In my line of work I have often encouraged people to find a way to “let things go,” especially when they are consumed with anger and despair over events that are completely out of their control. However, in recent days when I too was having difficulty “letting go,” I thought to myself… how do I fix this? I knew in my heart and in my mind that the event I couldn’t control was just that… out of my control, but still I was having a very difficult time with acceptance. The reason for this, I realized later, was because I was equating acceptance as weakness. I felt like if I were to accept the transgression of the individual that wronged me, that I was somehow condoning it. Therefore, instead of extinguishing the frustration, I added fuel to the fire whenever it came up in conversation, to remind myself that I was still angry, because what happened was important to me. After a few weeks, I realized that my anger was negatively impacting my mood and happiness, and was also spilling over into my personal life. It started to affect the most meaningful relationships in my life. I started having difficulty sleeping, couldn’t focus as easily at work, was seething with anger whenever something happened that reminded me of the event, and I was having difficulty shaking this feeling of constant discontent. I was not the kind, loving, caring, and compassionate person I enjoy being – and the people around me started to notice. I was an angry ball of stress and wasn’t doing myself or anybody else any favors by feeling this way. I realized that what I needed was better coping strategies, and a change of perspective. Below are a few strategies, plus a few extra that I used to help get myself back on track.
Use meditation and yoga to help you focus on the present.
Yoga was one of the most helpful interventions to help me “let go.” Not only was yoga and meditation good for my body, but it was also good for my mind. After doing yoga and meditation I felt relaxed, rejuvenated, and much less stressed than before. It helped me feel like my old self again.
Change your point of view to gain new perspective.
My initial read on the situation that sent me into a stress induced tailspin was that the person was doing what they were doing on purpose, and were deliberately trying to hurt me. After I really thought about it, and tried to see the issue from different angles, I realized that there had to be a better explanation. I realized that making assumptions and drawing conclusions was not helping, and it was also causing me to create scenarios in my mind about the reason for this person’s behavior which were likely completely false. I tried to see the situation from their point of view, and came to the conclusion that they were trying to do their best.
Sometimes the things that anger us are truly out of our control, and no matter how hard we try to accept it and move on, the situations that make us angry sometimes aren’t fixable. One of the best methods to get out some of that aggression and frustration is through exercise. Exercise boosts endorphins, helps the body get rid of toxins, and helps with stress and sleep. Try a new circuit training or cycling class. If you’re feeling really keyed up, try a new martial arts class. It might become one of your favorite hobbies.
Don’t waste energy on things you can’t control.
This is much easier said than done, and is still a very difficult concept for me. Worry is one of the most useless emotions we have because it causes us to keep spinning about the things in our lives we can’t control, but doesn’t offer any solutions. Worry perpetuates fear and stress, and does nothing by way of making us feel better. Chances are, the person or transgression you’re constantly worried about isn’t thinking about you at all. Don’t give them that power over you.
Try to focus on what the experience taught you.
Life will never be plain and simple. There will always be bumps in the road, and things that come up out of nowhere. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to shift our perspective to a more positive one. Particularly trying to find the silver lining in the most negative of events. Experiences, especially negative ones are filled with learning opportunities and life lessons. Glean what you can from every experience in life, and use it to your advantage the next time around.
Find something to look forward to.
Sometimes the thought of going through the same stressful situation day in and day out can be exhausting. It is important to schedule yourself some sort of fun activity that you can look forward to so you can get your mind off of the stress you’re trudging through now. Whether it’s as small as watching a movie, or as big as a weekend getaway, give yourself something to get excited about.
Eliminate “should” thinking.
On any given day there are a million things we “should” be doing. If we were to sit down, and write all of the things that we “should” have accomplished or “should” be working on we would drive ourselves into the ground. “Should” thinking is not sustainable. It sets us up for failure, and perpetuates negative self-talk which is counterproductive. It is important to shift focus to what we are doing, and be proud of ourselves for that.
What letting go is not…
Letting go is not being passive, and is not a sign of weakness. It is taking situations at face value, and accepting them for what they are. Letting go is being able to accept the facts, regardless of your ability to do something about them. Letting go is not an invitation for people to treat you badly, or permission for people to walk all over you. Letting go is not about other people, it is about you and your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You are not choosing to let go to make other people happy, you are making the choice because you are invested in yourself. Letting go is not a disallowing of anger, it is acknowledging that you have a right to be angry, but not letting that anger consume you.
Practice makes perfect!
Letting go is difficult, and is thus a work in progress. This is a life skill, and not a quick fix. Don’t beat yourself up if the path to letting go is more difficult than you thought. It takes time, and it takes work. You’ll get there, and you will be a healthier, happier, lighter, and more centered version of yourself when you do.