Warning: This post may result in the theme song from Frozen being stuck in your head. Reader discretion is advised.
Many of us at one time or another has come to the realization that we just need to let go of something that is stressing us out. Maybe it’s a breakup, an error at work or a financial decision that didn’t work out as we had hoped. It could be anything really; a house you sold when the market was right, or obsessing over the correct renovation decisions. In many of these situations we may be able to acknowledge that we should stop stressing, obsessing, and boring our friends with the details. But we just can’t stop.
Other times, we don’t realize we need to let something go until someone else brings it to our attention. They may have heard our story one too many times and feel it is in our best interest to move on. In these instances, someone saying, ‘let it go’ can be perceived as condescending or insensitive. It’s right up there with saying “calm down” to someone who is angry or, “just think about the positive” to someone who is depressed. It can feel as though the person giving us advice cannot fully understand the situation. If they did, why would they suggest something that is so obviously difficult to achieve? While it may not be their intention to be so unhelpful, it could be that they just don’t really know what else to say, or don’t see any obvious solutions but want us to feel better. Truthfully, it can be hard to watch someone struggling to let go of a stressful situation as from the outside it can seem so clear that letting go is the path towards achieving a more peaceful and less stressful mindset.
While it’s not easy, there are times when we are able to let go or move on and it does make things better. We may think, ‘Wow, I should have listened! I wish I had done this sooner’. We learn from this experience and when we feel stuck or we are ruminating on something we start to tell ourselves, “Just let it go!’ We become the well intentioned friend giving ourselves the same advice we earlier criticized. The reason we struggle is because it’s difficult to know when letting go is really the right approach. After all, the situation must be important; if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be stuck in your mind.
“Letting go” is much easier said than done. So, how do you know when it’s time to let go?
To answer this question we need to take a step back in order to clarify the problem, or in other words, get some perspective. Trusted relationships can be a good source of this perspective but we can also learn to look inwardly. Sometimes finding a quiet moment to ask yourself some key questions can be the clearest way to finding your answer. What is it that is really bothering me about this situation? Is there a need that I am attempting to meet? Can it actually be met by the resolution I am seeking?
Once we are clear on the problem at hand, we need to ask ourselves, what is it that I can actually control? Have I done everything within my power to address the situation to the best of my ability? If not, why not? What is getting in my way?
Oftentimes, making the changes needed to truly address a stressful situation take courage. It may mean taking risks or being vulnerable to uncertainty or the unknown. It requires a level of comfort in giving up control that can be very difficult and even scary. Friends, family and other trusting relationships can be a great source of support during these moments of vulnerability.
Finally, when you can honestly say that you’ve done all that you can do, and when you have supports in place, you are in the best position take a deep breath, trust the work you have done up to this point and let it go.