. 

As someone who has loved technology since elementary school, worked in technology for the last twelve years, and built a technology company for the last five, I’ll admit signing off was a bit of a weird decision.

But once I started, I just couldn’t stop.

I archived all my posts and deleted Instagram. A taste of liberation.

I exported my data and permanently deleted my Facebook account. A feeling of rebellion.

I unsubscribed from everything except a few things I really cared about and created a new spam-free email account that I don’t use for logins. A sigh of relief.

With social media gone and email reduced, I then drastically cut out digital content and media from my life: Netflix, YouTube, most blogs, and most podcasts. 

I joined the library and started reading books again. I became a paying subscriber to one magazine and one newsletter by a writer I wanted to support. I accessed subscription news sites for free through my library membership. 

Eventually, I moved on to my house: I had already been TV-free for a while, but I went tech-free in my bedroom. I bought an analog clock and stopped using my phone as an alarm. I got rid of Alexa and Google Home. I got rid of my Fitbit. I stopped tracking my sleep. Of course, I still used my laptop for work and couldn’t change that. 

The last step was one of the hardest, neurochemically: I turned off all my remaining phone notifications. My email and app notifications had been off for years already, but I finally turned off the banner notifications for calls and texts. 

Bit-by-bit, a delicious silence filled the gaps. My circadian rhythms reset. I started to hear my own voice again. I even started to forget my phone when I left the house.

These changes felt very radical at the time. They also felt privileged, so I didn’t talk about them. Instead, I wrote about my experience privately.

Writing was one of the things I had largely given up due to my “busyness.” Mend started as a newsletter I wrote every week, but I had less and less time to write as Mend grew into an app and company. I’ve met with a lot of literary agents and publishers over the years who have urged me to write a book, and I’ve always told them the same thing: “I’m too busy. Maybe next year.”

The truth is that I was just too inundated with other people’s content. I know this because in the past two years I’ve found myself with enough time and attention to write two drafts of a book and begin another. Not to mention I was finally able to read all the books that I intended to read but never actually did.

What began as a tech detox evolved into a much deeper journey inward. As I let go of distractions, I began to let go of more things. I significantly pared down, internally and externally. I shed and I emptied, and I sat quietly with what was left behind. I tried not to fill the void even when it hurt, even when it would have been so easy. I was ruthless about what I did choose to put back. 

I journeyed inward quietly because I could tell I was processing many shifts at once, forming one sea change, and I frankly wanted to limit certain kinds of input or influence. Being away from social media afforded this privacy and luxury. I could feel a new shape forming underneath the surface and wanted to get out of the way and see what emerged. 

There came a point where, after letting go of so many things, I could no longer picture my future no matter how hard I tried. What I did see clearly was my life in the present moment. My life was suddenly brimming with all the things that I had been craving: ease, simplicity, silence, time, nature, writing, reading, meaningful work, meaningful relationships. 

I wanted to figure out how to make this sustainable, not just a phase, so I continued to overhaul my life from the inside out. The majority of this work was on my inner life, but there were some external changes that helped in the process. 

I did an audit of my own life. I took a hard look at the daily choices I was making. I dove deep into research and figured out how to tread more lightly. I started to question the way I did things and push against the answers. I started asking myself the question that we are collectively experts at avoiding: What is the true cost of this thing I’m doing or buying (to the people who made it, to society, to other living things, to the earth)?

It’s not always easy to answer that question, even if you’re the one asking it of yourself. 

I had drastically reduced my overall screen time, but under the guise of founder busyness, I still frequently outsourced many parts of my life (shopping for food, cooking, walking/biking, making things from scratch, repairing instead of replacing) to on-demand services in an effort to be more productive and, ultimately, consume more. Amazon, Instacart, UberEats, Uber. You know the players.

So I asked myself:

What is the true cost of these services?

What if I stopped seeing all of these parts of my life as colossal wastes of time?

What if by giving up these basic parts of living, I’m giving up what it means to be human?

What if I stopped participating in this myopic cycle of more, more, more, faster, faster, faster?

The answers to those questions made it very easy to, one afternoon, delete all the apps on my phone but a handful that were either essential (like Maps) or aligned with my values. I slowly learned how to enjoy cooking and making things for myself. I gave away most of my clothing and belongings. I didn’t go off-grid into a cabin in the woods by any means, but my daily life did fundamentally change. It’s still changing.

This newly-created mental space and self-sufficiency, albeit only a sliver, turned into many things, all of which slowly wove a new waft in the fabric of my life. I slept better. I felt healthier. I felt freer. More creative. 

I also felt more engaged – personally, professionally, socially, and politically. I had more time to deepen my relationships and develop new ones. I had more time to think creatively about Mend, not just operate it. I had more money and time to support the causes I cared about. I had an increased capacity to educate myself on issues that mattered to me and take action. Without a 24/7 news cycle, social media and pressure about broadcasting what I was doing to make a difference, I could just do things.

All of this felt like an expansion after a period of overwhelm. It felt like abundance. It felt like a return to my true nature. I also felt my brain changing. Among other things, my attention and emotional regulation improved. I could feel myself becoming more human, week by week and month by month. Without a steady stream of attention-hijacking headlines and influencer/branded Instagram content, I became more myself.

I even slowly started to look more like myself. That has been a more gradual process, but it began with returning to my natural hair color. Once I got over the shock of my own mortality (I didn’t even know I had started to go gray!) I realized it’s probably a good thing I can bear witness to it. I also no longer have a medicine cabinet full of beauty products. And though I still care about how I look, I don’t worry about wrinkles as much and I am no longer tempted to consider what I might look like with slightly fuller lips or a smaller nose. Beauty is such a sensitive topic and I don’t judge anyone for what they do to feel beautiful, but for me, cutting out media, especially Instagram, had far reaching effects beyond just giving me more time back.

This recalibration was also the beginning of a major shift at Mend. Last year, instead of our annual venture capital raise, we scaled back our team, refocused our priorities, gave up our office, went 100% remote, and focused on thoughtful growth and profitability. It was almost like we unknowingly prepared for the pandemic. We also stopped using social media. We knew better than anyone that Instagram makes breakups harder, so it felt disingenuous to invest so much money and time there. This year hasn’t been easy by any means – raising more venture capital would have been much easier – but it feels like we are on the right path.

Instead of doing what many wellness and mindfulness apps are ironically pressured to do (build the most addictive product, grow at all costs), all of the changes I implemented allowed us to build more sustainably, with efficacy and mental health in mind. Our laser focus informed our three leaps forward this year: reaching non-iPhone users with our web app, completely redesigning our brand with a focus on simplicity and reducing our impact, and expanding into a topic that is very close to my heart: burnout.

With the coronavirus pandemic, the racial justice movement in the US, the environmental crisis, the upcoming election, and what feels like an ongoing unraveling of life, I’ve felt unsure about how and when to share a longer update. But at some point, it felt dishonest not to share an update, especially when I’m asked almost daily by a Mender how I’m doing or “where I’ve been.” 

So, this is where I’ve been.

Now that I’ve come out the other side of this sea change, I feel more committed than ever to our evolving mission at Mend and how we’re doing it. We’re here to support your journey inward, which means respecting your attention and privacy. We’re committed to reducing our footprint as much as possible – our new site is lower impact, in part because we prioritized simplicity. We’re committed to helping you in a time of need, not becoming another addictive app in your life.

As a society we are just beginning to acknowledge what we in the tech industry have known for years: that tech addiction is real and has far-reaching harmful effects: anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem to name a few. (I wrote this letter before The Social Dilemma came out, by the way, but it explains this very eloquently if you haven’t seen it.)

As for me, I have no plans to return to the firehose of content that is our current media landscape. I have never regretted my decision to permanently delete Facebook. Not once! And, no, I’ve never needed my Facebook account for something. I get that question the most. 

I’ve also never missed any important calls or texts. That was always my biggest fear…what if I missed something? Turns out, in two years, I didn’t miss anything important. The reality is we’re all pretty easy to reach now, whether or not notifications are turned on. 

I’ve also never missed any important updates from friends or family by being away from Instagram, and in fact I feel more connected to my friends and family now than I ever have. Some friendships fizzled, but others deepened. 

I re-installed Instagram during lockdown to see what was happening around the world, but quickly remembered why I deleted it and removed it again. Though there are organizations and people (including a couple mentors) who use Instagram as their main platform, I just can’t justify the overwhelmingly negative effects of Instagram. The crux of it is that I’m not sure it’s possible to control your Instagram experience, even if you choose who to follow, given the way the platform is optimized for ads and continuous scrolling. To me it feels like I’m seeing about half ads at any given point, whether they’re paid Instagram ads or branded content. It’s the failure of the business model. It’s too easy to become passive, taking all the content in and not being the director of your own life.

I’m not a luddite. I still benefit from technology in more ways than I can count here. I still use my laptop every day, as I have since 2001, when I transferred to a prep school with a required laptop program. I run Mend remotely thanks to technology and I still have a handful of apps that I find incredibly useful and beneficial. I still read voraciously every week, and some of that is online. And I plan to borrow my mom’s Netflix login so I can watch Season 3 of The Crown. I’m not a monster! 

I just aim to be more mindful of the technology and content I choose to invite into my life and how it affects me. Life, the direct experience of it, is too precious. This is not a revelation. I realized this in Japan almost a decade ago. But it’s so easy to lose my way.

Luckily, I have Wendell Berry to remind me:

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.

He went flying down the river in his boat

with his video camera to his eye, making

a moving picture of the moving river

upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly

toward the end of his vacation. He showed

his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,

preserving it forever: the river, the trees,

the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat

behind which he stood with his camera

preserving his vacation even as he was having it

so that after he had had it he would still

have it. It would be there. With a flick

of a switch, there it would be. But he

would not be in it. He would never be in it.

I want to be in it. Don’t you?

The journey inward continues to be the most challenging, and important work of my life, in large part because going within resourced me to go beyond myself. It felt like a moral failure to continue to “optimize” my productivity more and more while other humans, other species, and our planet were so blatantly suffering.

Your journey inward will not look like mine, and that’s the point. But the journey itself is not selfish. Turning inward allows you to be of service in a way that you can actually sustain over a lifetime, and the world needs that more now than ever. 

Ultimately, change starts by going within. Change starts with one heart. Change starts with you developing a relationship with yourself so that you might relate to this world and its inhabitants differently. This is what Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Krishnamurti all teach us. And in a moment like this one, I find that reassuring and empowering. You can only change yourself, and luckily that is the only thing that can change the world.

How Burnout Affects The Brain

People have been experiencing burnout for ages, but the first research papers on the stress-induced state started to appear around the 1970s and 1980s from two pioneering psychologists and researchers, Dr. Herbert Freudenberger and Dr. Christina Maslach. Their articles and books made burnout a household term. 

New research has continued to look at its effects, specifically on the brain. In Sweden, Armita Golkar and a team of psychological scientists studied participants who had been formally diagnosed with burnout. They compared MRIs between this group and a control group of healthy volunteers with no history of chronic stress or other illnesses. Their findings showed that workplace burnout can alter neural circuits and structure, “ultimately causing a vicious cycle of neurological dysfunction.” 

How Burnout Changes Your Brain

People in the burnout group had more difficulty controlling their strong negative emotional responses, which could be explained by a relatively enlarged amygdala in their brains. The amygdala is the older part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions including fear and aggression. This same research also showed that the burnout group had weaker connections between some brain regions. Another study showed that long-term work stress was linked with reduced gray-matter in the brain, which interestingly is the matter that increases with consistent meditation.

Burnout Impairs Cognitive Function

In addition, recent research suggests that being burned out can affect people’s cognitive function. Impaired creativity, problem solving, attention and memory were all noticed. In Greece, a team of psychological scientists reviewed 15 different burnout studies and found that in 13 of the 15, burnout was associated with cognitive deficit. 

Serious Health Effects

Lastly, there is research that shows effects on the neuroendocrine system. Due to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the cardiovascular system, immune system, and memory can all suffer. 

Can These Effects Be Reversed?

All of this research demonstrates how important it is to take steps to reduce stress as soon as possible. One big silver lining is that these effects seem to be reversible, based on research so far. Our brains have the ability to recover, change, and form new connections due to neuroplasticity. So, if you’re feeling burned out, don’t give up hope. The first step is just recognizing when you’re there.

Why Millennials Are “The Burnout Generation”

Are millennials the burnout generation?

If you ask Anne Peterson, the journalist behind one of the most viral stores published last year, the answer is yes. 

In her piece on burnout, Anne described the phenomena that initially led her to self-inquiry around her own behavior: “I couldn’t figure out why small, straightforward tasks on my to-do list felt so impossible. The answer is both more complex and far simpler than I expected.”

She cuts through the common blanket explanation that millennials are lazy and entitled and instead digs into the many underlying reasons why millennials are the way they are. And what she discovered about her own “errand paralysis” ended up resonating with 7 million readers around the world.

