Let it go!

How do you know when it’s time to let go of something? Is there a right answer?

We spend so much of our lives trying to get stuff, from clothes to cars to jobs to relationships, that I think it’s somewhat against our nature to let things go. There comes a time, though, that we have to dispose of things that we’ve accumulated for our own well-being. When it no longer serves its purpose or no longer feels good, it’s likely time to let it go.

What are some things that we might consider getting rid of? Hard feelings, toxic relationships, objects that don’t make us feel good anymore, negative feelings that are getting in the way of personal growth or contentment. There are a number of other things that can affect our lives that we should consider dismissing from our lives.

It seems that I’ve been on a purging expedition for the past few years. I’ve reexamined relationships, living environment, finances, emotions and feelings as well as my general “stuff” that I’ve spent decades accumulating. I’m not sure that there’s necessarily one reason why we do this. Rather, I think it’s a gradual process that we go through and sometimes we’re just more aware of it than others. In my case, I think it’s a combination of events including illness, financial necessity, reprioritization of what’s important to me, and capping it off with a milestone birthday (i.e., ageing!).

We all have things that we hold onto that we know we should get rid of. Sometimes it’s emotional, like anger, grief, or resentment. Those things take a toll on us, emotionally and physically. Sometimes we’re able to process these things and move forward with our lives. Sometimes we get stuck in a perpetual replay of whatever incidents caused these feelings. Sometimes we need longer to process something that happened and that’s okay. At some point, though, we know that we’ll have to let it go, to move forward and start healing. That can mean mending a problem that we’re dealing with in order to move in a more positive direction. We can do this by letting go of something or someone or by actively addressing the problem itself. Making a decision and taking action at all is positive.

Sometimes we have ideas, principles, or beliefs that we hold dear to our heart, those things that define us; who we are, what we stand for. These things are really hard to change but sometimes we have to examine them and determine if they’re still appropriate or right for us. If you start feeling uncomfortable about things that you do or things that you think or say, it’s letting you know that perhaps those things no longer belong in your life. Our culture and our surroundings are always changing and what you used to think may no longer be applicable. It’s up to us to ensure that we are self-aware and behave according to our norms and morals. Additionally, as we age and as our life circumstances change, so do our beliefs or the things that we expect in our life. How we think about things at 15 isn’t how our circumstances are reflected when we’re 35 and certainly different than when we’re 65. Things that we experience, people that we meet, and things that happen to us throughout our life will, of course, affect the way we view things. We SHOULD be changing our beliefs and ideas about things. If we didn’t, we would always be disappointed! It’s important to let go of things that we thought should happen or we wished would have happened. We have one life to live and we need to move forward. We need to adapt our own beliefs and ideas to the person that we actually ARE and that may not be the person you expected to be.

Then there’s our STUFF. I’m a person that had (has) boxes of the kids’ stuff in my attic. Every card I received was something that I loved and wanted to keep. I have mementos from vacations and wear a t-shirt to bed that I got at Niagara Falls probably 20 years ago (OMG, I just realized it was that old). I like my stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hoarder and it’s all put away somewhere, but I have a hard time parting with things that mean something to me.

We keep things for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s simply because of where/when we received it (vacations, memorable times, etc.). Sometimes it’s because of the person that gave it to us; perhaps they’re no longer with us or you identify that person with the item. Sometimes it reminds us of better times and we hate to get rid of it. There are any number of reasons that we hold onto things and lots of them are good reasons. There are some things, however, that would benefit us to let go of.

If you’re holding onto clothes from 10 years ago because you might fit into them again, you’re constantly thinking about how you DON’T fit in them now, which is defeating.

If you’re holding onto every single piece of paper your kid brings home, trust me when I say that you’ll be able to remember their accomplishments and their personality 30 years later without looking at that picture they made in kindergarten. If you order just the school pictures you need instead of the full package just to throw away 90% of them, you’re not a bad parent. Don’t let guilt guide your decision. You don’t need to keep or buy everything!

Old batteries and light bulbs are a great example of keeping things just to keep them! How many times have you replaced either of those and held onto the spares because they MIGHT still be good and you MIGHT be able to use them at some point? No more! I’m throwing them away…starting today.

I just let go of my treadmill and exercise bike. If I had to guess, I would say that I’m not the only one with exercise equipment in my home that isn’t used (or used much). I tried to get in the habit of using them, I really did. When I walked past it, I would occasionally walk for a bit or spend some time on the bike, but it was more out of guilt than it was enjoyment or even for the benefit of exercise. I was defiant in holding onto it, though. I kept convincing myself that I would soon be in the habit of using them every day, or at least every couple of days. Why? Because I wanted to be that person! I really wanted to be the person that exercised a few times a week and was fit and toned and healthy!  I wanted to be dedicated enough to stick to it and see results. Sadly, I’m not that person.

Many times, we hold onto things, not because of the things themselves, but for what they represent. To me, that bike and treadmill represented success, diligence, and health. That’s a lot of pressure for exercise equipment. The fact that I had to admit that I don’t have the dedication I expected is something that I finally dealt with. The fact that I had to admit that I’m not physically able to use those things on a regular basis (and likely will never be) was a lot harder to accept. It was something that I’ve been trying to ignore for awhile now. That part makes me sad. So in getting rid of these two items, I’m releasing the guilt and the sadness that I lived with daily when I saw them and reminded me that I didn’t live up to my own expectations. Good riddance!

In the end, not everything is worth hanging onto, from our thoughts to our belongings. Be choosy about what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, and what you’re holding onto. Not everything benefits you. We all have things that we have to deal with. Sometimes the best course is to keep something and other times, it’s to release it. When it’s time to let it go, take a deep breath and just DO IT!

