Most months, I do a column on helping or supporting someone else when they are dealing with an invisible illness or other struggle. As much as we would love to help our loved ones feel better, sometimes that’s not our job, and sometimes we need to focus on ourselves in order to be strong enough to support or help another.
My theme for March is spring cleaning yourself, and part of that inner cleansing is learning to let go. We have so much trouble letting go, often because we have deep emotions and inner wounds attached to events in our past. When someone slights you or says something hurtful, it can be ten times more impactful if their words are tied to a past wound that is still unhealed.
No one wants to continue to live in the muddy pit of despair, depression, or anger. Just like trying to climb out of quicksand, it can be incredibly difficult to let go. Women, especially, tend to tie emotions to events, Tony Robbins said in a recent post. If you want to move into spring lighter emotionally and mentally, then try these tips:
Make the Decision: Sometimes you have to have a hard conversation with yourself and make a firm decision to let things go. It’s not easy. I know, because I struggled with regret, guilt, and anger after my attack. I was in physical pain, and that added to my emotional and mental pain. But I got to a point where I knew the emotional weight was only hurting my recovery, and I made the decision to let those things go. Sometimes you have to make that decision every day, or every hour. After a while, it gets easier, and you’ll notice the difference in your heart and mind.
Don’t Play the Victim: I went through a lot when I was attacked, and I don’t think anyone would have blamed me for playing the victim—because I was a victim of a violent attack. However, I didn’t want to be defined by that one moment in my life, and I didn’t want to see sympathetic glances years down the road. When you play the victim, you let the person who hurt you continue to have power over you. Make a choice to start feeling good, and to start looking for things to be happy about.
Get it Out: Whether you go to therapy or start journaling (or both), it’s important to express how you are feeling. Sometimes just the simple act of talking about it releases the hold these emotions have over you. I know how overwhelming it can feel, like there’s a heavy weight hanging over your head, but you can—and should—let those emotions out one at a time, so that they don’t weigh down your life anymore.
Do a Rewrite: What happened to me derailed the life I thought I would have. All those dreams I had when I was young were either put on hold or gone forever. I could have been bitter and stubborn, but instead I decided to rewrite what happened to me into an opportunity to talk about invisible illness, mental health, and PTSD. To become an advocate and support system for others, so that together we could all be better, healthier, and happier. Rewrite your next chapter into one that empowers you and others.
Practice Forgiveness: This one is hard, I know. But that old saying that forgiveness isn’t for the other person, it’s for you, is true. Forgiving someone releases you from bitterness, which can eat you up from the inside. Nothing good grows in bitter soil, so practice forgiving past wrongs, and you can move forward.
Control What You Can Control: You can’t control other people. You can only control yourself, your reactions, your environment, and your choices. You can choose to surround yourself with positive or negative people. You can choose whether to be grateful or stressed. By truly realizing you can’t control other people, you release yourself from the burden of trying to essentially micromanage others.
Emotions have so much mental weight, and it’s up to you to choose whether they are going to drag you down or lift you up. I have struggled just like you, and I’m here to say that your life can change in wonderful and positive ways if you decide to let go of everything that is weighing you down.
For more on me and my story, pick up my book You’ve Got Some Nerve: The Battle Back from an Invisible Injury. If you have a tip for letting go of emotional weight, feel free to share below.