It’s More Complex Than You May Realize

She begins with a look into the parenting style millennials grew up with, the way millennials have since been conditioned to optimize their lives, and the large financial stresses that mark this generation. Many millennials began their careers around the 2008 financial crisis and have been unable to catch up to previous generations in terms of building wealth. They have struggled to save, pay off student debt and build equity. In Anne’s words: “The “greatest generation” had the Depression and the GI Bill; boomers had the golden age of capitalism; Gen-X had deregulation and trickle-down economics. And millennials? We’ve got venture capital, but we’ve also got the 2008 financial crisis, the decline of the middle class and the rise of the 1%, and the steady decay of unions and stable, full-time employment.” This financial stress takes a heavy psychological toll.

The Pressure Of Social Media

Then, of course, there’s the pressure of “being on” and curating your life on Instagram in both professional and personal spheres: “Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.”

Is Burnout A Side-Effect Of Capitalism?

Petersen also explores how burnout differs for women, how the media has influenced millennials, and why millennials are beginning to see the cracks in the capitalist dream. While there’s no rosy answer tied up in a bow at the end, “in lieu of a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system,” she recognizes that simply acknowledging burnout is the first step forward.

To hear more from Anne on burnout, listen to her interview on the Ezra Klein Show, “Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle.”

Also, good news: her piece was so resonant that she is following it up with a book this September titled “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation.” You can pre-order now on Amazon.

Am I Burned Out?

If you’re asking yourself whether you’re suffering from burnout, you’re probably feeling really stressed.

What Brought You Here?

Something led you to think you might be burned out. Burnout can creep up on you in many ways. Maybe you hit a wall and you just can’t seem to find any more energy, even to do basic tasks that are seemingly easy. So you’re thinking maybe something’s not quite balanced in your life.  Or maybe a teammate made a comment to you that you need a vacation.

It could be that you’ve been stressed for such a long time and you’ve been pushing yourself along, but now your body isn’t cooperating – you’re coming down with colds a lot, and generally just not feeling well. Or perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with a condition or disease that’s related to stress, and your doctor is telling you that you need to find ways to better manage your stress.

Whatever brought you here, you’re here because you’re recognizing something about yourself: you think you’re burned out. You want to know if you are. And along with that, you’re thinking about how you can make a change in your life. But you might also not be quite sure about making a change yet, and that’s okay. We’ll start with just understanding burnout for now.

What Is Burnout?

So let’s start with what burnout is. The term burnout is used to describe a state of chronic stress, usually caused by work. It’s not classified as a disease or a mental disorder within the American medical community, and there’s some disagreement about symptoms and how to diagnose burnout globally. But it’s still one of the most “widely talked about mental health conditions in today’s society.” There’s no disagreement that the mounting pressures of daily life are real, and that work pressure is a big part of it. This is in part why in 2018, an official definition of the “occupational phenomenon” of burnout was officially released by the WHO. Let’s look at what that is.

Burnout According To The WHO

According to the WHO, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Burnout According To The Medical Community

There are many more definitions of burnout in the medical community. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. “Burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout. Some research suggests that many people who experience symptoms of job burnout don’t believe their jobs are the main cause. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health.”

Contributing Factors Of Burnout

Very often you can become burned out when you’re working very hard towards some goal or result, and you’re not able to achieve it. This element of burnout was especially important in the very first definition of burnout, provided by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in a research study he did on the chronic stress of staff workers at the free clinic (where he also worked), and he went on to write books on the subject. Since then, the term has been used by many to describe this type of chronic stress.   

Common Symptoms Of Burnout

Some of the common symptoms of burnout listed in research are:

-Fatigue

-Depression

-Feeling cynical about work

-Being unproductive at work

-Lack of motivation at work

-Feeling of impatience

-Feeling generally “ill” but with no specific medical diagnosis

-Weight loss

-Being unable to sleep

-Waking up in the morning and being exhausted

-A negative attitude

-Increased risk-taking

-Inability to concentrate

-Impaired memory

A More Holistic View On Burnout

When we think about burnout at Mend, we also consider the effects that burnout can have on your emotional and spiritual health – on your heart and soul. Yes of course there are effects of chronic stress on your physical health and mental health, but it’s important to remember you’re a human being. You’re more than just your body and brain. You have emotions. You have a soul, spirit, or whatever you want to call this part of yourself. And burnout can really deplete this part. So in thinking about how to address burnout, we think this dimension is equally important to consider, along with your physical and mental health.

Burnout Is A Process

Just like burnout is a process – it doesn’t happen overnight – mending from burnout is a process. But the first step is recognition. Acknowledgment. Awareness that there’s something about your life that’s worth re-assessing, and maybe shifting. And based on the fact that you’re reading this article, you might be taking this very important step right now. We’re proud of you for taking a moment to stop and question how you’re feeling. It’s an important moment, and we’re here to support you on this journey back to yourself.

Free Events To Support Your Mental Health At Home

There is so much uncertainty as to what the world will look like in the coming weeks and months as lockdown rules continue to evolve and shift.

Will more people get sick, as things begin to re-open in some places? How will daily life look? What happens to all the businesses that have been impacted? What happens to school? How long will this go on?

These levels of uncertainty, coupled with anxiety and stress, can take a major toll on our mental health. Many people are struggling with the effects of isolation, feeling more lonely and depressed.

So in honor of Mental Health Awareness Day, we want to share a few online events that can help support your mental health. We know there are a lot of free resources being shared right now, so we’re focusing on three organizations and communities we trust: The Center for Mindful Self Compassion, One Love Foundation and Plum Village.

The Center for Mindful Self Compassion

Self-compassion is a powerful practice to help you through a difficult time, and its effects have been well-researched by Dr. Kristen Neff and her colleagues at CMSC.

To support people, the CMSC will continue sharing free meditation sessions daily in English, Spanish, and Cantonese. They also offer specific sessions for LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC throughout the week. You can sign up here.

One Love Foundation

One Love is a non-profit that helps people learn how to love better, and right now they’ve adapted their programs on healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships to this time of social distancing.

As part of their Stay At Home program, they are offering free virtual classes on Mondays and Thursdays. You can learn more and sign up here.

Plum Village

Plum Village, founded by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, has brought many of their worldwide programs to livestreaming, including dharma talks, workshops and meditation sessions in English and French.

How To Manage A Breakup When You Live Together

How do you heal when you’re still sharing a living space with your ex? How are you supposed to move forward? How do you maintain privacy? How do you avoid fights?  

Besides the breakups happening during lockdown, there are a lot of people around the world who are living with an ex right now because they felt there was no other option.

Many couples who planned to breakup or divorce before coronavirus had to table their plans for moving out because there simply wasn’t enough time to coordinate the logistics before lockdown started. Some couples are now dealing with changing financial situations (maybe one partner lost a job) which may prevent them from moving out and splitting up their household, even after the lockdown ends. 

Meanwhile, other couples decided that it was safer to continue living together, so they’re sleeping separately or living in different rooms or parts of the house. Other couples may have hunkered down together because they didn’t have anyone else they could turn to, and this is especially true if one person got sick and needed care. Everyone has their own reasons, but the reality is that there are many “couples” now living together (or living closeby and maintaining a close relationship) when that wasn’t really the plan.

This isn’t just unique to coronavirus though. Many couples have to continue living together after they decide to break up or get divorced, whether it’s because of finances, kids, timing, pets, work or simply logistics.

So how can you manage a breakup when you’re living together (or staying in relatively close contact)?

1. Figure out what feels good to you

What can you do to increase your comfort and feelings of ease at home? Maybe it’s that you don’t want to eat breakfast in the kitchen at the same exact time, so that you have some alone time in the morning to meditate and journal without your ex blending their smoothie. Maybe you could wakeup a tad bit earlier so that you can have this alone time before your ex wakes up. Think about your ideal day and figure out how to get close to that, given the current situation.

Then think about boundaries you may need to set with your ex. Are there any boundaries that would make you feel better, or help you be productive (when you need to be)? Maybe it’s that you need to table any conversations about finances until Saturday afternoons so that you can stay focused during your work from home time during the week. Maybe it’s that you don’t continue to rehash your breakup with them for a few weeks. Just because you’re together all the time doesn’t mean you need to keep talking about things and figuring them out. Give yourself a break.

2. Have a discussion with your ex and practice compassion

Once you’ve figured out what will feel good to you (including what boundaries you might like to set) find a time that works for both of you to have a discussion around these two things. Acknowledge that this is a difficult situation, and that you want to work together to make the best out of it. Share what you’re thinking about doing so that they consider what will feel good for themselves. Ask them if there are any boundaries they’d like to set so that they feel more comfortable. Share what yours are.

If there are any boundaries that conflict, which there probably will be, take the time to figure out what compromise might work for both of you. If you can’t reach a compromise, take turns having your way so it feels more equitable. If emptying the dishwasher is a major point of stress, setup a rotating schedule so that you don’t have to think about who’s going to do it anymore.

3. Reach out for support beyond your ex

Just because your ex is the one who’s there doesn’t mean they are the best support system for you. Remember to reach outside of your immediate lockdown bubble and schedule Facetimes or video calls with your friends and family members. You may also want to consider speaking with a therapist remotely on a regular basis so that you can touch base with them and share how you’re feeling living with your ex. They can also help you problem solve if you’re butting heads. Dealing with a breakup while living together is difficult, and finding someone who can listen to you and provide a sounding board will be helpful.

4. Make sure you’re carving out some space for yourself

If you have any corner of your apartment or home together that you can make just yours, do it. Whether it’s your bathroom, a guest room or your garage, finding some place that you can make yours will be helpful. Keep it clean and organized, and put reminders of things you love there. You can even try to meditate there on a daily basis so that it becomes associated with this ritual. It’s really helpful if this space allows you to physically separate from your ex, even if it’s just for an hour or two, but of course that’s not always possible depending on your living situation.

5. Don’t give up on making plans

It may seem like things are incredibly uncertain right now, but there will be a time when you will no longer be living with your ex. You may not be able to go look at apartments right now, but you can start to do research on neighborhoods and streets you like. You can also look at your finances and figure out your moving budget and what you will need in order to make the move happen. You can monitor real estate sites to see what listings are available and get a rough sense of what your budget will get you. You can also start to go through your things, especially if you have shared items, and get organized so that packing is easier once lockdown ends. Take this extra time to get really clear on what you like about your current living situation, and what you would change. Make wishlists.

The goal is to figure out how you can get yourself through this time and be respectful of the person you’re living with, even if it’s your ex. You may not be a couple anymore, but you are certainly human and can be empathetic to the fact that this is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone. If you’re stuck together, you may as well try to make the best of it.

6. Be gentle with yourself

Living together adds an extra element of difficulty to a breakup or divorce that you can’t control or immediately change. Try to be patient with yourself if you’re struggling with it. It’s not ideal to be living with someone who broke your heart, or someone who cheated on you, or someone you’d rather just avoid altogether. Know that you are not alone – right now there are people all over the world in lockdown with exes – and know that you will come out of this with many lessons about yourself. Try not to be hard on yourself if you’re struggling, and also be gentle with any timelines you may have set for yourself. Once you’re no longer living together, you’ll start to feel the benefits of no longer living together. In the meantime, you’re doing the best you can.

We know that you may feel trapped, but know that you can create mental space using the strategies above. You have the power to make the best of your circumstances. We’re rooting for you and sending you our best wishes for this difficult time.

Relationship Tips When You’re In Coronavirus Lockdown Together

Whether your relationship was fairly new or you were already living together already, spending 24 hours a day with the same human for endless weeks can take a toll on your relationship, and on your own mental health. Esther Perel put it best when she described the challenges that come with expecting everything from your partner:

“As almost all of our communal institutions give way to a heightened sense of individualism, we look more frequently to our partner to provide the emotional and physical resources that a village or community used to provide.

Is it any wonder that, tied up in relying on a partner for compassion, reassurance, sexual excitement, financial partnership, etc. that we end up looking to them for identity or, even worse, for self-worth?”

So even if you were mindful of this as you began to date, or as you entered a long-term relationship, being in confinement has a way of upsetting this balance. If you’re staying at home together, you’ve become the other person’s world. It’s only natural that this happens, but there are ways in which you can reinforce your relationship and seek support outside of our partner virtually.

Modify your routines

Think about this last week and try to estimate how much time you’ve spent taking care of yourself. How does that compare to how much time you spent taking care of yourself before confinement? If your usual weekly self care routine involved a weekend hike with friends, a trip to the library and a few beach runs, try to make sure that you’re still carving out time for the stay at home equivalent.

Instead of your weekend hike with friends, schedule a Zoom call where you all stretch together in your living room. Instead of the weekly trip to the library, login to your online account and see what digital books and subscriptions are available. Instead of beach runs, schedule in some time to join a high intensity dance class on Instagram. The way you take care of yourself during this confinement period is important – don’t abandon all of your routines that were working for you pre-coronavirus. Just modify them!

Diversify your support system

Though you may not feel like there’s much to talk about, it’s important to make an effort to talk to your friends and family on a regular basis. As the days and weeks begin to turn into one blur, time can get away from you. It’s helpful if you can schedule a standing call with your family, and standing calls with a group of friends. Maybe there’s also one or two individual friends who you’d like to have a standing call with one-on-one.

Try to make these calls video so that you can see their facial expressions and pick up on body language. You can also do things together virtually: fold the laundry, cook dinner together, play a game or co-work out. Having these connections outside of your relationship will relieve some of the pressure for your relationship to meet all of your needs.

