As humans, we carry around storage boxes in our minds: think of them as suitcases, bags, or chests we use to hold onto things we want to remember. Important dates, lists of items to buy, appointments, brilliant ideas and so forth are just a few of the things we store in these boxes. After becoming a parent, the number of items placed in these containers increases exponentially. Your storage capacity needs to expand to allow for for kids’ birthday parties, soccer games, homework, doctor’s appointments, school events and snacks - oh so many snacks!
These bags and boxes are flexible, however, and they can bend and mold into whatever shape we need to hold all of our important information safe. These items are also easily balanced since once each one is completed it is removed and leaves room for the next. The weight of these containers becomes an issue when we start to put negative things into them that never go away. Our boxes contain guilt, shame, stress, anxiety, fear and anger. This is when we start feeling that we are literally dragging our baggage around. We start to lose focus, feel overwhelmed and can not see an end in sight because the weight it too much to bear.
The weight of our baggage can become suffocating, making us feel completely powerless over our own lives. It can cause us to become paralyzed and unable to move forward. The stress makes the speed of time feel like it has tripled and the minutes fly past. We feel we will never be able to finish everything we need to do, never have enough time or energy to reach the satisfaction and happiness we are seeking, right? This becomes a state of panic that many people are experiencing right now during these very uncertain times.
My advice: stop, take a minute, and BREATHE. This may be the last thing anyone feels like doing when the world is spinning and the clock is ticking, but it is completely necessary to think clearly. Take 2-3 minutes to breathe deeply and slowly, only concentrating on your heart rate and stabilizing your emotions.
Once focused it will be easier to look at your baggage with a closer eye and see what is really dragging it down. For most people the items stuck at the bottom include things like: incomplete renovation projects, messy closets or drawers, cleaning and piles of laundry, negative comments from co-workers, family drama, self judgement, mom guilt, other people’s problems and worry, so much worry, at the bottom. Worrying only makes us scared, tired and nervous about the possibility of what could be. Instead, when we think of what could be in a positive way it is called hope and faith. These positive emotions empower us to see many possible outcomes that lead to great change. Worry is our mind assuming it will all fall apart. The majority of the time our mind is not only wrong, but prefers to think in extreme scenarios causing us to go back to that feeling of panic.
Instead of letting our thoughts of doom take over, take time to reflect on each one as it comes up and really validate its worth. “My house is such a mess; I am a terrible mom.” That seems extreme, but that thought is probably one that comes up for many. Turn the thought around: “the house is a mess because we live in it. We are a family that plays and has fun. Our messes create memories and that makes me feel like an amazing parent”. You only need to tackle these worries one at time and slowly reduce the weight on your shoulders. Take on that messy “catch all” drawer today; it won’t take more than 10 minutes and that release and feeling of accomplishment will be magical. Every time you open that drawer, pass by that unfinished project, worry about a comment someone else said, the baggage weight increases, and your thoughts start fluttering. Taking a couple minutes each day to tackle these items and it will bring a joy you never imagined and give you back the power over your life.
Take a moment to think about one of the things in your box that is heavy and the relief that would come from releasing that burden enabling it to run free. We spend so much time living in a resistant mindset, but when we accept things and move past them, we get this burst of energy like we can take on the world. We have all fallen on tough times, but we are resilient and when we overcome and look back all how many hurdles there have been, we need to give ourselves love and appreciation for our inner strength.
Let’s look at how we can eliminate negative emotions through simple actions.
Emotional Attachment- Material things can evoke emotion and our attachment to them can be immensely powerful. They can give us an enormous amount of joy especially if the item has a memory of a loved one attached to it. We also seem to create negative attachments to things for one reason or another. We may not want to get rid of these items, and they act as a form of self-sabotage. How many people hold onto clothes that do not fit? Every time you look at these you feel bad about yourself because they are now too small. Why hold onto that negativity and allow it to take control? Take a garbage bag and donate all the clothes that have a negative notion attached to them. Maybe it’s a sweater someone bought you as a gift, but you hate it and only wear it out of obligation. Get rid of it! This small task will leave you feeling so free, I promise. This will allow you to purchase a new item or two completely based on how they make you feel. When we wear clothes that make us feel good, our energy and confidence spreads to the rest of our day.
Devaluing Yourself- When we let the opinion of others supersede how we feel about ourselves, our value diminishes. When our personal value is low, we allow others to take the time and energy we need for ourselves and are left feeling exhausted and worn out. What would happen if you did one thing for yourself each day, big or small? You would derive more satisfaction from that one action than anything else you do because you put yourself first. You know yourself better than anyone, so others’ opinions of how you should spend your time or what you should be doing are secondary to what you know. Putting yourself first will also allow the release of bitterness or anger that you feel when always having to do things for others. Again, take your power back to feel good about your life. Take an extra 10 minutes in the shower with your favourite song blaring, go for a long walk, buy yourself the “good” chocolate and don’t share. See your true worth, don’t let comparisons from or to others blur your vision.
Fear of Letting Go- We tend to hold onto things that hurt us because they are familiar. We know what to expect and even though we don’t like the way it makes us feel, we are too afraid of letting go and experiencing the unknown. This way of thinking is very counterproductive when letting go would allow room for new and better things in our lives. Unfortunately, we are often wired to hold on. Letting go of these items in your suitcase will be the hardest but the most rewarding thing you will do. You might have such a powerful release that you will feel like you are floating on air. Start small in this process. The first thing anyone can and should do is delete contacts. Delete them from your phone, from social media, from your obligations list. This simple act will free you from being triggered by someone else’s negative posts, the memories of a person who always pointed out your flaws, someone who might take advantage of your help but never reciprocate. Delete them all! This will allow you to slowly release bad memories and traumas that have affected your life. This does not always mean forgetting about what has happened but appreciating that circumstances have allowed you to become the strong person that you are. It doesn’t mean you are accepting these traumas or allowing them to happen to others, it just means you are at peace and can move forward. This resolve will come in time and will allow you to see future conflicts for what they are and remove yourself from these situations.
Take a moment of reflection each day to appreciate what you have and the things you have accomplished – no matter how small they are. We live in a society that is focused on the next best thing and how quickly we can get there. There is no satisfaction in that way of living as we never take the time to reflect on our achievements. Give gratitude to others and most importantly, to yourself. De-clutter, organize and let go a little more each day and you will discover your inner happiness growing. You’ll soon realize that your happiness never left you, it has been buried over time with a myriad of negative emotions. Release the weight to reveal your joy!