2020 was a year like no other that challenged our mental health, our mindset, and overall well-being. Many of us found ourselves dealing with potential illness and burnout, feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and anxious. We rode the edge of sanity, in a world that made us redefine the meanings of purpose, health, and safety.
While this came easier for some than others, I think most of us can say we experienced discomfort with the unexpected gift of time. The time at home brought us face-to-face with our inner selves, the quietness giving us an opportunity to choose growth or fear – neither the wrong choice when life throws curveball after curveball.
As we move into the next year, it’s important to reset our minds and take the time to look back at 2020 and think about the happy times, joys, struggles, and challenges, and how we reacted and overcame them. In acknowledging your wins and losses, you can store away the things that brought you joy and release the things that can be forgiven and forgotten. Give yourself a lighter load to carry into 2021 by letting go of the things that are no longer serving you.
Journaling, meditation, or simply speaking out loud about the past year’s feelings, situations, and obstacles may be helpful. But, to really get the full benefit of this “letting go” exercise, try completing these following steps through writing a letter that only you will see.
Four Steps to Letting Go
Acknowledge the “thing” that you want to let go of. What is weighing you down? It could be an emotion, a physical ache, or an experience where someone may have wronged you or hurt your feelings. This could even be COVID, political unrest, or maybe frustration when your hours were cut at work. Whatever it is, call it forward and write it down. If it is keeping you stuck, it is no longer serving you.
Thank the Lesson
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are constantly learning lessons from every experience we have. Sometimes, these challenges are here to teach us about ourselves or the world around us. They help fill our toolbox with new tools that help us get through when the next challenges come our way. This might be thanking a situation for giving you the opportunity to practice patience, or for teaching you that some things are out of your control. Maybe we thank a roadblock for slowing us down to show us that our kids or partner are craving our time and attention. Write down the lessons that you’ve learned.
Forgive the Hurt
This is probably the most complicated step. It is hard to let go of things that cause us turmoil. But if we don’t, these things fester and continue to build upon one another until we come to a breaking point, often taking it out on the people we love the most. We can do this by the act of writing “I forgive ______.” Deep breaths may be helpful if this begins to feel uncomfortable. Push through!
Repeat these first three steps until you have moved through everything you want to let go.
We let go. We send this thought, feeling, or experience out of ourselves. We may visualize it leaving our bodies or feel the heaviness melt away. Consider burning your letter, shredding it, or ripping it into little pieces. The physical act of destroying this letter helps to solidify your decision to let these things go. Stepping forward and leaving this heaviness behind frees us from the burdens we’ve been carrying.
This exercise can be done any time to bring you peace and a feeling of freedom from the challenges and difficulties that life may bring. We know there are more ahead, but we remember that each experience shapes our ability to move more quickly from the heaviness into the light. We are here in the middle of everything, making it through this tough time and that in and of itself is a lot to be proud of!
This blog article was contributed by Sonja Stang, Director of Community Relations, for Nexus-PATH Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.