Have compassion for your partner

This is a difficult period, and everyone handles difficulty in their own way. Be mindful of how you may approach things from a different perspective, and how you may react and deal with stress in a way that’s different from your partner. If you’re struggling with feeling irritable and you don’t really feel that compassionate, try listening to a compassion-focused meditation (Insight Timer is a great free app) at the beginning of your day and whenever you need some extra support. Instead of harping on your differences, use this as an opportunity to learn about your partner. Understanding that you are two different people, and showing compassion for your partner, goes a long way.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Going Through A Breakup Or Divorce During Coronavirus

Going through a breakup or divorce can feel like the world is ending, so it goes without saying that being heartbroken during coronavirus truly feels apocalyptic. After a relationship ends, everything in your life changes. You’re no longer with the person you spent all your time with, your routines change and you may have also dealt with major logistical changes (a move, figuring out how to coparent, etc). And now the whole world has shifted in ways that are extremely unsettling. Over 1 billion people are staying home right now to try to slow the spread of coronavirus. Every day the situation changes, and we’re all glued to the news.

One feeling that you may be wrestling with, during all of this, is whether you’re even allowed to be heartbroken right now. When thousands of people are dying, or getting sick, and entire countries are in lock-down, you may feel like you don’t have a right to feel sad about your breakup. When the economy is suffering and people are losing their jobs, you might feel like your problems are insignificant. But that’s where you’re doing yourself a disservice.

The thing about suffering is that it’s not a competition. Empathy and compassion are not available in finite quantities. There’s no reason to feel that you can’t suffer because someone else is suffering. Just because there is a pandemic doesn’t mean you need to hide your feelings. It’s okay to still feel sad. It’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to struggle.

A global pandemic may provide a brief distraction from heartbreak as you navigate the impact on your daily life, but the pain in your heart doesn’t disappear. You may feel especially alone right now as everyone is focused on coronavirus, but it’s okay to reach out to your close friends and family and let them know you’re struggling and need extra support. The people who love you the most will understand you can’t just press pause on heartbreak.

Remind yourself that most people go through a breakup or divorce when the world is stable, relatively speaking, compared to how the world is operating right now. If they’re feeling lonely, they can usually go meet up with their friends at a restaurant or head to a yoga class. You, on the other hand, are going through a breakup during a very different time. In many places, most businesses are closed and social distancing is the norm right now. On top of it all, it’s unclear how long this period will last. Given all of this, extend compassion to yourself. You’re dealing with circumstances that most people never have to deal with when they’re going through heartbreak. Recognize that you are doing the best you can given the circumstances.

Once you’ve acknowledged that it’s okay to feel heartbroken, start to figure out what your plan will be for taking care of yourself at home. Since you likely aren’t able to meet up with friends or do a lot of the things that you would do to keep yourself healthy and happy, you need to think about what you will do instead.

If you’re not sure how to start, imagine you’re your best friend going through this same situation. What would you want your best friend to do? How would you hope she cared for herself during this time? Reflect on these questions, maybe write them in your journal, and then do those things. Schedule events for yourself in your calendar. Extend the same compassion to yourself that you would extend your very best friend. You deserve this.

As you figure out your plan of action, consider incorporating these elements into your daily routine:

Daily online yoga and meditation

Watch a streaming event for free (maybe have a friend on video conference co-watch with you)

Regular video calls with friends and family members

-Create a group chat with your closest friends

-If you can still exercise outside, aim to take a walk once a day around the block for some fresh air

-Delete dating apps for a few weeks to give yourself a break

-Spend 10-15 minutes each day journaling on how you’re feeling that day

Heartbreak is never easy, and a pandemic can amplify the stress, anxiety and loneliness that may already be there. If this feels like rock bottom to you, it’s okay. Know that things will get better, day by day. Imagine that you are a butterfly inside of a cocoon, slowly transforming, and that you will break out when you’re ready. Take this time at home to reflect, mourn, feel sad and get back to the basics. You’ll emerge from this breakup, and pandemic, more resilient than ever before.

P.S. How to handle a breakup during coronavirus

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Should I Check On My Ex During Coronavirus?

In times of crisis, we often revert to things that used to give us comfort – eating our favorite snacks, watching favorite movies, and yes…even texting people who broke our hearts.

Coronavirus gives a great excuse to reach out to someone who you haven’t talked to in a while, whether it’s a friend or an ex. The difference is, when you reach out to an ex, it can have far-reaching consequences on your mental health during a time when you’re most likely already feeling stressed and anxious.

Though it may feel good initially to get in contact, the pain of realizing that you’re still not together, or that they have no intention of rekindling, can be even worse.

So before you reach out to your ex and check on them, here are some things to remind yourself:

Reaching out to an ex has emotional consequences

An innocent “Hey, hope you’re doing okay and staying healthy” text may seem like a good idea in the moment, but consider what will happen if you don’t hear back, or if you get a short response, or if the conversation fizzles out after a few days of intense back-and-forth. How did you feel the last time you spoke to your ex? Did it have an impact on you? How long did those effects last?

Remember that this is not a normal time

Keep in mind that everyone is spending more time than usual on their phones right now, so they may be quick to respond, but it may not mean as much to them as it does to you. People are bored and have a lot of time on their hands right now, so if you do reach out, try not to read too much into any response. A text back doesn’t mean you’re getting back together. It most likely means they are being polite and don’t want to leave you hanging during a difficult time.

Let go of expectations

If you decide to reach out, it’s important that you don’t have expectations going into it about what your text or call might turn into. Don’t use this pandemic as an opportunity to have another clarifying conversation around your breakup or rekindle things. Remember that your ex is still the same person they were before the pandemic started, and even though it may feel good to talk to your ex, it doesn’t change the circumstances of your breakup.

Protect yourself

If your ex reaches out, or you decide to reach out to your ex, take steps to make sure you don’t have a major emotional setback. Check in with friends afterwards, and make sure that you have a support system to fall back on if you’re feeling confused or sad after speaking with your ex. Above all, remember that you need to put yourself first. Your ex needs to rely on a support system that doesn’t include you, and vice versa, as difficult as that may seem.

A pandemic can stir up emotions about exes, but ultimately if your relationship was working, you would be together and weathering the pandemic as a couple. You wouldn’t be broken up. That’s the essential thing to remember if you’re struggling with feelings for your ex, as harsh as that may feel. Instead of fixating on your ex, think about all the people in your life who have always been there for you – friends, family, pets, coworkers. Make an attempt to connect with one of these people every day to combat feelings of loneliness, and you can even enlist your friends to help you avoid reaching out to an ex if you’re feeling a weak moment.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Four Things To Do If You’re Single During The Coronavirus Pandemic

First of all, we want to start by reminding you that if you’re feeling really lonely right now, you are not alone. People all over the world are experiencing feelings of loneliness as they social distance and stay home. Even families who are in quarantine together are feeling lonely; missing their friends, coworkers and communities outside of their immediate family members. Maybe you’re missing the way life was, or maybe you’re lamenting the fact that you’re single during a time like this. We know it’s a difficult moment, and being single can make this feel even more punishing.

Whether you’re staying at home voluntarily or under strict quarantine, remember that you will be able to leave your house, see your friends and go about your daily routine at some point in the future. The difficult part is that we don’t know exactly when. Things may be different for a while, but they won’t be like this forever.

In the meantime, we have to find ways to manage our loneliness and focus on our mental health. Loneliness can be more dangerous to our health than obesity or smoking, and it can also have an impact on our immune system. Besides that, it just doesn’t feel good to sit with feelings of loneliness all day.

Here are some ways to help cope when you’re feeling lonely:

Reach Out To Your Single People

Reach out to friends or family who are also single so that you can talk to someone who understands how you’re feeling. If a lot of your friends are married and/or have kids, they are probably consumed right now trying to adjust to having the entire family at home. Many parents are overwhelmed right now with schools being closed. But your single and childless friends and family members are in the same boat as you, so lean on them. Dr. Guy Winch suggests that “helping others is one of those things that has just as much benefit, in terms of positive psychological and emotional impact, for the person doing the helping as for the person being helped. Loneliness is something we can actually crowdsource. If we all reached out to at least three people a day who might be feeling lonely, it could make a big difference overall.”

Schedule Recurring Calls

Schedule weekly video calls with a few different people, and spread them out during the week. Connection is so important, especially at a time when so much feels uncertain. So go ahead and be proactive by setting up calls ahead of time so that you have things to look forward to throughout the week. Everyone is talking about Zoom, which is a good work tool, but we recommend Whereby because it has a much more minimal aesthetic we prefer for casual chats with our friends and family. It feels less like a conference call your boss is going to hop on, in other words.

Set Up A Group Chat

Whether you’re sharing memes or photos of what you’re cooking while under quarantine, having a group chat can feel like a lifeline during this time. Whether it’s on Whatsapp or iMessage, create a group chat with a few friends and encourage them to add more friends by making them admins of the group.

Get A Daily Dose of Culture

We’re all spending a lot of time on streaming services right now, which is understandable, but binging Love Is Blind is a bit like eating only junk food. Esther Perel reminds us to also take advantage of cultural events that are moving online during this crisis. For example, the Metropolitan Opera in New York is streaming operas daily for free. The Paris Opera is also streaming its performances online for free. Many cultural centers and museums are doing the same, so check out what your local favorite places are doing during this time.

By the way, NPR has compiled a great list of things that are now free to do online, if opera isn’t your thing.

And remember, loneliness is an important part of being human, even when we’re not in a crisis. It’s something that we all experience, and it’s because we’re social beings. Instead of focusing on what you may feel you are missing during this time, remember what you do have.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

How To Avoid A Breakup During This Coronavirus Pandemic

Whether you’re separated or together as we weather this pandemic, a global health crisis like coronavirus can put real pressure on a relationship. Here are ways to keep your relationship strong during this stressful time.

Be respectful if your partner reacts differently to coronavirus 

Relationship expert Esther Perel suggests that couples have different ways of coping with uncertainty, and trying to empathize with each other will go a long way. In an interview with a New York Times columnist she warns: “If you polarize and you think that there’s only one way to do things…it’s fake certainty. The whole point is that you’re discovering it along the way.” So if you have differing perspectives on the crisis, or you react to news differently, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over. It just means you’re two different people, and you’ll need to find a way to bridge the gap.

Meditate every day.

Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool to help you calm anxiety, reduce stress, deal with difficult emotions, and feel less lonely. All of these benefits of meditation can have a big impact on the health of your relationship as well. If both of you meditate, that’s even better. But if you’re just committed on your end to meditate for 10 minutes a day, the benefits will pour into all aspects of your life, including your love life. If you’re wondering how to get started, you can join a free online mindfulness event this month, connect with a mindfulness community, or download an app like Insight Timer.

Focus on your own mental health.

Instead of putting all the focus on your partner or relationship during this time, remember to focus on your own mental health. What are you doing to take care of yourself while you’re at home? What is your plan for reducing your stress levels each day? How are you dealing with feelings of loneliness or anxiety? If you’re in therapy, see if your therapist will be available for video or phone sessions instead of in-person. If you’re feeling lonely, make sure you take time each day to reach out to friends and family over the phone, even if you can’t physically visit them in person. Your mental health has a big impact on how you handle relationship challenges, so it’s key to prioritize this each day, especially if you’re in confinement or quarantine.

Don’t rely on your partner for everything.

During a time of crisis, it’s easy to cling to someone you care about and rely on them for all your needs, which can cause strain in a relationship. To avoid putting this stress on your relationship, don’t forget to seek out support from your friends and family, even it’s virtually through Facetime or Whatsapp group chats. If you’re at home with your partner and spending all of your time together, make sure you have some blocks of time where you are each doing your own thing. Even if it’s a 20 minute yoga video that you do in another room, time apart will help keep your relationship in balance. And if you’re overwhelmed with fear, don’t forget that there are many therapists who are sharing great advice online if you’re dealing with coronavirus-related anxiety.

P.S. How to handle a breakup during coronavirus.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

What Happens To Dating During A Pandemic?

With social distancing and business closures becoming the norm around the world, most in-person dating has come to a screeching halt. But maybe it’s not a bad thing? Here are two bright sides of dating (or not) during this coronavirus pandemic:

If You’re Dating…You Can Take Things Slow & Get Creative

If you got connected on an app but haven’t meet IRL yet, social distancing means you’ll have more time to get to know the person before you start dating. Maybe you’ll bond over Instagram memes or Facetime while you cook a meal together. It’s not the same as meeting in person for dinner or a drink, but it certainly presents a new way to get to know someone. It’s almost a little old-fashioned, except enabled by technology.

If you already met for a date or two, but now you’re unable to meet in person any time soon, this is a chance to take things slow and not rely solely on chemical signals to decide if this person is right for you. Sometimes we’re too quick to go down a certain path because of the presence or lack of chemistry, and we don’t always focus on the things that matter: compatibility, values, commitment level, communication style. By dating from afar, you’ll have time to evaluate the other things that contribute to a healthy relationship.

