Amy Chan is a tough-love specialist. But she wasn’t always so strong when it came to her own romantic life.
In her 20s, the now-38-year-old was cheated on by her boyfriend, a startup CEO. “I was unable to move for hours; I felt dead inside,” Chan writes of the earth-shattering experience in her new book, “Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart” (HarperCollins).
Chan describes the aftermath of that two-year relationship, during which she contemplated suicide, as “my one-woman self-pity show.” But once she snapped out if it, she realized she was ready for a new career path. She quit her big-time marketing job and threw her energy into Renew Breakup Bootcamp: a series of luxury retreats for the brokenhearted. Before COVID-19 made in-person gatherings impossible, a weekend of workshops — hosted by an army experts, including a nutritionist, a love-addiction specialist, a psychologist, a breath worker, a sex educator and a medium — started at $1,995. Now, Chan hosts groups online, where she coaches single women for $800 a head.
The pandemic has altered relationship dynamics across the board. “It’s the great relationship accelerator, for better or worse,” she told The Post, adding that singles have felt particularly lonely.
Among the unique pressures of the pandemic, including spikes in divorce rates, Chan’s focus is on helping her clients find new ways to heal — especially since tried-and-true coping methods, such as girls’ nights and getaways, are off the table.
“You can’t go to brunch, but you can hire your favorite dance teacher and have a Zoom class with your friends to feel supported,” said Chan.
Below, her best, scientifically savvy tips for letting go of love during a lockdown.
Stay off social
The first rule of boot camp? “You shouldn’t call [your ex] or look at their social media,” Chan said. From a neural standpoint, the impulse to check in is akin to any other addiction. “When you’re craving a peek at their Instagram Story, it’s because your brain is craving dopamine, not because they were amazing.”
The good news is, all cravings pass. If you’re really jonesing, Chan suggests turning to something that gives you pleasure, such as listening to music — “upbeat, happy songs” — exercising, cooking a decadent meal or penning a letter to a loved one (but not the ex). “The more you practice replacing the self-sabotaging urge with a healthy practice, the easier it becomes,” she writes.
It’s going to be impossible to get over an ex if you’re living in a shrine to them, said Chan. Now, with people spending more time at home than ever, it’s crucial to make real adjustments that will let the memories of a past relationship fade.
She said that people should look around their living space to identify “external triggers.” Start by getting rid of the obvious stuff — photos, left-behind sweatshirts and old birthday cards all need to go. Then dig a bit deeper: Does the couch remind you of nights spent cuddling in front of the TV? Chan said it’s surprisingly easy to make new memories, without buying all new stuff. Rearranging your furniture might help “minimize the association of your home with him,” writes Chan.
Take things one breath a time
To calm anxiety and stop obsessive thoughts in their tracks, Chan recommends an ancient yogic technique, the 4-7-8 breathing sequence.
Find a quiet place, close your eyes and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Then, breathe in through your nose for four seconds — sipping the air deep in into your belly — and hold it in for seven seconds. Slowly release through your mouth for a count of eight, and repeat as necessary. According to Chan, the exercise “calms your parasympathetic nervous system,” relaxing the body and directly counteracting a flight-or-fight response.
Don’t wait to date
Chan said that waiting for the right moment — or the right person — to get back out there is the wrong approach and can lead to more moping.
Instead, she encourages people to date freely after a breakup, even in a pandemic.
“One challenge I like to give my clients is to go on dates with 10 different people,” said Chan, who added that Zoom and FaceTime meet-ups will do the trick. She also likes to see freshly minted singles meet up with potential mates who don’t match up with their usual guidelines. “Swipe on people you wouldn’t normally swipe yes to, and go on dates with someone 10 years older, and 10 years younger,” said Chan. The “gameified” exercise will take the pressure off the first dates, and ultimately expand the types you might be interested in down the line.