“Wear the world like a loose garment.” - Francis of Assisi
During this time of chaos and anxiety, stress levels are higher than ever underneath the layers of challenges presented to us so far throughout 2020. According to this article, Vaile Wright of the American Psychological Association explains, “For a lot of people, we might be reaching the breaking point in terms of the amount of stress and uncertainty we are experiencing.” What can be hard to remember amidst the social pressures of today and health concerns of the pandemic, as well as all the issues in our personal lives (that alone can drive us nuts), is that we still have the individual choice of how we react to and manage these stressors. We still have the choice to either not give a fuck or to allow the stress to dictate how our days go. The most important thing we can remember in our reaction, is to react with wisdom and courage.
It can be so easy to carry our anger, uncertainty, and resentment in our hearts; to be saddled with fear. These responses are human nature, they come naturally as reactions to the current events we’re experiencing. But we have control over whether we allow these reactions to take the wheel and steer, or whether we work with our courage to let go of the anger and resentment and move forward in a way that we can contribute to our own wellbeing and to society without being weighed down by negative emotions. First, we must cultivate the wisdom to know where we’re able to make changes, then, we must embody the courage it requires to carry them through and leave behind the weight of what has been keeping our hearts heavy. We’re not suggesting that people shouldn’t care, but rather that taking good care of themselves requires letting go of the anger and resentment that may be keeping them from the best, healthiest version of themselves.
Our world, our relationships, and our personal relationships with ourselves need healing, acts of kindness, and encouragement during this time, and when we harbor anger and resentment in our hearts it becomes near impossible to contribute in these ways. Negative emotions not only upset the body’s hormone balance, deplete the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damage the immune system, but strengthen the neural pathways in our brain that think negatively, making negative thoughts more frequent and harder to combat in the future. All of these things interrupt our ability to nurture our spiritual and emotional health, care for our relationships as they deserve, and contribute to society in the ways we would like to show up. Wisdom gives us insight into how we would like to show up and whether we are in a space to do so, and courage then helps us follow through - showing up in the world as powerful, influential human beings. If we’re housing fear in our hearts, we’re not able to access that wisdom and courage.
ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, according to Psychology Today, “helps you accept the difficulties that come with life.” ACT is structured largely around acceptance, and when we promote letting go of resentment, anger, fear, and uncertainty, acceptance is a key component in that process of letting go.
These ideas resonate with a lot of people when simply stated as not giving a fuck, but the idea of not giving a fuck doesn’t have to be connected with the idea of not caring, it can be connected with the idea of the freedom you are rewarded with when you let go of the negative emotions in your heart so that you are able to contribute to doing good. This can look so many different ways:
When you release your need to hold onto resentment and anger, you’ll be amazed at the space you create in your life to focus on your values and bring new opportunities and relationships into your life that align with those values. Gaining the wisdom to know what you can and cannot change, and then building the courage to move forward with making those changes so that new opportunities and relationships can align in your life, can have an incredibly beneficial effect on your emotional health. Emotional health, which the American Psychological Association says can lead to success in work, relationships, and health, becomes more nourished as you find the time and energy to allow newness into your life and let go of the negativity you may have been harboring in your heart for months or maybe even years. This can be a powerful transformation for some of us as we create that shift from being prisoners of our negative emotions to being in control of our emotional experience and learning to use our wisdom to accept things we cannot change and our courage to release the negative emotions that hold us back.
As we learn to release anger, resentment, fear, and uncertainty, we find ourselves lighter in so many areas of life, experiencing less stress on our relationships, less depression, decreased negative self-talk, and increased gratitude. Increased gratitude and a daily gratitude practice can quite literally re-groove the neural pathways in our brains over time, making it easier for us to recognize positive things in our everyday lives and those things we’re thankful for. This goes to show that letting go of those negative emotions can be an integral step towards making changes in your brain that will contribute to an overall healthier sense of wellbeing and quality of life.
In exploring ways to let go, there’s so many that span across how different people experience the act of letting go. Some people resonate well with symbolism and gestures and find that burning a few journal pages about your negative emotions in a fire pit is powerful for them. Others find mindfulness to be their most effective way of releasing negative emotions and staying grounded in the present, consistently using tools to bring them back to the moment and focus on what is in front of them rather than the grip of the past or negativity. One more way to try letting go is through a journaling practice - a space where you can leave what’s in your mind and heart on the page and release it from your body.
Remind yourself consistently of the importance of releasing anger and resentment, the importance of not giving a fuck, the importance of the freedom on the other side of letting go. We all deserve to live in that freedom.