If You’re Not Dating…Try To Enjoy The Pause

With all the concern around coronavirus, there’s no pressure to date right now. So if you’re used to friends or family telling you to “get out there” enjoy the break from hearing this kind of advice. In fact, social distancing is the perfect excuse not to date. Getting together in person is a risk (in some places, it’s simply not allowed), and a lot of people are too preoccupied right now to prioritize dating anyway.

So let go of any guilt you’ve felt about not dating, or any pressure you feel to stick to a timeline, and redirect that time into keeping yourself healthy and taking care of yourself. Just think of all the hours you’ll save from not swiping for a couple of weeks.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Separated From Your Partner During Coronavirus?

A lot of people have been talking about “love during the time of coronavirus”, a play on “Love In The Time of Cholera,” the title of a book by Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. What happens to relationships right now? How are we supposed to date? What do we do if we’re separated from people we love? How long will we have to social distance from each other?

For many couples, this pandemic means that they are separated due to social distancing, travel restrictions, or mandated confinement/quarantine. Each relationship comes with its own unique set of challenges, but the uncertainty around coronavirus certainly poses a new challenge for couples, whether they just started dating or if they’ve been together for a long time.

If you’re currently separated from your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife or partner because of coronavirus, here are some suggestions for how to keep your relationship healthy while you’re apart.

Remind yourself that everything is temporary.

This quarantine or period of confinement, depending on your geography, will not last forever. The uncertainty is the hardest part for most people, especially if the confinement period keeps getting extended, but this is not how things will be forever. There will be a moment in the future when you’re able to see each other again, so just remind yourself of that if you’re feeling like your relationship is doomed.

Practice gratitude daily.

Though you may be separated, practice gratitude for what you do have. Maybe you had just started dating and you were so excited about an initial spark, or maybe you’ve been together forever and you’re really feeling lonely without them around. Instead of focusing on the distance, focus instead on the fact that you have someone in your life you care about, and that you’ll be able to reunite when it’s safe to do so again.

Lean into the perks of a long-distance relationship.

Relationships can take up a lot of time. During this time where you’re separated, catch up on the stuff that you were procrastinating doing while you were still able to see each other all the time. Maybe you’ve put off some financial things you need to take care of (taxes!), or maybe you have been meaning to catch up with some distant family members on the phone. Use this time apart to focus on areas of your life that you may have neglected.

Meditate

During times of stress and uncertainty, relationships can take a hit. Sometimes we end up taking out frustrations on our partner, or we might feel insecure that we can’t be physically with them. To help you cope with difficult feelings (loneliness, jealousy, abandonment, etc), try to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. You can use an app like Insight Timer, or join one of the many free online mindfulness events this month that are targeted towards people who are stuck at home.

As the saying goes, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Love in the time of coronavirus may not be easy, but take this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with yourself, and in turn, with others. We’re wishing you well.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending now. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

How Coronavirus Is Impacting Relationships And Breakups

Many people around the world are staying home, either voluntarily or because of a mandatory state or national lock-down. It’s an unprecedented event during peace time, and one that is completely foreign to younger generations.

Most Mend users are based in the US, UK or Europe, so we know that the vast majority of our community is at home with greasy hair, working remotely, reading the news obsessively and asking the same questions we’re all asking: When will things be normal again? Am I going to get laid off? How do I keep my immune system strong? Is this the time to try switching to the cup? Why didn’t I pay attention when my grandmother tried to teach me how to cook?

Reaching Out To Your Ex

If you’ve recently gone through a breakup or divorce, you’re probably wondering how your ex is doing with all of this. There may be a pandemic, but heartbreak still persists amidst global crises. Relationships are powerful. Breakups are powerful. And thoughts of our ex don’t just disappear overnight, even if we’re feeling a lot of fear and uncertainty right now. In some ways, fear and uncertainty can make our feelings of heartbreak even more intense.

Maybe you’ve already texted your ex to check in, or maybe you’re considering the impact of doing this. Our exes don’t just disappear from our brains, especially in the wake of a pandemic where we’re all worried about our loved ones (and ex-loved ones). In fact, thoughts about our exes may be even more persistent as we’re craving comfort. It’s normal to fall back onto habits during times of crisis, and it’s normal to crave some comfort from someone who was once in your life. Don’t beat yourself up about doing this. So what to do about it? 

There’s no playbook for what’s right or wrong in terms of communicating with an ex during a time like this, but you do want to watch out that you’re not using the pandemic as an excuse to check up on someone when you know deep down it won’t be healthy for you. Remember that it’s still important to protect your mental health. Consider if there are other loved ones (friends or family) who you can lean on for support during this time, and make sure to pause before reaching out to your ex. Is it really worth it? Will talking to your ex do any good for anyone, or is it just a reflex? Will it change the fact that you’re not together?

The Bright Side Of Social Distancing

For those who have recently gone through a breakup and have struggled with not seeing your ex, this is a rare moment in time where social distancing is the norm. We have created an entire program to help you socially distance yourself from your ex during non-pandemic times (it’s in our app, and also in this class), and now is actually the perfect time to do it. A pandemic  doesn’t make heartbreak easier, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that everyone is being asked to stay home. Meeting up with an ex has real risks right now, and in many places, it’s simply not allowed because it’s non-essential.

How Will Relationships Be Affected?

It will certainly be an important time for all relationships. Some couples who aren’t used to spending as much time together will be finding their way in the coming weeks, as they face each other day in and day out. For some couples, the added stress will likely cause fights.  More divorces and breakups are predicted as a consequence, but for some it will also be an opportunity to spend more quality time together and grow closer. Relationship expert Esther Perel says that couples will need to mindfully navigate the different ways in which they react to crises. Ultimately, all relationships will be tested, and many will come out stronger as a result of this increased time together. There will likely even be a baby boom post-pandemic, as we’ve seen after other similar moments in history.

Turning Inward

Regardless of your relationship status right now, it will be important to keep up the practices that support your mental health, even if your regular routine has been interrupted. For example, if you usually go to yoga or meditation at a studio, make sure you’re still finding ways to practice at home. We’ll be sharing more about how to take care of yourself during this time in another post.

Perhaps, if there has to be one, the silver lining of a pandemic is that it forces you to spend uninterrupted time with yourself and reflect on what’s happening internally. We spend so much of our lives focused outward on non-essential questions: What are my friends doing on Instagram? How does my hair look? Should I buy a new car? Do I need to redecorate my apartment? What does my ex think of me?

But what about all the essential internal questions we are often too afraid or busy to ask: What do I think of myself? What am I doing with my life? How am I contributing to my community? How am I contributing to the world?

Wishing you and your loved ones safety and good health.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can join one of our Mend programs. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Two Online Mindfulness Events You Can Join From Home

With each day that passes, the world continues to shift in a way that is hard to process.

To support you as you cope with this current situation, I wanted to let you know about two events that I highly recommend joining this month. Both invitations were extended to me by organizations that I trust and care deeply about here at Mend, and I hope that many Menders will be able to join and benefit from these free offerings.

Note: These events have passed, but the organizations involved are all continuing to offer support and we encourage you to check out their websites for more information on up-to-date events.

Mindful Living Summit: March 19-22, 2020

With the disruption of life-as-usual, increased uncertainty, and possibly more time to reflect, we wanted to let you know of a free online offering from The Awake Network and Mindful that starts this Thursday.

The Mindful Living Summit is a free online event, March 19-22, 2020, gathering 16+ leading neuroscience experts, mindfulness teachers, and psychologists to explore practical insights, guided mindfulness practices, and helpful tools you can start using right now to cultivate inner-resilience, and strengthen our presence.

We hope this free offering is of benefit to you and a place to engage in an online practice community this coming week!

Register for free here.

In the Footsteps of Thich Nhat Hanh: March 25-29, 2020

You’re invited to join our community for a free 5-day online summit with nine senior Plum Village teachers, hosted by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation in partnership with Lion’s Roar.

If you can’t come to Plum Village, Plum Village will come to you. To help you stay grounded as our lives and communities reorganize. We hope to give you a renewed sense of ease, so that in the midst of uncertainty, you will have a gentle smile on your face, and in the midst of isolation, you will remember that we inter-are.

Thay has touched the hearts of millions with his message of peace, non-violence, and kindness. From difficult beginnings as a Vietnamese monk forced into a life of exile, he has been instrumental in making Buddhism relevant for modern times.

Join us from March 25-29 to experience Thay’s legacy with teachings, meditations, and practices offered by nine senior Dharma teachers he has trained directly. Including Sister Chan Duc, Brother Phap Hai, Brother Phap Dung, Sister Dang Nghiem, Brother Phap Luu, Anh-Huong Nguyen, Shantum Seth, Larry Ward, and Peggy Rowe-Ward, this summit is a rare opportunity to connect deeply with the heart and home of our living Plum Village tradition and community.

Sign up for free to explore 5 key themes and dozens of teachings, guided meditations, and reflections during this online event.

Day 1: Building a Foundation of Mindfulness

Explore Thay’s core teachings on mindfulness, meditation, and walking meditation, supported by guided practices and reflections.

Day 2: Understanding our Mind with Buddhist Psychology

Dive deeper into Thay’s insight into the nature of our minds: How can we relate best to others? How can we bring mindfulness to our media consumption? And how can we work with our own strong emotions?

Day 3: Embodying the Beloved Community: Relationships and Community Building

Get transformative insights into relationships and the importance of community, looking at topics such as the meaning of love, healing the inner child, and how to connect meaningfully and compassionately with others.

Day 4: Interbeing: Tending to Mother Earth

How can we take refuge in the Earth, restoring our sense of ourselves as a part of a bigger picture? Discover concrete strategies to help heal our alienation from the Earth, nourish our gratitude, and dwell happily in the present moment.

Day 5: For a Future to Be Possible

How can we remain mindfully engaged with a world that’s in turmoil? Explore practices and skillful action that can help you bring courage, kindness, and resilience to the greatest challenges of our time.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending now. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Why I (Still) Love Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s week! I wrote this post on a trip to San Francisco several years ago, and it still rings so true. I hope you are able to find some comfort in it.

A couple days ago, I received a text from a girlfriend thanking me for being there for her during a really difficult time about two years ago; it was the anniversary of that day. I received this text as I was on a run in San Francisco, and it made me stop in my tracks because I had just been thinking about her. About three years ago, she helped me through a really difficult time. In fact, the last time we got together in Los Angeles, I went home and wrote this short letter to her:

“I don’t think I ever told you how much you helped me through my break up. So thank you. I met up with you and your girlfriends right after it happened, and I remember that you showed an incredible mix of toughness and tenderness. It was a perfect balance of “Chin up” and “I know the pain you’re going through.” We’ve been through some interesting times together, and I am so happy that some of our memories in SF were intertwined, even if they were hard. Every time I see you, I’m reminded of the light inside you that is always shining and always smiling.”

I never sent it, and I’m not sure why. I finally sent it to her today. And this whole exchange made me realize that I have a lot of valentines to write today, none of which are romantic. There are so many people who have loved me just as a human, not as a girlfriend, or partner, and I am so thankful for those people.

My friends know that Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I get that it’s not a popular opinion. I get why people don’t like today. They don’t like the pressure and the presents and the prix fixe menus. But, for me, Valentine’s Day has never been about those things. When I was little, I threw Valentine’s Day parties for my family every year, and throughout college and my twenties I organized Galentine’s Day celebrations. Valentine’s Day has always been a celebration of non-romantic love for me.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to spend my evening writing valentines. 

Try it. Think about all of the love in your life. Think about all the people who have taken care of your heart. Think about the people who have helped you put it back together when it was shattered into a million pieces. Think about all of the people who have been there for you in your life, in small and big ways. Today is the perfect day to celebrate them, and I hope you do. I know, for me, one type of love that I am so thankful for this year is the love I see between Menders. You all are a truly amazing group, so generous with your compassion, and I feel privileged to know you all.

Lots of love and Happy Valentine’s Day,

Elle

Elle’s Top 10 Valentine’s Day Survival Tips

Valentine’s Day is such a charged holiday for many people, especially if you’re recently heartbroken. It can feel like everyone around you is celebrating romantic love except you. The good news is, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be so isolating. You can actually enjoy the holiday, even if you’re single.

I’ve always used Valentine’s Day to celebrate other types of love, not just romantic love, which is why it’s been one of my favorite holidays since I was 5-years-old. I want you to feel that same positive energy on February 14, so I’m sharing my top 10 tips for surviving (and enjoying) Valentine’s Day.

1. Plan healthy distractions.

Social support is so crucial to feeling better if you’re struggling through heartbreak on Valentine’s Day. Making plans with friends or family will be a healthy distraction. Plus, you’ll be surrounded by people who love you.

2. Touch base with your loved ones.

Life gets busy, and sometimes we forget to remind our loved ones how much they mean to us. Use Valentine’s Day to reach out to the people who’ve always been supportive and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life.

3. Take a social media break.

Social media can be toxic for the broken-hearted on Valentine’s Day. Taking a break from Instagram will not only prevent you from being bombarded with everyone else’s V-Day plans, but it’ll also free up some of your time to actually do something special for yourself.

4. Celebrate other types of love.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about romantic love. We are surrounded by so much other love in our lives. You can shift the meaning of Valentine’s Day for you and honor all the other love in your life, like your family, best friends, coworkers, neighbors, and other people in your community.

