7 Ways To Let Go of What’s Ailing You

Photo credit: OnceUponaLife

Have you ever had a thought that stressed you out, rattled around in your brain, and just wouldn’t go away? I’m sure it has; it happens to everyone. The problem is that when non-useful thoughts get stuck in our heads, they destroy our focus, creativity, and productivity. One simple nagging thought can throw off an hour, a day, or even an entire week. If you want to avoid losing those precious hours and days, then you need to let go of those thoughts…

“Letting go” doesn’t mean ignoring the problem. It simply means that you realize that there is nothing you can do about the issue right now, and rather than having it consume your life with stress and anxiety you are going to put it aside until you are in a position where you can deal with it.

Distracting thoughts suck up time, energy, and attention. By letting them go you free up all those resources to solve your problems, tackle your day, and pursue your dreams. Not only will your work get done faster, but it will also be of higher quality.

Obviously, your best bet is to just deal with what’s bothering you. Do the project, have the conversation, go deal with the overdue bill, etc. But if you can’t address the issue right away (or if it’s not something you can or want to ever address), you are much better off letting it go than letting it stew and fester in your mind.

Here are 7 ways to let go when something is bothering you:

Breathe

It is amazing what a few simple deep breathes can do for you. When you find stress rising, close your eyes (if you’re not driving!) and breath in as deeply as you can. Fill yourself with air from the bottom of your belly to the top of your chest, hold the air in for a few seconds, and then let it out. Repeat four or five times, or until you find yourself coming to peace with your troubles. For added impact, imagine that with each breath out your are letting your troubles and negative energy go.

This is the simplest and fastest way to let go and re-center your mind. It won’t last forever, but it will last long enough for you to get into a good flow state on another, more productive activity.

Empty Your Mind

Sometimes you may forget that you are the one in charge of your thoughts. When something is bothering you, you let it run amok all through your head. One of the best things you can do to let go of your troubles is to calm your mind by emptying it of thoughts.

This is very much like meditation, only our goal here is not to reach a higher consciousness or stay in a Zen state for an hour. Our goal is to become adept at removing all thoughts from our mind and be still. When you empty your mind, you remove all the negative thoughts and can exert a certain amount of control over what you let back in.

If you have not done this before, it won’t be easy, especially when you have stressful thoughts bouncing around your head. It’s a good idea to practice emptying your mind when you are not stressed, just to develop the skill. That will make it much easier when you need to let go of much bigger, badder thoughts.

Visualize

There are many great visualization techniques to help you let go of your troubles. Here are a few:

- Imagine the thing that is bothering you, and then visualize placing it in a balloon and watching it float away
- In your head, write down the issue and then imagine yourself crumpling it up and throwing it away
- Picture the thing that is bothering you, then change the color in your mind to black and white. Then shrink it down so it is very small. Then imagine it very far away.

Some of these ideas may sound odd, but they can do wonders for helping you to put troubling thoughts aside.

Write

Writing is a powerful way of getting thoughts out of your head. The simplest way to do this is to take out some paper and let whatever is in your head flow out. Don’t edit, don’t beat yourself up for what you are feeling, and don’t try to be correct. Just write. In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron refers to this as “Morning Pages,” and it is one of the best ways to clear all the gunk out of your head.

Another method is to write an in-depth letter to the person or situation that is troubling you (yes, you can write a letter to abstract concepts or inanimate objects). You never have to send the letter! In fact, you probably shouldn’t; it will just add another layer of stress to your mind. Instead, put it in a drawer or throw it away. The act of writing your thoughts will be cathartic in and of itself.

Distract Yourself

Not the best solution, but let’s face it: most of our stress will diminish with a little time and distance. Sometimes you just need to get your mind off of things for a little while. Go out with friends, exercise, engage in a hobby you love. The key is that you do something that truly engages your mind. Watching a movie could be good, or it could just leave you sitting in a dark theater festering over your problems for two hours.

Ritualize

You can physicalize the letting go process by performing a ritual. Don’t be put off by the word “ritual,” there is nothing spiritual or cultish about it. A ritual is just a consistent procedure you regularly follow. By turning your letting go process into a ritual, you can train your mind to automatically let things go once the ritual starts.

For example, you can write down the thing that is bothering you on a piece of paper and then burn it in a bowl or fireplace (be careful!). Some people use chants, mantras, or affirmations to let things go. I know a person who takes a picture that represents their thought, takes a short walk, and throws away the picture in a public garbage can a few blocks away. Not only have they thrown it away, but they also got it out of their house first!

The act of doing something physical represent letting something go is very powerful. Using rituals may sound strange, but don’t knock it until you try it!

Use Logic

This is probably the least effective method, but worth a shot, especially if you are a logical person. Keep explaining to yourself all the logical reasons why you should stop worrying. Yes, we as humans are emotional creatures, and logic very rarely wins out over emotion, but repeated logical reasoning can eventually engage the emotional part of your brain. If nothing else, by using logic you can force your attention off of what is bothering you and onto where you want it to go.

