Lockdown gives us time to learn the art of letting go
It is a skill that requires acceptance, moving on and relinquishing control
We are at a time in our lives when letting go is proving terrifying as we have already lost so much control over our lives. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images
We are conductors for our experiences. Soaking them up like the absorbing sponges we are. In this way, precious moments, people and events often sharpen our personalities and blend together to form a part of our identity.
In an ideal world, the experiences we attach ourselves to would always be colourful and positive. However, the negative encounters can consume us in a way that we struggle to let them go and prevent ourselves from growing in a positive light or moving forward. There may be a bad relationship blocking us, a chapter in our life we would rather not dwell on scourging our memories or a wrong path we fell down obstructing the inner workings of our mind, stopping us from taking a necessary step away.
Letting go is not all that easy considering people, events, words, places, times and momentary blips have a habit of burying themselves deep as we hold on. Our moments have a profound effect on how we live. Whether we can move past a scenario which may be holding us back is essentially down to us.
How do we perceive the situation and can we find the strength to let it be?
Maturity and experience have a way of helping us to move on but what do we do when the art of letting go becomes difficult? Or when the situation, as the world currently stands, becomes so unmoving that we must accept a loss of control?
We are at a time in our lives when letting go is proving terrifying considering we have already lost so much control over our lives and our environment with restrictive, unprecedented measures. In any situation where letting go and moving on is beneficial to our mental health, we are ultimately faced with a challenge to let go of a huge amount of control over our own lives.
Susan McKenna, social care advocate and author at Bookhub Publishing, says: “This is a time of profound uncertainty with the global Covid-19 pandemic. It is a time when we have all been forced to look into ourselves and draw from our own resiliency. We are given an opportunity to reimagine how and why we engage as we do with the world and our communities.”
The world has become an unknown, frightening place and is shrinking yet exploding at the same time, at a fast rate. We are consumed by our own four walls, yet enveloped by the events taking place around the entire world. Letting go requires acceptance, moving on and relinquishing control and, eventually, healing.
The problem with this, especially now, is that we are in a situation which has taken away our control. Allowing ourselves to feel okay about this requires an acceptance like no other. Some may say we have no choice. And that is all well and good but that does not mean our struggle to let go won’t cause additional stress to an already traumatic situation.
“In all of this, we are presented with a chance to let go of routines and possibly toxic people that no longer serve us,” says McKenna who has 20 years of frontline social care work and management experience in a range of environments and has worked extensively with families at risk. “In fact, when we think about it, we perform so many outdated routines simply because they are routines.
“Now, we can make different, more positive decisions – ones that are more attuned to our core as individuals. Think of yourself as a child. What made you happy then? What changed for you? How could you get back some of this happiness in your life? Crucially, what do you need to let go of in your life?”
Our ability to accept and let go is buried. It is something we often avoid exploring because addressing elements of our life that we are afraid of, unhappy with or angry at is not the simplest or most pleasant of experiences. When we are used to having a level of control over our lives, managing our expectations is a good place to start. Holding on won’t change the situation, won’t fix anything but it will stop us from moving forward.
“One coping strategy is to simply identify and then ‘let go’ of extraneous distractions and become better at concentrating,” says McKenna. “Achieve what psychologist Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’. This refers to a state of very specific concentration followed by engagement that happens when one completes a task or series of tasks that challenges one’s skills. There is now voluminous literature in psychology confirming that people are finding it immensely difficult to just concentrate and be ‘in the moment’. Let’s change that.”
Giving ourselves the ability to accept and live in the moment is not the simplest solution with the uncertainties surrounding us. However, McKenna says: “The good news is that learning to ‘let go’ is a skill one can acquire by changing one’s mindset, by embracing the ‘moment’ and by being more conscious of confronting and changing routine. In this period of lockdown, we have time to commence this. When the lockdown ends, maintain this new way of thinking. Let go.”
When confronted with an experience, a past encounter or unwelcome thoughts, aim to:
– Let go of the idea that we can control other people’s actions, situations or events.
– Remember control is often rooted in fear of not knowing the outcome. Trust that it will be okay.
– Accept the things we cannot change. Adapt in a way that makes you more comfortable.
– Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, hurt. All our emotions are important.
– Cry if you need to. We are allowed to grieve.
– Write down your thoughts and feelings to understand how you can move past the feelings blocking you.
– Focus on what you are gaining.
– Allow for mistakes.
– Learn to forgive.