5. Spend time building towards your Mend monument.

What better day than February 14 to dedicate some time to your Mend monument? We encourage all Menders to pick a goal, something they can build towards as they mend from their heartbreak. If your Mend monument is to run a marathon, then lace up your sneakers and go for a run.

6. Get outside.

We’ve written a lot about the healing benefits of nature. If you’re feeling overwhelmed on V-Day, go for a walk or a hike. The fresh air and greenery will help you feel more at ease. Maybe even gift yourself a really pretty plant for your house.

7. Prioritize your self care.

Has it been a while since you last treated yourself to a mani/pedi? Don’t remember the last time you got a deep tissue massage? Have you been skipping your workouts? Carve out some time on February 14 to do the things that make you feel your best.

8. Don’t beat yourself up if uncomfortable feelings come up.

Your ex may pop up in your thoughts or seeing other couples may cause you to ruminate on your last relationship. Don’t shame yourself for feeling the way you do. Take a few minutes to honor your feelings and even let out some tears if you need to. Try to set an amount of time to feel all the feelings, and when that time is up, go back to focusing on your self care and plans with friends!

9. Journal about how you feel.

Journaling is so helpful, which is why it’s part of the daily Mend practice. It can help you gain a better understanding of why you feel the way you do and process your emotions as they come up.

10. Treat yourself like you would a best friend.

Something that often gets lost on us is how kindly we treat our friends and how tough we are on ourselves. Consider how you would treat a best friend if they were heartbroken on Valentine’s Day, and treat yourself with that same kindness.

Finding Gratitude for Heartbreak on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Menders. Many years ago, when I first started Mend, I spent this holiday in San Francisco and wrote this note to the small group of family and friends who were my very first Mend subscribers (before we even had a wesite!)  I’m so grateful for all that has happened between then and now and I’m so grateful for all of you. Have a wonderful holiday. Love, Elle.

“Be thankful for every heartbreak, for they were planned. They come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. Their purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. And you do.” —Unknown

Going back to a city that you gave a chunk of your life to is always bittersweet. There are so many memories in every corner. For me, moving to San Francisco from Boston was a transformative experience. I had just ended a serious relationship, in part because we weren’t right for each other, and in part because I wanted to move to California and he didn’t want to go with me. I knew the move west was right for me professionally and personally, and I was determined to get there, even if that meant going alone and leaving pieces of my heart on the floor.

I was so heartbroken when I arrived, but San Francisco and the people that I met here took me in graciously and got me back on my feet. I don’t know what I would have done without this place. In fact, my only steady love interest in the first year of living here was the city herself; the breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the magic of Dolores Park on Sundays, the damp running trails of Golden Gate Park and the way the city looked as you approached from the Bay Bridge. My love affair with California continues to this day, though this year I made my way down the coast to warmer weather.

As I was walking through the city yesterday, I caught sight of places where I’d been on first dates, thirtieth dates, birthday dinners and lazy weekend afternoons. There is a part of remembering those moments with significant others that is painful, but these days I mostly feel gratitude. Without those people, I would not be where I am now. I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and I mentioned the memories that had come rushing in when I returned and how I couldn’t believe things had worked out the way that they did. She said something like, “It can’t be any different from exactly how it is.” And that’s so true of our experience with heartbreak.

Every time our heart is broken, we are changed. We have to face ourselves and then, eventually, have the courage to face someone else again and lay it all on the line. And the amazing part is that we do that, over and over. So today, even if it seems impossible, I challenge you to express gratitude for all the heartbreak that has led you to this very moment. Without it, we would certainly not know ourselves as we know ourselves now.

It’s Officially Breakup Season, According to Facebook

If we refer back to historical  Facebook status data, we are just about to enter the second major peak in breakups of the year.

The first peak, dubbed the “Spring Clean,” occurs in March, but the second largest occurs about two weeks before the winter holidays. Right about now.

Why? It could be a lot of things. Maybe these breakups occur to avoid The Meeting of the Families. Maybe the vacation days are seen as a “good” time to breakup because both people will be surrounded by the comforts of home and family. Or maybe it’s time for a fresh start, with the New Year just around the corner. 

Regardless, if this data is any indication of what will happen this year, we are likely to see more breakups in the coming weeks than usual. It’s so common, in fact, that breakups this week have their own name:  the “turkey drop.”

So if you find yourself in this group, know that you are not alone. You are in good company, and you’re going to make it through the next few months. 

The first thing to acknowledge is that the holiday season may feel different if you’re used to spending it with a partner in crime. You might be thinking: Who will save me from the awkward conversation with Jill at Thanksgiving? Who will help me plan the ugly sweater potluck? Who will keep me company on that long red eye home? Who will I kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?

It’s normal to ask these questions and feel anxious about the answers, but if you find yourself stuck in a rut for too long, here are some ideas for getting unstuck.

1. Focus on family and friends.

No family is perfect and many families these days are a melting pot of humans, some related and some not. This is the group that is always there for you, regardless of your relationship status. So take the time this year to focus on giving love and attention to them, especially the ones who are also not in romantic relationships.

Sit down with your older relatives and ask them questions about their lives so that you don’t have to make up 50% of the story when you try to re-tell it to friends. Go through old photo albums with your cousins and relive funny memories. Learn how to make that life changing bread that your uncle makes from scratch so that you can go home and make it for yourself. 

Your attention is the best gift you can give someone this time of year, and you luckily have more attention to dole out at family and friend gatherings this year if you’re single. Enjoy it, because you don’t know how long it will last. 

2. Focus on those in need

There are a lot of people around you who will have difficulty making it through the holidays too, and it’s not because they’re going through a breakup. Many people, and the organizations that help those people, could use an extra hand during the holiday season.

Whether you donate your time, talent or money, giving to others is a great tradition to start this holiday season and keep going throughout the year. Many companies get involved with non-profit organizations during the holidays, so ask around the office and see how you can contribute or get something started. If you want to volunteer but don’t know where to go, check out the listings at Volunteer Match.

3. Plan ahead for solo travel

If you usually travel home or go on vacation with your significant other for the holidays, you might find travel plans a bit more daunting this year. Instead of focusing on all of the people who are coupled up around you at the airport or train station, plan ahead and keep yourself occupied.

Make playlists for long rides. Get into a podcast. Write your holiday cards. Read that book you’ve had on your nightstand for a year, or, even more comforting, download the audio book and listen to it. If you’re feeling lonely as you make your way from point A to point B, call a few friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with and wish them happy holidays.

Most important, make sure that you proactively make plans for the big holiday days in November and December if you are staying local. Even if it’s just ordering takeout with a few friends who are also staying in town, it’s important that you don’t isolate yourself, even if you feel like staying in bed till 2020.

Remember, you have the unique opportunity to shift your focus from your ex to people that you may not have prioritized when you were coupled up (your family, your friends, strangers and yourself). Take it!

Lisbon, Comporta & the Alentejo Region: Travel Guide

Had I known what I was missing, I would have made it to southern Portugal sooner.

Luckily, one of my best friends got married in southern Spain in March, which gave me the excuse to fly to Lisbon and tack on a long weekend trip post-wedding. I spent a day happily meandering up and down the cobblestone streets of Lisbon, but truthfully I was more interested in what lay a few hours south in the Alentejo region.

The first thing that you notice when you leave bustling Lisbon for Comporta is that after about an hour the development starts to dissipate and then disappear along the coastline. No high rise condos, no giant highways and no shopping centers. When I learned more about the region, I began to understand that development has been carefully restricted along this part of the coast to preserve the natural habitat. 

This is one of the many reasons I’ve chosen Cocoon Portugal in the Alentejo region of Portugal as our home for the next Mend Away retreat. Our retreat next March is all about unplugging, slowing down and reconnecting with our natural rhythms. Mend Away Portugal is a 7-day yoga and mindfulness retreat, open to you whether you’re mending, single or coupled.

Though our retreat will have a daily schedule – twice daily yoga, daily meditation, three meals a day – there will be plenty of time to explore the neighboring area. So in anticipation of that retreat, I’m sharing my favorite places in Lisbon (where we’ll fly into), Comporta (the halfway point) and near Vila Nova de Milfontes (where we’re staying).

WHERE TO STAY IN LISBON, COMPORTA & THE ALENTEJO REGION

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Cocoon Portugal (Alentejo) – This beautiful 275-acre coastal farm and yoga retreat will be our home during our week-long retreat next March. It’s my #1 pick for where to stay in this region for a number of reasons: farm-to-table meals from their garden, proximity to the beach, beautiful yoga shalas with high quality equipment, access to a freshwater lake and well-designed rooms and common spaces that all open to a courtyard. Not to mention, the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, and they’re focused on sustainability and preserving the beauty of this region.

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Sublime Comporta (Comporta)- If you want to spend a few extra days in Comporta before or after the retreat, this is a luxurious place to decompress. Tucked away in what feels like a national park, the grounds include a main communal area with a lobby, bar and restaurant. From there, guests can walk out to the large pool and guest rooms that are dotted around the property. The pool, spa and restaurant are all world-class, which makes it easy to stay there during your whole stay, but I highly recommend taking day trips to the nearby pristine beaches.

Airbnb (Lisbon) – If you’ll be in Lisbon before or after the retreat, there are a lot of affordable and cute Airbnbs if you book with enough time in advance. I recommend staying in Alfama, a more historical cobble-stoned street neighborhood that sits near the water.

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Memmo Alfama (Lisbon) – If you’re looking for something more upscale or full service in Lisbon, try the Memmo. This beautifully-designed boutique hotel has an unbeatable view of the ocean from their outdoor terrace and is well-situated in the heart of the Alfama neighborhood. If you’d rather avoid a more traditional hotel, check out the houses from Dear Lisbon.

WHERE TO EAT + DRINK IN LISBON, COMPORTA & THE ALENTEJO REGION

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Restaurante Sal (Comporta) – Sal is one of those places where you feel like you’ve struck gold. Tucked away on Pego Beach with no neighbors, you park in a small lot off the main road and walk the rest of the way along a small boardwalk. Once inside, you enter an oasis full of lively tables of families and friends, even in low season. You order simply by picking your fish and sides, and they grill everything for you while you look out onto the ocean. I went here as many times as I could and that still wasn’t enough. If you’re joining us for the retreat, I recommend you give yourself enough time to enjoy a meal here either on your way down from Lisbon or on your way back (or both!)

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Comporta Cafe (Comporta) – Comporta Cafe is a relaxed beach club that serves great food and cocktails, and it’s another great pit stop to make in Comporta on your drive from Lisbon to Cocoon. You can relax directly on the beach or grab a table on the outdoor patio. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, and they even have showers if you decide to take a dip in the ocean.

A Choupana (Alentejo/Vila de Novo Milfontes) – If you didn’t stop for lunch in Comporta on your way south from Lisbon to the retreat, you can also swing by this local favorite restaurant closer to Cocoon. It’s a great spot to grab lunch and kill some time before check in.

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A Cevicheria (Lisbon) – This restaurant in the heart of a trendy neighborhood is where I had the ceviche of my dreams. It came highly recommended by a friend and it exceeded my expectations, despite some mixed reviews about service online. The fusion ceviche here is inventive, and the setting is fun (I mean, there’s a giant octopus sculpture hanging over your head!) I recommend making a stop here for a nice lunch or dinner if you’ll be in Lisbon before or after the retreat, and they don’t take reservations, so go as soon as they open.

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Hello, Kristof (Lisbon) – If you’re needing a caffeine kick, this is the spot to go. Arguably the best coffee in Lisbon, it’s also a great place to eat a pastry while you enjoy their fantastic selection of indie mags. Just keep in mind that they’re only open on weekdays, so if you need weekend coffee head to one of the Copenhagen Coffee Lab locations around town or The Mill.

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Timeout Market Lisboa (Lisbon) – If you’re looking for an affordable and quick bite, this is a food court on steroids where you can get practically any type of cuisine you want. There are many options from famous Portuguese chefs, which makes it a nice stop if you don’t have a lot of time to dine in Lisbon. They also do salsa nights from time to time! A few noteworthy stalls: Manteigaria (for pasteis de nata), Sea Me (for seafood), Santini (for ice cream) and Conserveira de Lisboa (a famous conserva shop).

Landeau Chocolate (Lisbon) – Their slogan is “If nothing else works, try chocolate cake,” which means I’m a huge fan. Go for their cake but be sure to try their other chocolate confections as well. They have a few different locations throughout Lisbon, but I recommend the one in LX Factory, which is a cool shopping, eating and art center in a converted warehouse.

WHAT TO DO IN LISBON, COMPORTA & THE ALENTEJO REGION

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Hike Along Costa Vicentina (Comporta/Alentejo) – To fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region where we’ll be retreating, I recommend using some of your free time between yoga sessions to hike one of the many trails along the Atlantic coast. Cocoon recommends the Fishermen’s Trail, which Conde Nast has called one of the 6 most beautiful coastal trails in the world, so that’s the one I’ll be checking out myself. If you plan to hike during the retreat, be sure to pack sneakers/hiking shoes, a hat, sunscreen/sunglasses and layers for the wind.

