I am aware that what I am about to talk about is a challenge for most people. However what I am about to say is possible for ALL people.
Feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, and frustration are normal human emotions. These emotions were adaptively necessary to help our early ancestors survive dangerous situations and these emotions help us adapt to our situations. What you feel is 100% OK. Although these feelings are normal and necessary it is not normal and necessary to hold onto these feelings for an extended period of time.
Holding onto grief, sadness, anger, frustration, worry, and fear can harm all areas of your life.
- Relationships with others can be negatively impacted by holding onto upset feelings. These feelings can cause isolation and withdrawal, and rather than spending time with loved ones you start to spend time alone. Feelings like anger and frustration can cause one to yell or lash out at loved ones. Excessive worry, fear, and anxiety can make others in our lives feel powerless to help. These issues will limit others desire to spend time with you.
- Your health will decline if negative feelings control your life. Feelings not only create an emotional reaction in the body, but a physical one as well. Upset feelings cause increased muscle tension, increased heart rate, decreased sleep, fatigue, and decrease the bodies ability to fight illness, disease, and infection.
- Holding on to upset feelings can impact your mental ability. Prolonged emotional upset causes negative thinking. It can be difficult to think positive thoughts and challenging to see the “silver lining”. Emotional upset leads to thinking that becomes distracted, distorted, and unfocused.
- Decreased mental and cognitive ability can make completing tasks at work or school challenging. Rather than focusing on what needs to be done in the present moment, upset feelings keeps you thinking about the things that caused the upset. This causes increased forgetfulness, distraction, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems.
- Spirituality beliefs can be challenged when upset emotions take over. This becomes a problem because rather then turn to a higher power, moral beliefs, and prayer and meditation to cope one may shy away from these practices. Upset feelings can cause use to abandon helpful, positive, and effective coping skills.
I think most would agree it is unhealthy to hold onto upset emotions, particularly when these emotions get in the way of enjoying life. However it is not easy to let go of emotional upset. There are numerous reasons why emotions are hard to let go of.
- Loss of a dear loved one
- Lost trust
- Emotional hurt from another
- Physical hurt from another
- Repeated disappointments in others
- Limited resources or options available
- Limited support
- Conflict with others
This list is not exhaustive. There are other, numerous situations and life events that cause feelings to linger. However in my practice and therapy with others I have found it is most difficult to let go of upset when we feel as though we have been hurt (emotionally), betrayed, and left vulnerable by others.
In those situations we want the wrong done to us to be made right. We want justice. We want karma. We want retribution. It seems that holding onto the upset is a way of maintaining control over self, others, and the situation. At the end of day the only one being hurt by harboring upset is you! The other person continues to live their life and go through their day unaware of the upset you have toward them. However when you lie in bed at night you suffer with the thoughts and the upset.
Letting go is for you! Letting go benefits you! Letting go does NOT excuse the wrong done to you, nor does it make it OK. You were hurt and wronged and that’s ok. But allowing yourself to let go of some emotional upset helps you live life on your terms. Here are my five suggestions for living life on your terms, letting go of upset, and finding the silver lining daily.
- Exercise – beyond the health benefits exercise helps increase happy feelings, lowers stress, and gives you some “you-time”.
- Forgive – forgiveness is not forgetting! Forgiveness is releasing harboring upset so that you can make room to enjoy life.
- Spend time everyday doing something you enjoy. I call this vegging out. Find that activity (watching TV, cooking, reading, take a bath, etc) that causes your mind to shift focus and settle down.
- Acknowledge how you feel and know the upset emotions are OK! You are justified for feeling that way. No one can tell you how to feel. You are in control and you can take active steps to change how you feel.
- Release those upset emotions. Cry! Yell! Whatever you need to do to express the feeling do it. The thing about expressing emotions is that it will eventually stop. You may feel like if you start crying you will cry forever but you won’t. The crying will stop. Expressing emotions is like a coke bottle that has been shaken and opened. Eventually the coke stops exploding from the bottle and it settles. Then you are left with a refreshing beverage. Express your emotions so that once they are released you can enjoy life a little better.
it is not realistic to be happy all the time, but allowing yourself to feel and then release the feeling will create room for more pleasure and enjoyment in your life. You have one life. You have one day, today! Fill your day with whatever feeling you choose. The good news is, tomorrow you get another chance.
* If you are having trouble letting go, it is Ok. Many people struggle with this concept. It can be hard, but extremely beneficial to ask for help. Don’t think that asking for help makes you weak or disabled. Asking for help gives you more power to overcome. If you need help letting go I can help!