Life with Limitations

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Everybody has something to deal with, whether it’s chronic pain, illness, injury, stress, or trauma. I have some limitations in my life due to chronic illness. I won’t bore you with all the details of how chronic illness is defined or what it means. I won’t explain the names of the illnesses with which I live. Everybody has their own problems, ailments, and other struggles that they live with. Mine are certainly better than some and, for that, I’m grateful.

Having said that, I feel that it’s also beneficial to raise awareness for the struggles that people live with, whether the limitations are physical, mental, or emotional. I feel like they’re all intertwined anyway. For sure, when I feel physically depleted, I also feel angry or depressed or sad (or all 3). Sometimes my thinking is adversely affected and I don’t trust myself to make important decisions or even drive. My anxiety ramps up even more than usual. Conversely, if I’m feeling down or thinking less clearly, it also seems to magnify the physical aspect of my conditions. Being affected like this means that I’m incapable of functioning at my best. Continue reading “Life with Limitations”

Change Happens, Ready or Not

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Throughout our lives, we come across times of change, whether we looked for it or not and whether we want it or not. Obviously, how we react to these changes will affect the next portion of our life.

Some changes are easier to react to than others. For instance, if we actively decide to make a change for the better (new job with better hours, more pay, or a better location or a new house/apartment, new relationship, etc.), the change is much easier to live with. You’ve made the choice yourself and you’re benefiting from the change in a positive way. Does this mean everything is rosy? Nope. Continue reading “Change Happens, Ready or Not”

It’s Sunday – Do THIS Today!

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We can look at Sunday two different ways. It’s either the end of the weekend and you’re already planning your upcoming week or you’re still enjoying your weekend and haven’t yet thought about the week ahead. Either way, think about doing THIS sometime today.

Real quick, think about something that makes you happy. Don’t think about whether or not you can do it; don’t think about the logistics of it. Just real quick…what makes you happy? Continue reading “It’s Sunday – Do THIS Today!”

National Suicide Prevention Week

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It seems as if it was just a couple of months ago that I wrote an article about this; it’s been a year. It made me think about how much has changed over the past year…and how much hasn’t. In fact, I woke up early this morning and, for some reason, started thinking about a loss that I experienced several years ago now. I don’t know why; it wasn’t an anniversary or birthday or any of the normal things that would bring this up. Of course it made me sad thinking about it but, as I was thinking about everything, I also realized that it did more than that. It changed me. It changed who I was when it happened. I’m no longer the person that I used to be prior to my loss. I experienced such strong emotions and feelings that it really threw me for a long time. I honestly think it changed me as a person. I’m a bit more heavy-hearted than I used to be. I am a bit more hesitant in allowing my heart and emotions to be dealt another blow. At the time it happened,  I thought about it, agonized over it, cried about it, got angry about it. I did all the things that grieving people should do, but it certainly didn’t feel normal to me and I didn’t go back to the person that I used to be. And that’s the point.

Each one of us is unique and we each have our own minds and emotions. No two are alike so we really cannot understand what someone else is going through. We also change, so we need to adapt. Sometimes life is just too hard to manage on our own. Sometimes we need help. This is absolutely no different than needing help getting around when you have a broken leg. We have a problem and we need help. It’s really as simple as that.

All of us experience highs and lows. All of us have good things happen and bad things happen to us. It’s life and we have to deal with it. We need to each deal with it the right way FOR US. That’s the thing; there is no right and no wrong in treating illness. Everybody has to learn what works best for them in order to live their best life. It’s not fair for any one of us to judge anybody else by what they do to survive. We are not in their shoes; we do not know what’s going on in their life. What we can do, however, is encourage each other to be the best person that they are capable of being and to support each other in that goal.

This isn’t a technical article with statistics and facts and figures. There are (thankfully) plenty of sites to find that information and I will provide a few of them below. Suffice it to say there are a LOT of us that suffer from some type of mental health issue. It can be an independent diagnosis, it can be due to another illness, it can be temporary or long-term, and it can be mild, severe or anywhere in-between! Like any other illness, there are treatments designed to fit your specific circumstances.

Things can become overwhelming. Sometimes we need help to get us through. The most important things that we can do for each other are to learn about it, talk about it, and be there for each other. Awareness is key. Knowing the risk factors and being able to recognize them could help prevent the more than 40,000 deaths every year by suicide. Sometimes we’re capable of asking for or seeking the help that we need. Sometimes we’re not and we need somebody to do it for us. Be that person.

Learn to recognize these signs or symptoms:  (from National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will
What can you do to help someone at risk?
  1. Ask:“Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. Be there:Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect:Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay Connected:Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown  the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

The bottom line is that we have to be there for each other, look out for each other, and take care of each other. That’s how it’s supposed to work. We all need help sometimes. I’d like to think we do this on a regular basis, but it’s particularly valuable when we need an extra hand to get through a difficult time.

I found this great post with some ideas on how we can do this here: (highly recommended read!) http://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/small-things-help-someone-struggling-depression/

I’m fortunate to have people in my life that are supportive and do some of these things for me. I can say first-hand that it makes a significant difference on days that are more difficult. I hope that they know how much I appreciate them. It doesn’t take much effort to send a text or give somebody a quick call, but it can have a huge impact on their life. I try to do some of these same things for them, as well, just to let them know that I’m thinking of them and that I care about them. Please take a few minutes out of your day to reach out to somebody that needs it. Everybody wants and deserves to feel supported and cared for.