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Surf, Kayak + Standup Paddle Board (Alentejo)- If you’re joining us at Cocoon, the team there will help arrange surfing lessons, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding for you. There are a few spots nearby that are great for surfing: Praia Malhao and Furnas Beach. 

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Horseback Riding (Alentejo) – There is a wonderful and humane equestrian center about 10-12 minutes away from Cocoon, so they can arrange horseback riding for an hour or more, up to five guests at a time. The ride goes from Cabo Sardao lighthouse to Almograve, and Cocoon will help you book this in advance. Horseback riding is best in the spring or fall when it’s not too hot, so March (retreat time) will be perfect weather for this!

Reiki (Alentejo) – Our very own retreat co-host and meditation teacher, Sara Shah, will also be offering individual reiki sessions as add on treatments during your time at Cocoon. If you’re not familiar, reiki is energy healing that was developed in Japan as a form of alternative medicine.

Thai Massage (Alentejo)- Cocoon has an experienced Thai bodyworker on staff who can offer add on treatments for retreat guests. This is a great way to unwind, especially after a day of hiking or surfing (or doing nothing!)

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Sintra (outside of Lisbon) – If you’ll be in Lisbon for longer than a day or two, you might consider taking a day trip to the nearby town of Sintra, whose main passage is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a former royal retreat and has a fairytale-esque quality. Don’t miss the national palace, from which you can catch the most incredible views of the neighboring region. To get there, you can take a train, car or (if you’re adventurous) scooter/vespa.

Nothing – This is by far the main reason to come to this part of the world: with the backdrop of the Alentejo region, you can unwind and dip your toes into a slower way of living – one that isn’t centered around “doing,” but instead one that is more centered around simply “being.” Though our retreat will be filled with wonderful activities that I’m looking forward to, there will also be plenty of time to do nothing. And I’m very much looking forward to this. I hope you’ll join us.

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How Gratitude Helps You in Hard Times

It’s not that difficult to feel grateful when things are going smoothly. But what about when they’re not? What about when a relationship ends? Or you lose your job? Or you receive unfortunate news?

Gratitude can be a difficult quality to feel when you are really sad or unhappy, but as you’ll read today, you can still be grateful even when you’re not feeling particularly grateful. In fact, a consistent gratitude practice, through good times and bad, is one of the most powerful tools to improve your health and increase your happiness, and it’s a practice you can start right now. Here’s some inspiration…

“Basically, just thinking about how you could be grateful sparks brain activity critical to sleep, mood regulation and metabolism. Next time something bad happens and you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, guess what? Just the act of searching for gratitude is beneficial.”

– Carrie Clark on how gratitude changes your brain and gets easier the more you practice it.

“…It is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to be feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. Feelings follow from the way we look at the world, thoughts we have about the way things are, the way things should be, and the distance between those two points. But being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes this perspective is hard to achieve–but my research says it is worth the effort.”

-Dr. Robert Emmons on how gratitude can help you through hard times (greatergood.berkeley.edu)

“In fact, an attitude of gratitude can not only help you increase positive emotion, but also sustain it. Heck, ice cream can make us happy in the moment but gratitude leads to long-term happiness.”

-Dr. Emma Seppälä shares 13 science-backed benefits of gratitude and a wonderful guided meditation (emmaseppala.com)

“…the most fundamental practice to quickly transform your life — any time of year — is gratitude.  A deep and genuine sense of appreciation for what you have in your life.”

-Marie Forleo shares one simple and effective gratitude practice in this week’s episode of Marie TV (marieforleo.com)

Mend With Us IRL At Our First Mend Away Experience: A Breakup Retreat

I will never forget the way I felt on my very first post-breakup trip. It was 9 years ago, and I was heartbroken over a rocky relationship that was in the off-again phase. My friend had received a Groupon deal (remember them?) for a spa weekend at a Vermont B&B, and we booked it on a whim. We were both wrestling with tenuous relationships, as seems to be in vogue in your twenties, and my friend thought some nature and space would be a good distraction.

I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I remember a few things about how that weekend made me feel – I remember feeling brief moments of relief as we made our way further out of the city of Boston and into nature, away from our ordinary routines. It was fall when we went, and I remember feeling gratitude for the beautiful foliage I could see from the car window as we blasted music (scream therapy). I also remember being moved to tears as the bottled-up emotions left my body during a massage.

Above all, I remember feeling the quality and depth of the bond my friend and I cultivated on that trip. I remember how it felt to be able to have long conversations with each other, over Bananagrams, and how special it was that we had created this safe space to mourn, reassess and reconnect with ourselves away from all distractions.

Since then, I’ve taken many post-breakup trips—yoga retreats, meditation retreats, staycations, far away adventures. Of course, none of these trips were designed specifically for heartbreak, but that was my secret reason for going. Each trip has provided important support during a transitional time and I treasure these moments I’ve created for myself over the past decade.

I’ve always wanted to help Menders have these moments as well, which is why I’m so excited about Mend Away, something I’ve been dreaming about for years.

This fall we’re partnering with our friends at Behere for our very first Mend Away experience called Self where 12 female-identifying Menders will come together from all corners of the world to live, work, play, and Mend abroad in Barcelona (October 2019).

We’ve partnered with Behere because we truly believe in their mission to support people who want to live, travel, and work abroad. We’ve worked closely with them to put together a special experience that Menders won’t forget!

Self is an experience with intention, meant to support Menders wherever they are on their mending journey. We’ve worked closely with Behere to create wellness programming that will help you reconnect with and rebuild yourself.

The experience includes a fully furnished apartment to call home for 30 days, in a neighborhood vetted by our partner Behere. Access to a bright, airy, and modern coworking space is also included in your experience. We’ll offer group outings, but there will also be plenty of unstructured time for you to go sightseeing on your own.

The most unique part of our experience will be felt through all of the self care activities built into Self . You’ll be offered yoga classes, meditation sessions, and two workshop tracks: Breakup Support or Finding Love, among other wellness programming.

If you haven’t yet caught up on all the details, be sure to visit Mend Away: Self for more information. If you’re interested in joining us in Barcelona this fall, be sure to sign up soon, as we received an overwhelming amount of interest and have very limited spots.

I look forward to welcoming you in Barcelona!

All the best,

Elle

Mend’s Year in Review 2018

As a team, our hope is that we continue to meet you where you are on your breakup journey, which means we like to stay on top of the trends among Menders. It helps us help you, and also provides valuable insight on heartbreak and self care. 

Just like everyone else, we like to take some time to reflect on the year that’s behind us. Below we’re sharing some of the most interesting facts we learned about our amazing community of Menders!

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Writer Lindsey Tramuta on Mending in Paris

I had the great pleasure of interviewing the lovely Lindsey Tramuta, the writer behind the very popular Lost In Cheeseland blog and voice of The New Paris podcast. She is also the author of the best-selling book The New Paris, and The New Parisiennes (out July 2020). She has a pulse on the real Paris that you don’t see on Instagram. If you love Paris or plan to visit, be sure to check her books beforehand.

In her own words, “I’m a Paris transplant from Philadelphia who fell in love with a Frenchman and moved to Paris. Cliché, right?”

Not to us! Her story is as dreamy as her blog, and when I stumbled upon one of her older posts where she mentioned she initially arrived in Paris after a breakup, I knew she would have some wisdom to share.

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Ellen: When you moved to Paris, where did you like to go solo? Were there places you went or things you did that helped you heal?

Lindsey: When I moved to Paris, I had already met someone new actually. And while I was still healing and wondering if this fresh connection would develop into something sustainable, I was willing to let him lead the way. As a Parisian, he had a firm grasp on the city so I kept an open mind and followed him to cafés, restaurants, bars and parks. I was simultaneously getting to know him and my new city.

Ellen: Heartbreak is universal but the way that it’s handled can be different depending on where you are. Since you’ve been living in France for many years now, do you notice any differences in the way the French handle breakups from what you were accustomed to in the States?

Lindsey: From what I’ve observed, the French are quick to wear their emotions – heartbreak or joy – on their sleeves. As a people, I generally find them to be more self-reflexive and in touch with their feelings so a breakup is treated as an unfortunate life event that will ultimately teach you something or make you stronger. Their approach for healing, however, seems to be similar to the way Americans would handle their pain: they surround themselves with close friends and keep living, keep pushing forward. Perhaps the sole difference between the two is that the French tend not to wallow the way Americans might.

Ellen: If you had to send one thing to a friend who had just been broken up with, what would it be?

Lindsey: My time and patience – friends in the throes of heartache require their loved ones to invest their time in listening, understanding, commiserating and sharing advice. It isn’t a magic cure but it’s the most important element to getting on the right path toward healing.

Ellen: Knowing what you know now, what would you say to the 7-years-ago version of yourself that was “smarting from heartbreak”?

Lindsey: It WILL be okay. Things WILL play out the way they are meant to. Just hold on, beautiful things await.

We couldn’t agree more.

An At-Home Uplifting Post-Breakup Workout To Try

Exercise is a key part of healing after heartbreak because it helps boost hormones that make us feel happier and calmer during times of stress. Some of you will find solace in going to the gym or heading to group barre class, but we also know that a lot of you will not do this after a breakup. Maybe your ex works out at your gym, maybe you don’t feel like leaving home or maybe the price menu at Soul Cycle doesn’t fit your budget.

Whatever your reason for not working out, we have a fitness hack for you and it’s a wonderful human named Cassey Ho.

Cassey makes motivating, fun, and effective video workouts especially for YouTube, which means they are free and you can do them from your living room in stained yoga pants. She was one of the first big fitness influencers, and she’s stayed true to herself as her audience has grown. Her site is chock full of information on wellness, fitness, and nutrition, but you can also just stick to her YouTube channel.

If you want more of a “trainer” experience, you can download the Blogilates app to access her workout videos, a calendar that helps you organize her videos into a workout plan and healthy recipes.

We are a little ashamed to admit that her style was almost too pink and silly for us when we first visited her channel, but we now love her and know she’s a really tough cookie. If you don’t believe us, just try one of her squat challenges.

A Breakup Yoga Routine From Yoga With Adriene

When you’re really feeling the pain of heartbreak, we think this is the perfect body+soul cocktail. All you need is the internet, a mat and a quiet area to practice. Sweatpants optional.

30 min Yoga for Relaxation

The chemicals we release during exercise make us feel better, but sometimes it’s hard to get moving when you’re in a lot of pain. If you’re at rock bottom and there’s no way you’re going to get out, start with this slow and gentle routine from Yoga with Adrienne. She is our favorite YouTube Yogi, and this one is especially meant for people feeling blue.

20 min Guided Meditation to Mend a Broken Heart

When you’re done with yoga, move into a seated position either on your mat or in a chair and begin this meditation with Brett Larkin, a yogi and tech CEO based in the Bay Area. If you’ve never meditated, this is a great beginner’s meditation – she quietly focuses on breathing and compassion to calm anxiety and make you feel less alone in your experience of heartbreak.

10 min Take Inventory + Hydrate

When you’re done, notice how you feel, both physically and mentally. Do you feel better? Make yourself a cup of herbal tea or get a glass of water, and remember this feeling next time you need motivation to get moving.

When You Feel Like You Can’t Make It Over The Hump

Every day I am faster. Every day I go longer. Every day it hurts less.

I started running at sunset after my last breakup. It had been a while. I hadn’t made time for this ritual in the last months of my relationship because I was busy with so many other things. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it.

On my first run, I could barely make it to the beach. I was in such poor shape, sleep-deprived, and stressed. My lungs hurt. My body, though thin from sadness, felt impossibly heavy. I was running through water. I had to stop once, and then again, and then again. I saw the sunset, but it felt empty. I felt nothing.

The next day, it felt the same.

The day after that, it felt the same.

But the day after that, I made it to the beach without stopping. I was still slow, but I felt lighter. My lungs hurt, but I had more energy. I enjoyed myself for two whole minutes before I started thinking about how exhausted I was. I didn’t stay to watch the entire sunset, though. I just wanted to go home.

The week after, I made it to the beach at full speed. I hopped up the curb of the final block. I felt stronger. I watched the sunset and, though I felt sad, I could see that it was beautiful. I felt a part of me coming back. I had made it over the hump.

Today, I made it to the beach in record time and I just kept going. I forged a new path, a route I’ve never run before. I saw new houses and new people. My body felt light and strong. My breathing was calm. I forgot I was running. Instead, I focused on the sunset. I marveled at all of the colors and how quickly they changed. I sprinted the last block home, smiling.

Every day I am faster. Every day I go longer. Every day it hurts less.

This is how I feel about running, and this is also how I feel about heartbreak.

At first, you will not think you can make it through a minute. But then you do. Then you make it through an hour. Then you make it through a day.

Maybe the next day doesn’t feel better, but a few days later you will feel lighter. You will be able to enjoy a fleeting moment.  After more days, your appetite will be back. You will sleep again. You will start to enjoy beauty again. You will laugh again. 

One random day may knock you down, and you will wonder if you’re making any progress. On that day, you will need to be extra kind to yourself. 

Eventually, though, you will go minutes and then hours and then days without thinking about your heartbreak.  You will forge a new path, a new route, and you will keep going. You will make it over the hump.

