Mental Health: How Letting go Can Help you Better Manage Your Emotions and Mental Health

Why letting go can improve your mental health and time management

Holding onto beliefs, belongings, identity, stories, actions all create stress and clutter in your life.  This makes it hard to make decisions making you feel guilty and anxious around your lack of accomplishments.  Not changing your belief systems causes suffering. How you view the world, the stories you tell, determine your well-being and mental health.

We often have the tendency to overlook how our life has taken shape over time. When it comes to our mental health and well-being, we find ourselves focusing on two things: the present (the problems at hand) and the future (the solutions that can help us). The past often goes unnoticed. It is essential that you understand how to address your space and emotions in the past to help you let go. I find it necessary to place a lot of emphasis on the power of inner work.  Inner work by means of looking at patterns and previous situations to see why you have a hard time of letting go. 

Simple life hacks are seens as tricks of the trade in the 21st century but sometimes shortcuts like these are only effective in the short-term. If you are looking for the long-term solution, then you should open your mind to exploring your past, in particular your emotions. We tend to get attached to many things in our lives. These attachments are connected to your emotions that are deep-rooted within you. Holding onto your emotions affects your ability to function and once you start the process of letting go, your mind will become liberated and your mental health and time management should start to flourish.

Holding onto something, doesn’t allow you to be connected to the present moment and be grateful for what you have now.  Remembering the past and attaching those memories to belongings can create pain and an inflexibility to see things differently in the present moment where we expect things to be the same as in the past.  The pain can also come from the inability to recreate the past and holding onto the item as a source of remembering that keeps the cycle going. 

By letting go of past belongings that no longer serve you, including the beliefs, memories, expectations, identity, and stories, frees you to create new ones in the present moment and in your future.  Going through this process is freeing and gives a person a huge sense of accomplishment not just because of their decreasing space but also from de-cluttering their mind and emotions. Becoming less attached to the past and clutter free makes decision making easier which also makes you feel more empowered and in control of your life. The other benefit of letting go is an increase in flexibility which is a key factor in being adaptable and improving your emotional intelligence. Adapting a growth mindset is a process that can help aid you in this process of letting go and being better able to take care of your mental health and well being. 

How to get started: Managing Your Emotions and Mental Health

Getting in touch with your emotions can be very powerful in shifting your mood, beliefs, attachments and old stories. Once you can see how you are attached to these old memories which you then place value on your belongings, you can free yourself of life clutter and embrace better mental health. Emotions and feelings are used interchangeably however they are different.  Understanding the difference between these helps navigate the process of changing them. 

Emotions vs Feelings

Emotions are chemical reactions in our brain that cause physical states
i.e. smiling, laughing. Some psychologists believe the basic universal emotions are fear, anger, sadness, happiness, surprise, and disgust. These emotions are temporary and it’s not until the conscious mind interprets the emotions that it becomes a feeling ie. happy. Feelings vary from person to person based on their experiences, beliefs and memories. These are more long-term and are impacted by the stories we attach to our emotions.

This is why it’s key to pay attention to your emotions and feelings because they have a huge impact on our behaviour, which then affects how we interact with the world. Being more aware of your emotions and feelings gives you more control, and allows you to make decisions that meet your needs in the present moment. The more you understand your emotions, the better you are able to understand yourself and others. If you’re not connected with your emotions / feelings you may create an unrealistic plan.

What to do:

  1. Get into the habit of becoming aware of the sensations in your body and what emotions are coming up

  2. Notice what thoughts, memories and beliefs are connected to this emotion

  3. Identify what you need and what action you can take (instead of unconsciously reacting to the situation)

By checking in on your emotions and feelings when creating a plan, you can see what you have control over and address what is possible. Accepting these emotions and feelings is also part of the process.  It’s important to understand there is nothing wrong with you or how you are feeling. Giving space to what you notice allows these emotions and feelings to move through you instead of getting stuck inside. 

Another strategy to manage your emotions and help you be more present is to appreciate and feel gratitude for the small things. Yes, I’m sure you’ve read this a million times, “be grateful”, “do a gratitude list” and it’s because it works. It completely shifts your mindset if you get into the habit of doing it regularly. This then helps you regulate your emotions, stay connected to the present moment, change negative narratives and helps you have a healthier view of the world. 

What can you do to have a positive effect on emotions and feelings around getting organized? 

Time management and mental health – procrastination is more about emotions than time management

Another form of letting go is letting go of emotions instead of avoiding them.  Christian Jarrett writes about procrastination and how it’s actually not about time management rather it’s about managing your emotions.  The research around procrastination shows that when someone has a low mood, it increases their procrastination behaviours.  What the individuals are doing is seeking out an enjoyable activity to help them shift their mood because they believe it will make them feel better, ie. watching funny videos instead of writing a proposal.  This does create a shift in mood however it is this short term gratification that gets people sucked into the rabbit hole of procrastination. 

This cycle of avoidance, particularly feeling uncomfortable, creates a sense of guilt around not completing necessary tasks, (especially now that so many people are working from home) and increases stress levels for increasing workloads.  

Procrastination is linked to depression, anxiety, and poor general health. An individual avoids taking care of themselves and they avoid doing work so the stress builds up.  One definition of depression is suppressed expression. So if a person is avoiding feeling an emotion, let alone expressing to someone how they feel then these unexpressed emotions build and avoidant/procrastination behaviours can take over. 

Jarrett also notes studies, that further support the link between avoiding emotions and procrastinating behaviours. One study showed that students who procrastinate a lot agreed with the statements, “I’m afraid of my emotions.” These same individuals were also less likely to commit to an action towards their goals. 

Although this may be overwhelming for some, there are many options to create change towards. For example, being more connected to your emotions and reducing your procrastinating habits. One option is Acceptance Commitment Therapy which is about being able to tolerate uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and staying present even though it may be challenging.  This therapy also helps individuals prioritize their choices around taking steps towards their goals and values. 

Taking the first step is key as research shows that once a person begins the tasks they are more likely to follow through.

What to do:

  1. Start small and address one small emotion and a small procrastination habit

  2. Just do it. Think of the garbage, mile joggers use where after the first mile they feel great.

  3. Find someone to talk to about your emotions

  4. Get support if needed

  5. Write, write and write some more. Journaling is very powerful for discharging, releasing and shifting emotions. It also helps get perspective on a situation.

  6. Establish a morning and evening routine

  7. Engage in some type of physical activity i.e. going for a 1 hour walk

  8. Make sure you are getting enough good quality sleep

  9. Actively take accountability for the actions you do on a daily-basis

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