Troubling thoughts are dangerous, insidious things that can take hold, grow, and completely derail both our small and grand plans. The next time a nagging thought takes hold in your head, try applying one or more of these seven techniques and get back on track!

***
Avish Parashar is the Motivational Smart Ass. As a speaker and on his blog, Avish makes people laugh while sharing with them simple ideas to make their lives easier and more successful. To read more of his ridiculous rantings on self improvement, watch videos of him in action, and download the free “How to Think Quick” MP3, visit his Motivational Humor Blog at http://www.MotivationalSmartAss.com

  • http://lookingtobusiness.com Daniel M. Wood

    Stress is difficult and often the feeling that it is one thing that is making you stressed is incorrect.
    Because when you finish that task, all stress should just run out of your body, but usually it doesn’t. You stay stressed, at first you don’t know about what and then you find something new to be stressed about.

    Finishing stressing tasks is important, there is a reason you are stressed, the tasks need to be done. But it isn’t the solution to your stress problems.

    What I have found is the best tactic is to list everything that makes you stressed everything you feel is gnawing at you and then start making plans.

    If you for example are stressed about buying a car you can list all the actions you need to do in order to find one, plan what you do first, what second and so on.
    Then you just have to trust the process, you know that on Monday I will call Bill and ask for his advice, based on that advice all take action on Tuesday and call a seller, once that is done I will book a meeting to look at the car either on Tuesday or Wednesday and by Wednesday I should have a car.
    You have the process and all you have to do is trust it, if you hit a roadbump you just move the schedule forward.

    This can be done for any problem and that it gives you a feeling that you are doing what is needed all the time you are doing exactly what you are supposed to.

    Because a regular source of stress is feeling you should do more, but if you have a plan and stick to it, there isn’t any more to be done and it can therefore be put out of you mind.
    For example by using the techniques you list above.

    If you find that you are stressed about things you cannot change or do anything about, you HAVE to put them out of your mind, you can change anything about them anyway.

    Thanks a lot for the article.
    //Daniel

  • http://recerche.blogpsot.com ricercar

    this was amazing. i really needed to read this today! one thing i sometimes try is to hold it and watch it. sounds silly, but there’s a bit of history. long time ago i had this agonising toothache one night. and there was nothing i could do about it till morning. sleep was impossible. so after sometime i somehow serendiptiously fell into this attitude of watching the sensation as if it was not personal. and after sometime i kind of settled down with it. and then i fell asleep. i remember that experience when something bothers me and try to watch it and breathe. and sometimes i try to imagine what is going on and sort of mentally put myself through the paces of discovering its not AS bad as i am thinking (ie: i probably will get over this and be fine – as i have everything else so far in life – eventually). but it doesnt always work. depends on my level of drama at the moment! and sometimes i think just for me even having a bit of a drama moment is fine. as long as i am aware that is what i am doing. and then you can do that, be done, and come out. sounds silly in words. and it doesnt always work (obviously) :-)

    • Avish Parashar

      Hi ricercar – thanks for the nice words, and I’m glad you found the post helpful. I like your idea about getting curious about what’s bothering. I have seen that before and it can work surprisingly well – even on things like pain!

  • http://survivinglimbo.blogspot.com Emily

    Hi! I’m a regular reader of your blog, and you always have some great insights. HOWEVER. This one has a couple of leaky holes. Nitpicky thought: Emptying your mind would be a form of meditation. You can’t actually “empty” it, of course. If you don’t believe me, try not to think about a purple elephant. You can focus on your breathing and then bring your attention gently back to it when your thoughts stray. It’s still not “Zen” unless you use it as part of a spiritual practice.

    Not so nitpicky thought: These strategies all work well at times, but I think you should add a caveat for people like me who suffer from diagnosed anxiety, depression, and similar conditions. I can tell you from experience that logic will fail you during a panic attack. Deep breathing should be done in a paper bag, or you will most likely hyperventilate. I’ve tried various rituals such as writing a letter to the person who abused me as a child and burning it…nada. As you said, it’s all “worth a shot,” but be careful, if these measures fail, they may actually increase your anxiety because you’ll get that “nothing’s working” feeling.

    The key, I think, that you left out is these are best used as regular, routine, long term practices. Meditation, for example, over time can help you alleviate some of your anxiety. It takes practice, but as a now and then thing, it probably won’t do much good. And of course, if you’re like me, don’t forget the psychiatrist and therapy. :)

    Thanks in general for all your wonderful tips. I really look forward to your posts.

    • Avish Parashar

      Hi Emily! Thanks for the nice words about my blog and for the feedback on this post. This post was in no way intended to replace real therapy or medical help for serious issues; I suppose I should have put in a disclaimer about that! I checked out your website and this seems to be much more in your area of expertise. I was hoping to give people ideas they could use to let go of the small (and semi-big, but not traumatic stuff) that creeps into their minds and derails their day.