The Pink Dress

It hits me at 6:32, two minutes after I wake up. For two whole minutes it was like it hadn’t happened. I cry until 9, muffling my sounds with a pillow and wondering if my roommate can hear, yet feeling some comfort that I’m not completely alone. I scroll through the photos on my phone from the last 9 months. I’m thankful (for the first time) that I’ve lost so many phones and my gallery doesn’t go back 3 years. So much happiness is in these photos and yet I see the sadness in the most recent ones; the heavy, anxious, nauseating sadness that comes from getting back together and realizing it still isn’t working.

I snap up, strip my bed and say to myself: ‘You aren’t getting back in bed today.’ (But I do, that afternoon, without sheets.) I catch a glimpse of mascara on my pillowcase from earlier that week when I cried while rehearsing our break up — I knew it was coming and I was preparing for battle. I whispered in the dark for hours, going through all the things you might say, though I didn’t expect your ultimate line. I hadn’t rehearsed for ‘I’m not in love with you.’

I throw the pillowcase down and make my way to my car outside so that I can call you in privacy. You pick up and my questions spill out: ‘Do you mean it?’ ‘Is this forever?’ ‘When did you stop loving me?’ I reach a low point: ‘Do you believe people can fall in and out of love?’ I mumble about a Gwyneth Paltrow interview where she said she has fallen in and out of love throughout her marriage. ‘I think it was Vogue. Or Vanity Fair.’ You’re pained at my desperation: ‘Ellen, stop. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you. I am moving on. I will move on and find someone else. You will also move on and find someone else.’ Someone else. You don’t want me. You want someone else. I hang up and fling the door open, gasping for air. I call my Mom, she picks up and I cry as she sits there patiently, listening and knowing.

Days later, I unpack the bags you gave me the night we broke up. One bag with clothes. One bag with my toothbrush, books and an eyeliner you had tried to sharpen for me with a knife because I had forgotten my sharpener. I pause. Why would you have tried so hard to sharpen it if you didn’t love me? I throw it away and start to hang the clothes in my closet. I linger on the pink dress because it still smells like you. I wore that dress to the ballet that we giggled through just last month. I bought that dress because you told me I never wore pink. I hated wearing pink. For a split second, I see all of that for what it is. I feel angry at you for wanting me to wear it and I feel angry at myself for wearing it. I realize then that at some point, the dress will smell like my closet again, and I will no longer think about you or the ballet when I smell it. I put it away in the furthest corner, knowing that it will be out of rotation; it will take some time for you to seep out and for me to come back in.

How Breakups Change As You Get Older

Breaking up at 28 is different than breaking up at 21.

At 21, I needed to know why. I wanted to know if there was someone else.  I wanted to know what happened. What happened exactly. 

I thought asking questions would make it better. I thought talking to my friends would make it better. I thought ruminating would help me figure it out or understand the sequence of events or solve for x.  

I thought that love was all that mattered; that we must have fallen out of love.

I wanted to know if you had already told people. I wanted to know what you were going to tell people. I was horrified at the thought of others discussing what happened, speculating at what went wrong. I thought everyone cared. I rushed to tell people because I wanted to look “okay” and “strong” and “fine”.

I wanted to know what I could have done differently. I took a breakup as a sign that something was wrong with me. I was at fault. I could have been nicer. I could have been happier. I could have been more understanding. I could have been more carefree. I could have been whatever you wanted, or needed, or desired. I was up for that challenge. I thought that your happiness was more important than mine. 

There was anger, jealousy and resentment. 

I wanted to keep you in focus. I called. I looked for you when I walked down the street. I wanted you to see me, to see what you were missing. I wanted to know what moving on looked like for you.  I wanted to beat you there.

But at 28, breaking up is different.

At 28, I am okay not knowing why. I know there is no one else. I know that no realization or disclosure of a previously missed detail will change what happened.

I know that asking questions of you or myself will not make it better. Talking with my friends will not make it better. Ruminating will not give me clarity or help me understand the sequence of events or help me solve for x.

I know that we didn’t fall out of love; that love has nothing to do with whether a relationship works.

I don’t care what people think, hear or say about what happened. I know that though it is a monumental moment in my life, it is just another moment for everyone else, even those closest to me. I take my time in telling people. I allow myself to be vulnerable: “Yes, I’m sad.” “Yes, it’s sad.”

I know that there are a million things we both could have done differently, but that it doesn’t do us any good to dwell on them. I take a breakup as a sign that something was wrong with our relationship; not with you and not with me. I know that we both could have been happier, nicer, more understanding and more carefree. But we were human. We were just doing the best that we could. I know that we could have been whatever the other wanted, or needed, or desired, but that we would have lost ourselves in that challenge. 

And at 28, I am not up for that challenge. I realize that my happiness is just as important as yours. 

There is a bit of anger, but not at you. There is a bit of resentment, but not at you. My fist shakes at the universe for handing me something with an expiration date. Mostly, there is just undirected sadness.

I keep you as out of focus as possible. I don’t call. I don’t look for you. I know that we must give each other space. I don’t want either of us to see what we are missing, to see what we’ve left behind. I don’t need to know what moving on looks like for you. I don’t need to beat you there.

At 28, this place of heartbreak feels so familiar, like an old scar, tingly to the touch. Yes, I’ve been here before. No, it isn’t less painful. No, it isn’t less sad. But, yes, I do know my way around this place, and I now know how to gently make my way home.

Four Women Answer: “Do You Unfollow Exes on Social Media?”

Ah, the eternal question: Should I unfollow my ex on Instagram?

Okay maybe it’s not eternal, but it is definitely a sign of modern breakups.

Here’s what I think.  I strongly believe that if you want to move on as quickly as possible, you need to unfollow in the short term. You can always re-follow if you want to be friends later, and I believe any friend worth having would understand this need for space to get your bearings. This is actually the solution backed up by addiction research, but I know a lot of people don’t follow this advice for various reasons. 

In the past, for me, it was pride that kept me from un-following. The inner dialogue there being: “Obviously I am totally fine and doing so well after our breakup because I am still following you on Instagram…look at how great I’m doing…I’m even liking these pictures that are actually making me die a little inside…!”

I talked to three other friends about how they deal with exes and social media, and here’s what they said: 

Friend #1:

“Not even kidding, was JUST talking about this last night. I think I fall in your camp.

I think it’s a personal decision, so it’s hard to tell someone what’s the right and wrong thing to do for them given the situation and the relationship. but I know that for me, when I was pseudo breaking up recently, I was all about the deleting/unfollowing. and it kind of helped me feel more in control in the “I DGAF what it looks like, I’m gonna unfollow you and don’t need you to chime in about my decisions sort of way.”

But, one thing to keep in mind is that on Insta, even if you block someone, you can still see what they post if you can’t fight the urge to lurk. and that sucked and was too tantalizing to resist.

That is my gut reaction/response. Unfollow//delete//delete//delete!”

Friend #2:

“Such a great question! I would have to say it’s going to depend on the person’s personality and attachment system. For me, for example, knowing that I’m more anxious than others, the best and healthiest approach would probably be to un-friend/unfollow because the more I see posted about that POI, the more I want to see them again. It makes me crave intimacy and remember all the ‘good times.’ Not the best result. On the other hand, usually if I’m the one doing the breaking-up, I feel more secure in my decision and seeing their activity on social networks isn’t all that painful.

I guess a great option is blocking the other person so they don’t think you’re being dramatic by cutting them off. You also don’t want to post incessantly just to appear in their stream and thus look pathetic slash lonely…It’s a hard balance to achieve.”

Friend #3:

“In the past I’ve taken the route of “liking” every freaking Instagram post, thinking it proved how over I was about everything, even though I hated it all/I was digging a deeper emotional wound. Pride is a killer. I now would “unfollow” and delete everything. I know personally for me, that the best way for me to heal is not to become saturated in what was and force myself to move on.

For others I think that is a deeply personal decision and varies based on the relationship and temperament of the person. I would encourage a complete social purge of an ex to a friend but understand in certain cases why that probably won’t happen or will happen later in the future (I think most do eventually over time).”

What It Feels Like When You’re Really Over Someone

Years ago, I was running through Golden Gate Park alone. It was a really sunny, beautiful Friday afternoon and I was trying to beat the San Francisco fog that enveloped my part of the city daily. I was also in a rush because I had a second date that night I was really excited about. I was thinking about what I was going to wear and where we were going to eat. I was feeling really good.

I didn’t have my contacts in, but suddenly my peripheral vision registered my ex down the road. I knew that body and how it moved almost better than I knew my own. I paused and leaned against a nearby tree, pretending to stretch. They were running across the street in the opposite direction, going fast like me and looking like they were feeling equally as good; great, even.

After a few seconds, they passed by and I slowly peeled myself off the tree and made my way home. My walk turned into a run and then my run turned into a sprint. As I got closer to my apartment, I skipped my normal five-minute stretch in the lobby and bounded up the stairs. I called out to my roommate to see if I was alone (I was), and then went in my room, closed the door and leaned against it. After a few minutes of trying to catch my breath, my breathing turned into crying.

For so long, without even fully realizing it, I had been telling myself in my head that my mourning period was over. I was over this person. There was no reason to be sad anymore. I was done with my stages of grief, wasn’t I? But in that moment, I lay down on the floor, fully sprawled in sweaty running gear, and just let myself cry. I cried about all the little memories that had popped up over the last several months when I hadn’t let myself grieve. I cried because it was really over. I cried because we were strangers.

I mostly cried because I was happy, something I had initially thought impossible without this person. I cried because I had just seen someone, a person who used to be my best friend, live their life without me (and me without them). And we were both doing really well — well enough, in fact, that we were both sprinting happily through the very same park. And I no longer wanted anything to do with that person, that life. I had no desire to chase after them.

That’s what it feels like when you’re really over someone. Perhaps the opposite of love isn’t indifference, full stop. Perhaps the opposite of love is the sadness you feel in realizing you’re thoroughly okay with letting them pass you by.

#howimend: An Interview Series on How People Mend

I’m so excited to share our new column #howimend!

When you’re the founder of a startup that deals with heartbreak, you hear a lot of stories about heartbreak. Too many to count, really, though I’m trying.  Sometimes I wish I could just package up all that has been shared with me in the last few years and share it with you directly. 

I wish that I could share the conversations I’ve had over coffee with my mom, the conversations I’ve had on long drives with my closest friends, the conversations I’ve had on buses/trains/planes/automobiles with complete strangers. Something very magical happens when two people talk about heartbreak. We all open up, we all relate, we all have something to say. We’ve all been there. 

What I’ve learned is that, while everyone mends heartbreak differently, there are some common threads. Friends. Family. Self Improvement. Spirituality. Exercise. To name a few. 

Beyond those common threads, every path to whole heartedness is so different. I’ve talked with so many people, and no story is alike. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. And this is why we’re launching a new column at Mend where we ask lots of different people about how they’ve dealt with heartbreak.  Reading this column will feel like you’re sitting down with a friend, in a cozy corner of a cafe. 

We’ve got a great first round of interviews to share, starting with our interview of Alexandra Lee. In the meantime, think about who you’d like us to interview and send your requests to hello@letsmend.com.

Author Lisa Phillips Explores Unrequited Love

Have you ever felt so strongly about a lover that you ended up doing things many would consider obsessive, even after it was clear the feelings weren’t mutual? Actions that may be so embarrassing that you’d rather not admit to them? Whether that be excessive texting until you receive a response, stalking their Instagram like a hungry bloodhound, or even worse. I’ve been there and I know there are many that can relate. But why is it that we engage in all of this obsessive behavior, damaging our self-esteem and taking all of our time, when we know we have been rejected?

In Lisa A. Phillips’ nonfiction book Unrequited, she explores how romantic rejection can transform into a nasty, obsessive love. She delves into how, with the proper understanding of obsession, that rejection can actually be a blessing in disguise. I had the good fortune to talk with Lisa about her work.

Can you tell Menders about yourself and why you wrote this book?

I am a journalist and a professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. The year I turned 30, I became obsessed with a man who was seeing someone else. Though he showed an interest in me, he didn’t want to leave his girlfriend, but I couldn’t let him go. My feelings overwhelmed me — I couldn’t think of anything else but him. Early one morning, I snuck into his apartment building and banged on his door until he opened it with a baseball bat in one hand for protection and the telephone in the other hand. He was about to dial 911. This moment — now more than 16 years ago — spoke volumes about how out of control, self-centered, and lost my obsession made me. Though I was eventually able to move on, I kept wondering why unrequited love can be so powerful. I decided to take my journalist’s instincts to bear on the subject, and the end result was my book, Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession. I put my own experience into a broader context, delving into the scientific and psychological research, cultural history, and literature of unrequited love. I also include the stories of people from both sides of the unrequited love experience: women who’ve obsessed over someone else and people who were the targets of female obsession.

You chose to include this passage of the poem Dirge Without Music in the very beginning of Unrequited: “I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.” How has this passage affected you personally? What purpose does it serve?

Edna St. Vincent Millay is inspiring to me because she was a woman who not only experienced great passion, but also believed in its necessity and its power. Though my book delves into the dark side of unrequited love and is unsparring in its criticism of behavior that becomes invasive and abusive, I defend the essence of unrequited love as a force that has the potential to enrich us, move us to new places in our lives, and help us understand ourselves better.

