Years ago a fellow colleague of mine likened therapy to flossing your mind. She believed it’s a way to clean out the emotional clutter that gets tucked away, but really does no good in your life. She advocated that everyone should have therapy ‘check up’s’ at least every six months to purge the emotional stuff.
While not everyone needs a therapy session, a regular check-in with yourself to purge the unwanted emotional baggage isn’t a bad idea!
Step 1) Identify what “baggage” you are holding onto.
It may be that there are things in your life that are draining your energy (a job that is unsatisfying or extra responsibilities that take away instead of add to your day). Possibly you’re experiencing emotional pain because of a loss (a breakup, death, or separation from a loved one).
Spending some time getting really clear on what it is consuming your emotions in your life is important. For many people the act of actually writing it down is vital. Describe the events/ experiences/ interactions that fill up your mind. Put in details.
This clarification may feel unnecessary, but it can be eye opening to how you're investing your energy. You may find that you’re focusing on one topic more than you expected.
With this list be sure to include all the emotional energy you spend, both positive and negative. You’re probably not going to want to decrease the positive experiences you have, but list anything that consumes your thoughts/emotions even if it brings happiness.
Step 2) Identify what doesn’t need (or deserve) your energy right now.
Ask yourself: Looking back on this list how does it fit for the life you want? Does where you are focusing your energy match with your priorities in your life? What would this list look like if things were more in balance in your life?
When you’re able to shift your thoughts around an event to remove the judgments or expectations we have (either toward yourself or others) it will help you to release those thoughts from your mind (a.k.a letting it go).
Removing the judgement is tricky and challenging. It’s one of those “easier said than done” tasks. One trick that might help is to recognize that you did the best you could in that situation, given the circumstances, limitations, and your knowledge and skills at the time.
Simplifying your emotional life means making choices that will remove unneeded stress. If you skip the unnecessary errands you will have time to engage in those activities that build energy, instead of draw from it.
Sometimes what we need do to simplify our lives most is changing our emotions and decreasing the amount of time we worry, stress, feel angry, or sad. In doing your emotional inventory you may identify a source underlying some of your emotions; if so, make those changes. You have two choices if you want to create change in your feelings: change the situation so you no longer feel that way, or “let go/accept” the uncomfortable energy-sapping feelings.
Getting mindful of our feelings is a great way to identify what is underlying and the source of our feelings.
Step 3) Take time to reflect and reevaluate.
Ask yourself what’s working and what isn't. Creating your emotional inventory hopefully opened your eyes to areas large and small that you can start changing, shifting, modifying. This is an ongoing step that takes patience.
Creating balance and caring for yourself as you’re simplifying your emotional spaces is also important. Nurturing yourself as you identify and strengthen your self-worth and self-assertion can come in many forms. If you’d like some ideas, I created a free downloadable Self-Care Checklist that you can use to make sure you’re nurturing your body, mind and soul!
Be bold in being you!
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.