      As we both said, everyone’s mileage will vary for each technique (and situation). I have a friend for whom the “putting ideas into an imaginary balloon and letting them go” works incredibly well, but it gives me marginal benefit. On the other hand, I have gotten very good at using breathing and emptying my mind (whatever exactly that means to you) to calm myself and let things go.

      Thanks again for reading and contributing – I appreciate it!

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  • http://www.tigersleap.com Sean Durham

    Hi, good post. Emptying the mind is of course very difficult to do – but I get the idea. I find that getting rid of the thoughts that bother me is similar to emptying the mind. Combining that idea with changing the breathing rhythm will clear the mind and help you to relax.
    To do this is sometimes difficult,especially when the thoughts in our minds are very heavy or nagging thoughts.
    Simply going for a walk,just ten minutes,causes the breathing pattern to change and therefore the thought patterns. When the stomach muscles are tensed for walking your thoughts slow down and are less chaotic.

    Nice post, thanks. Sean

    • Avish Parashar

      Thanks Sean. Yes, emptying your mind and breathing do go hand in hand. I like the idea of taking a walk, as long as it is a deliberate way to change the breathing and relax the muscles. Sometimes when I go for a walk I forget about that and my thoughts start to overwhelm me! thanks for the additional advice :-)

  • http://www.olc.com.tr Yurtdışı Eğitim

    Thanks for this useful information. I kept this information is already on my computer.

  • http://www.peppervirtualassistant.com cheska

    I always do distraction and emtying of mind when I’m so stressed or when I can’t get over something. However, might try out writing. very interesting. thanks!

  • Mike Barnes

    Everyone should read this.  This is exactly what I was already doing and it works for me.  Ironically I’ve been feeling kind of bummed out recently because I thought I was the only one. I just took out a piece of paper to write things down and take deep breaths when I started to feel like this isn’t normal and no one else does this.  Well you just wrote the exact process.  Just shows me that this definitely makes sense.

  • Pingback: “Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits.” James Allen | HappyGumbo

  • MiuMiu

    Please help me.
    I have an image in my head that I can`t get rid of. 
    I don`t want to explain the image for I feel it will increase..
    The image is a person,a person whom I`ve been tormented by..

    I`m an outpatient and have been on several medications.
    The medication isn`t enough,,I need something more to banish this.
    Could someone PLEASE help me with this??

    • Saimasalman

      Dear MiuMiu….BALLOON THERAPY   is REALLY very effective n do one more thing  put that person in front of you in a long pathway in your imagination exactly in opposite direction GIVE A LAST LOOK on his/her face and start walking in opposite direction even u may check by turning yourself that he/she is going far away from you getting smaller… smaller.. and smaller like a dot then vanish away FOREVER from your life…..GOD is with you He will definitely help you to get out of this ..MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU…do these two techniquies.please…A WELL WISHER

      • Emma Siobhan O’ Brien

        Thank you soo much.

    • Saimasalman

      Dear MiuMiu….BALLOON THERAPY   is REALLY very effective n do one more thing  put that person in front of you in a long pathway in your imagination exactly in opposite direction GIVE A LAST LOOK on his/her face and start walking in opposite direction even u may check by turning yourself that he/she is going far away from you getting smaller… smaller.. and smaller like a dot then vanish away FOREVER from your life…..GOD is with you He will definitely help you to get out of this ..MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU…do these two techniquies.please…A WELL WISHER

  • Ninita

    Thank you i loved it!  As i am in bad need to use some of your ideas… the one more appealing and funny is the visualization… it made me laugh and therefore relax for a few moments!   But i will certainly try it every time……. :-)

  • Pablo

    Very good post. A few months ago I developed a crush on a co-worker. Despite tthe fact that I kept quiet about my romantic intentions towards this woamn, she basically rejected me on all levels (even the thought of being friends with me seemed to repulse her….). Needless to say, I was in agony for some time because I wanted this woman inn my life so  much. At some point I felt like losing my mind and it started interfering with my work. The logical approach failed, despite the fact that I kept telling myself that I can’t make other people like me and I understood that pretty much. What did help me was writing a letter to this woman and telling her my feeling, calling her names, etc, in other words taking the angst out of my system. After I finished writing it I kept it in my pocket and kept reading it several times within that day. Then I simply shredded the letter. I was absolutely amazed how all my thoughts about that person simply dissipated in the thin air. I am so happy that I am my old me again….. I wish I had found your post much earlier, it would have spared my a lot of heartbreaking pain.

    • Guest

      Thank you soo much.

  • Phyllis

    Just got a parking ticket and you know what? This did absolutely NOTHING for me. Thanks.

  • Sophie

    Thankuu <3 x

  • Perlas

    Thanks a lot. This is a big help, really. Thank you.

  • Marissa

    I am going to try a couple of these. I have been dealing with something no one should have to… It’s so bad that the thought eats away through all my happiness and causes me to have what I assume anxiety, not extreme anxiety, but just enough to throw my whole day off. The worst part is I have to go to places that bring up the thought of it. It hurts a lot and then the anger takes over. I came across this post and some of they ways to deal with this sound very promising, thanks for giving me hope :)