Let it Be, Let it Go
How is Anxiety Caused?
We often think that stress and anxiety are caused by external events. In reality, it is the way that we think about these events that causes much of the problem. As humans, our ability to think in the way we do defines us from other species. We can travel to the moon, cure diseases, and make incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, however, this ability to think can also get us into trouble.
Have you ever noticed any of the following?
After a setback or mistake your mind is full of very repetitive thoughts, reliving the situation, wishing you had done x or y, or imagining what you should have said or done?
Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by strong negative emotions such as anger, frustration or judgement and noticed that your mind is also full of thoughts that keep producing the same strong emotions?
Do you have days when you just can’t seem to let go of something that someone else said or did?
If so, don’t worry, that means that you are fully human. This is our mind doing what it knows best and trying to think it’s way out of a challenging situation. Unfortunately, however, at times like this, the more we think about the situation, the more stress we cause for ourselves. Our mental energy is so consumed that there isn’t any room for anything else and we get ‘stuck’ with these repetitive thoughts and emotions.
So, what’s the answer?
The first step is to recognise when this is happening. Once you notice your mind overthinking a situation, you can do something about it. We can then start the practice of actively letting be and then letting go of these repetitive thoughts and emotions. We can’t force them to go, but our awareness that they are not helpful to us in the situation, is often enough to shift our thoughts in a way that will help us to get unstuck, knowing that if we continue to think in this way, we will just cause ourselves yet more anxiety. To help you start build the habit of letting go, try out this exercise below identifying what you are overthinking and how it would benefit you, if you were able to let go of that right now.
Practice the benefits of letting go with this great exercise below
Let’s start with a story. Two Buddhist monks return to their monastery after the rains. They reach a swollen river and in front of them is a beautiful woman in a delicate silk kimono, distressed because she is unable to cross the river by herself. The older monk scoops her up, carries her safely to the other side and the two monks continue on their way in silence. Later, as the monks reach their destination, the younger monk having fumed for the last 5 hours finally bursts out, "How could you do it? We're not allowed to touch a woman!” The older monk, surprised, replies, "I put her down 5 hours ago, but you are still carrying her with you."
As with the younger monk in the story, the things we hold onto (eg. that we feel angry, hurt, guilty about) cloud our mind and prevent us from fully enjoying life. The irony is that whatever you're holding onto, it's probably bothering you much more than it does anyone else.
Letting go usually involves some form of forgiveness or acceptance - whether it's of yourself, someone else, a situation or even an unknown third party.
Letting go doesn't mean we condone a situation or behaviour, it's about lightening OUR load. When we let go of whatever is bothering us we set ourselves free - and get to reclaim that energy for ourselves. We can then redirect our attention towards our priorities with a renewed sense of energy, and without the past dragging us down.
You don't need to know HOW to let go, you just need to be WILLING. And while you can't change the past, you can learn from it and change how you feel going forwards.
Remember - whatever you find hardest to let go of is probably what you need to let go of the most.
INSTRUCTIONS: While you may not wish to do anything about these right now, just listing what you need to let go of here will raise your level of awareness and you'll naturally begin to loosen your grip. So, simply list below what you're holding onto, what slows you down, what riles you up and anything that gets in the way of you being the best you can be…
What do I need to let go of? How I will benefit by ‘letting go’…
Just for a second, imagine letting go of everything on this list. How does it feel?
What have I learned about myself from doing this exercise?
TIP: If you need to let go of something YOU'VE done ask, "What do I need to do that will allow me to let this go?" Perhaps you need to make notes in your journal of what you've learned, perhaps you need to make some kind of amends, apologise or find a meaningful way to make it up to yourself or someone else. We can't change the past, but we can make amends and learn from it.
Mindfulness Technique Rain:
And finally, you can also try this mindfulness technique called RAIN, in which we investigate our thoughts and then get some perspective on them, in order to create some much needed headspace. You can access RAIN in our library of audio practices here.