Throughout your work, you refer to your unrequited lover as B. Why?

I call my unrequited love “B.” for several reasons. I wanted to keep him anonymous. Also, the initial, a partial way of referring to someone, suggests one of the core truths of unrequited love: It’s never really about the beloved. He (or she) remains mysterious and ultimately unknowable. The longing is about the person who’s doing the yearning and what (not who) they are yearning for: love, a sense of possibility, personal growth, and other core human needs that become stubbornly “linked” to the beloved in a situation of romantic obsession. Also, there is a tradition in nineteenth century literature of referring to characters by their initials as a way of underscoring to the reader that the characters are inventions of the author. Incomplete beings, if you will. And though B. is definitely real, the experience of loving him so ardently and with so little payoff was very much about what I fantasized — what he would be for me if only he loved me back.

How important was it for you to include historical roots in Unrequited?

Where we’re coming from historically almost always has a great bearing on where we are now. For much of human history, the male unrequited lover was seen as a hero on a quest for what was rightfully his, but the female unrequited lover was a figure of shame and derision. Neither gendered assumption gets it right, of course, but by looking at history we can see why we’ve struggled as a culture to have an honest conversation about the nature of female longing and female pursuit. Shaming silences us — it’s why it took me years to face my own experience of unrequited love, and then only from the socially validating position of being a wife and mother — a “wanted” woman instead of the unwanted woman I had once been. I wanted this book to take what I call the “unwanted woman” — the woman who yearns and is not yearned for in return — out of the shadows.

You say that once you’re able to step away and understand your obsession, you can gain insight into what you actually want in life and in love. You then followed with, “Almost inevitably, [what one wants] is not the person we’ve been fixated on.” What would you say to those that are still hopeful that things someday their unrequited lover will requite?

The patterns I saw in my interviews include:

The beloved represents professional or creative possibility. One woman I interviewed could not hold down a nine to five type job because of mental health issues, but still craved creative expression. She took an art class and fell madly in love with her professor. Both of them were married. She eventually realized he represented the kind of life path she should have taken — and that idea what what she was really obsessed with, not him. Another woman, an opera singer, held a torch for the conductor whose commanding presence helped her turn a flaw into a triumph onstage. He represented the elite opera world she so badly wanted to enter, and it wasn’t until she came into her own as a performer that she could let him go.

The beloved represents the unconditional love that the unrequited lover didn’t have from her family of origin. One woman, a lesbian, described her love for her gay friend precisely this way — it wasn’t sexual. She wanted him to “be her family” because status in her own family of evangelical Christians was so fragile.

The beloved represents what’s missing from the unrequited lover’s marriage or relationship. One woman told me that she dreamed of a love without boundaries, where everything is shared, and she knew her marriage could never give her that (and probably no marriage could be that totalizing). But she regularly fell into unrequited love as a way of keeping that dream of a perfect union alive, even though it was unrealistic. Another woman was feeling restless and unloved in her privileged stay-at-home mother role. So when she saw an intriguing looking woman working out at her gym, she fell head over heels in love with the excitement and escape the woman seemed to represent.

The beloved represents the dream of an idealized future with a committed partner. This is probably the most common situation, and it makes all the sense in the world. As human beings we have a drive to experience deep romantic love, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s important to eventually be able to step back and acknowledge that the beloved isn’t able to be that person — and the fixation on him/her, if it goes on too long, interferes with the quest for real, enduring love.

Based on your online survey, about a third of the women “responded that their unrequited love experience changed my life for the better.” Do you feel the same way?

Absolutely. After my obsession ended, I resolved only to date people who were good to me. It’s an embarrassingly simple formula. But it helped me see the ways I’d prioritized passionate feeling over, well, basic decent treatment. And that was a very important change that definitely made my life better. When I met the man I would eventually marry, my priorities were clear. I will also say that writing a book about unrequited love, inspired by my experience, also made my life better. It was an enriching experience, and now I get letters from readers letting me know that I’ve been helpful to them. That means the world to me.

What do you hope readers take away from Unrequited?

I hope readers who are in unrequited love will use the book to better understand their situation and themselves — and eventually move on. I hope the book helps any reader better understand the complexities of romantic love and the cultural myths and expectations we’ve built up around it. I also think the book is useful for parents who want to help their daughters through the “crush years” — I have a chapter devoted to that, as my daughter, who is eleven, is about to enter that developmental stage.

You described the time of your life when your unrequited loved became obsessive as “lost.” How would you describe your life currently?

I don’t feel lost in the way I once did. I have a settled, full, and challenging life as a working mother and writer. I still have a restless and dreamy mind, though, so a certain degree of “lostness” will always be a part of me — but it’s more in the intellectual/creative realm, as in, what will the next book be? How can I be a better teacher? A more insightful parent? That kind of thing.

What exciting upcoming projects can we Menders look forward to?

I want to continue on what I’ve come to call “the love and heartbreak beat” in my writing career, and I’m toying with a number of ideas for articles and books. Stay tuned!

What is your favorite song about heartbreak?

The song Black Star kills me every time I hear it. It speaks to that feeling of inaccessibility in unrequited love or the end of a relationship. It’s a Radiohead song but I confess a preference for the Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings cover of it. Laura Marling’s song “Take the Night Off” is a close rival. I often thought of my unrequited love as a “beast” inside me, and I wanted it to go away and give me a break.

Thank you so much Lisa!

The Best Way to Recover from Heartbreak, According to Science

Grace Larson and David Sbarra had been studying how people recover from divorce and breakups for years when they became worried that asking these people about their breakups repeatedly may actually be causing harm. So, they decided to run an experiment to see if that was the case, and they found just the opposite to be true – it was actually helping. 

Larson and Sbarra just published the results of this 9-week study on two groups of young adults (age range 17-29, mostly female) who had experienced a non-marital breakup in the last six months. One group was asked to come in four times over the course of 9 weeks for assessments and one group was only asked to come in twice. The group that came in for four assessments spent 3.5 hours in each session, which required them to speak into a tape recorder about their thoughts and feelings and answer written questionnaires, among other tasks. The other group only answered written questionnaires during their two 45-minute assessments, and they did the tape recorder exercise once.

When the researchers evaluated the two groups for changes in emotional intrusion, loneliness and break-up related self-concept disturbance, they found that the group who did four regular assessments over the course of 9 weeks showed better recovery. They were able to re-define their self-concepts, which led to decreased emotional intrusion and loneliness. They also used fewer first person plural words (what psychologists call “we talk”) when describing their breakups, which points to them being more adjusted to single life vs. couple life.

So, what about the rest of us who can’t participate in this kind of research study when we’re going through a breakup? Larson recommended a weekly journal check-in to track how you’re adjusting to life as an independent person.

The key, according to Larson, is to turn your focus inward: “The recovery of a clear and independent self-concept seems to be a big force driving the positive effects of this study, so I would encourage a person who recently experienced a breakup to consider who he or she is, apart from the relationship. If that person can reflect on the aspects of him- or herself that he or she may have neglected during the relationship but can now nurture once again, this might be particularly helpful.” 

What My Parents’ Divorce Taught Me About Heartbreak

Last week I sat down to dinner in Venice with both of my parents for the first time in eight years. The last time the three of us had dinner was the day they told me they were getting divorced.

I was in college and my mom had called to ask if I wanted to fly home for fall break. I didn’t really think anything of it. I was really excited to get out of the snow for a few days, so I said yes. Both of my parents picked me up from the airport and took me to an Indian buffet for lunch on the way home. I ate too much naan and made jokes and completely missed any warning signs.

As I stepped into our house, I immediately noticed the liquor cabinet was empty; not a bottle of alcohol or a wine glass to be seen. When my Dad asked if we could all sit down in the living room to talk, my mind lunged ahead for answers. In split seconds, I reasoned from the empty liquor cabinet that one of my parents was about to tell me they had a drinking problem. I remember reassuring myself “Okay, this is a curve ball, but we will figure it out.” As I sat down and braced myself for the news, some very unexpected words came out of my Dad’s mouth:

“Ellen, your mom and I are getting divorced.”

It turns out the liquor cabinet was empty not because one of my parents had a drinking problem, but because my Dad had moved out and the contents of the liquor cabinet were now in his apartment down the street. He was the wine connoisseur of the family. That made more sense.

But when you’re an adult and your parents have been married for decades, the concept of divorce can seem so foreign. You’re usually not living at home anymore, so you miss the signs that would have given you a hint. You don’t see the interactions and hear the conversations, so you just assume everything is as it was when you left. I had just assumed that my parents would stay together forever because they had made it past my childhood and young adulthood. Divorce was not an option.

I often talk about the romantic breakups that inspired Mend, but my parents’ divorce was really the most influential breakup in my life. The breakup of my family taught me more about mending and resilience and forgiveness than any loss of a romantic partner ever has. Until very recently, it felt too raw and painful to write about.

Though it was impossible for me to comprehend when it first happened, I can see now that both of my parents are kinder, happier and more authentic now that they’ve gone their separate ways. I am thankful that I no longer have to manage the tension of a marriage that wasn’t working.

And as I learned for the first time last week, enough time has passed where I no longer have to manage the tension of their divorce either. I realized at dinner that our hearts have finally mended. Enough water has flowed under the bridge of life, and enough work has been done individually on all of our parts, where we can now just coexist without feeling pain or anger.

In place of those things, there is just ease. I was so relieved to find at dinner that there was still a chemistry of comfort between my parents that was not erased by divorce; a special connection that exists between two people who made a life and kids together, even if they’ve since parted ways. I have mourned the loss of that for years, wondering if any of our jokes and shared sayings and old stories would ever be resurrected, but I don’t have to pay homage to that gravestone anymore. Our memories will always be there, ready for a “Remember when…” the next time we all have dinner. And it won’t be another eight years.

Before we ate, I looked at both of my parents and gave my best effort to deliver a toast. “This is the best gift,” I said. I couldn’t manage more words for my gratitude, though the occasion certainly deserved them.

So, what did I learn about heartbreak this year? I learned that it is never too late to mend. I learned that sometimes your heart has to break completely apart in order to be whole again. My parents had to get divorced in order for us to be where we are now. All of those cracks and tears have mended to form something better than what was there before; kinder hearts, more compassionate hearts, more authentic hearts. We’re all better for it. If you had told me that eight years ago, I would have told you to fuck off. But now, I’m grateful.

Though I know it will be hard to remember this the next time my heart breaks, I will strive to have faith that something better awaits. And that faith is what I wish for all of you.

Following Your Heart Even When It’s Scary

One of the most common questions I get from friends who are in relationships is whether their relationship is “right.” Though I’m never able to give a definitive answer, I finally realized the best thing to do is just tell them my own experience answering this question and stay out of their decision making process as much as possible. 

Last year, I wrote an article about leaving my job at Google and I compared walking away from that job to walking away from my college boyfriend – in both cases, something seemed off to me deep down.

“When people ask me what it was like to leave, I liken my experience of leaving Google to breaking up with my college boyfriend. He was brilliant, good looking, respected, and everyone loved him  —  I even loved him  –  but he wasn’t the one. It used to catch up with me on long bus rides my senior year, staring out the window, and I’d get a knot in the pit of my stomach. Realizing that I had to let him go was a slow and difficult process, but it was the right thing to do and I eventually mustered up the courage to break both of our hearts. I wasn’t sure I would ever meet someone like him again, but leaving that relationship opened me up for so much more later on, and I continue to think of that decision as one of the most pivotal in my life. It took me several years to reach the same conclusion about corporate life at Google  –  it was almost unimaginable to give up a salary, a manager who treated me like family and co-workers I genuinely considered friends. I had worked so hard for it. I couldn’t let it go, even though I was in many ways unhappy.”

At the end of the day, only you know what is right, and that was true for me then. 

It was also true for blogger Jordan Reid. In her post “When Nothing But Everything Is Wrong” Jordan talks about walking away from what was, in many ways, a great relationship even when the uncertainty and loneliness ahead seemed unmanageable.

“Truth? I kind of lost it. I pictured myself back in the relationship, back in my job, maybe not great but certainly not alone and probably not so sad it hurt to open my eyes in the morning, and just about wanted to collapse through the floor at the mess I had made of my future. I convinced myself that our relationship had been perfectly fine (after all, it was difficult for me to put a finger on what had been “wrong” in the first place), and that I had just been a whiny, dissatisfied, impossible-to-please kid who thought there were better things out there when really, there weren’t.

Guess what?

There are better things out there.”

It’s not always easy or 100% clear at the time, but when you listen to and follow your heart (or gut or intuition or little voice, whatever you want to call it), I truly believe the universe rewards you. For Jordan, leaving that relationship allowed her to find her husband and she has started a beautiful family and career as a writer. For me, leaving my college boyfriend allowed me to finally get to know myself and experience several serious relationships and breakups that shaped my life. Being single, I didn’t have to think twice about taking big risks in my life (moving to San Francisco, moving to Tokyo, moving to Los Angeles, starting a company).

I wouldn’t be where I am now without that total freedom, and it came from letting go, as difficult as it was at the time. Hopefully it helps to hear stories from people who’ve been at the very difficult crossroads of letting go and holding on. Stay strong!