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Holding onto something that no longer serves you is like spanning two different times. One foot is in the present as you try to go about your daily life and the other foot is stuck elsewhere. It can be difficult to feel whole.
If this sounds familiar, start by taking it easy on yourself. Our brains are literally wired to cling to the echoes of the past. Remembering people, places and events should protect us. And it won’t help piling guilt on top of all those other sticky feelings.
Second, you know that you are able to let go and find peace. With the help of licensed psychosocial counselor and co-founder of Viva Wellness, Rachel Gersten, we have compiled this list of tools and tips to help you capture those memories without the burden of attachment.
Ending any type of relationship can be shocking. Whether it̵
Give yourself time and space for editing
According to a 2013 study, allowing yourself to allow yourself to feel the bad feelings with the good or “take the good with the bad” could be beneficial for general health.
The study, which surveyed a total of 312 people of different ages and backgrounds, found that those who frequently had mixed emotions also had better physical health over the long term.
Realizing that the healing process is generally difficult – rather than believing that something is “wrong” with you – can make it easier to get through the struggle, adds Gersten.
Try to get the degree
Since the closure means something different for everyone, Gersten recommends that you first determine exactly how the closure looks and feels to you. Then take concrete action to close the metaphorical door.
Putting pen on paper is a way of letting go of pent-up feelings and saying all the unspoken things that keep you up at night. You don’t have to send it (and you may not even have that option). But in doing so, you are making it clear that this is a goodbye, not an attempt to reconnect.
You can also do a ritual. This may sound like an exaggeration, but it can be a meaningful, concrete way of celebrating the good of what once was before closing the door and moving on. Like this woman who held a graduation ceremony to overcome an important relationship.
Get rid of memories
We all probably know the pain of scrolling on a photo that brings old memories to light. Sometimes it can even spark feelings long after we’ve scrolled past. Imagine deleting old photos and stopping following on social media to create distance. If you are having a hard time letting go, this can be a necessary step.
But Barley suggests waiting until you’re ready. “Doing all of this at once is a really big shock to your system,” she says. Remember, you also mourn what you imagined for your life, she says.
While emotions are a perfectly normal part of life, they can become distressing when they become powerful or all consuming. Here are some ideas for making peace with a strong emotion.
Sit down with the feeling
Not doing anything can be very difficult for most of us, says Gersten, but sometimes that’s exactly what we have to do. The trick is to let the feelings go through without reacting or judging.
You can see this as the main tenant of meditation. This article contains a lot of really helpful information to evoke peace of mind by integrating meditation into your daily life.
Release the energy
All emotions are really energy, and the release of that energy can be liberating. Sometimes it helps to name it and just yell out loud, “I’m worried!” Says barley. (So in privacy.)
Or, you can try taking a walk or splashing cold water on your face, she suggests.
We have also put together this guide of creative ways to suppress anxiety by getting physical.
Engage a different part of your brain
While feeling your feelings is important, you should also avoid overthinking or running down. If you’ve spent time thinking about that sucker of an emotion and the pain isn’t getting better, it may be time to move your attention elsewhere.
Call a friend to chat. Start a creative project. Learn to bake bread (it really is never too late). Doing things you enjoy is what self-care is all about – you deserve a little emotional vacation.
The need for control is essentially an instinct for survival. We hold on because we believe somewhere in our subconscious that letting go will be our downfall. But being in control is exhausting. Instead, when we learn to find balance, we access a more open part of ourselves.
Notice when you hold on
Sometimes the impulse to control is so deep that we don’t even know what motivates us. So recognition is the first step. Why does it send little outbursts of anger when your partner writes that he stayed for drinks after work? Why are you constantly reviewing your employees’ progress on this project?
Once you notice it, you can start loosening your grip.
Stop – and breathe
We know, we know – not always as easy as it sounds. But if you feel like the wave is rising inside you because you need to take control (you know the one), take a minute and try a breathing exercise to down your nervous system and the fight or flight reflex regulate.
Just go away
You can’t always get out of a situation, but you can canIt is probably the quickest, foolproof way not to let these controls take over. No shame in the game of moving away from something that is unhealthy to you and setting healthy boundaries for yourself.
Whether it’s the Facebook memories of a seemingly better time that haunt you, or just comparing yourself to what you used to be, letting go of the past is much easier said than done.
Put yourself in a forward-looking mindset
In order to achieve this, Gersten says it is important to find out what is still unresolved about the past. Much of the previous advice in this article – giving yourself time and space to edit, closing down, removing memories – applies here.
Once you have gone through these steps, it is time to use intentional energy thinking about what’s next for you. This can be as small as organizing your dresser or as large as starting a new business.
It’s about throwing buoys for the future instead of being weighed down by anchors in the past.
Start a mindfulness practice
If thinking about the future still seems like a big pill to swallow, then what about just trying to stay present? Mindfulness is a researched method of dealing with negative emotions.
In one study, people who were mindful reported the same number of negative feelings, but they also found that these emotions were more controllable and less intrusive than those who were not mindful.
Some apps to get you started: Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer. Each of these apps are free apps with subscription options for more content.
When you find that your problems with letting go are affecting your daily life – you cannot focus on work, your sleep is disrupted, you feel hopeless for the future – it is time to consider therapy.
“If you had a headache that made it difficult to be at work for more than a day, you would see a doctor – you wouldn’t try to figure it out for yourself,” says Gersten.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying the thoughts that govern your behavior to help you transform into more helpful thoughts and behaviors. A therapist can also help create a treatment plan that is unique to you, including a referral to a psychiatrist in case you need medication.
Know that when you feel like you are having a hard time letting go, you are not alone – and you won’t always feel that way.