Ask The Therapist: “How do you let go of things you know you can’t get in your life?”

n 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“Hey there, my question is that how should you let go of things that you know you can’t get in your life, even if it’s a person. I have a problem of mood swings, it’s just like that, a moment I’m happy, and the very next moment I’m angry and bizaar of life. I don’t know what I think, my thoughts are just so psychotic, I myself don’t even understand what I think. I have a lot of questions but answers are missing.”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I can really feel your struggle. From what I can gather, it seems that you’re quite overwhelmed and are having trouble making sense of your thoughts and feelings – and that’s okay. Let’s see if we can help you find ways to make sense of what’s happening.

First, let’s talk about grief

From the first part of your message, it seems that you are trying to let go of someone, or something, and that in itself can be categorized as a loss.

Grief, in essence, is our way of responding to loss. There is a general idea in most societies of what loss really is, or what it’s considered a socially acceptable loss, and what deserves to be mourned. Grief is mostly associated with death; the physical loss of a person that mattered to you. While this is definitely a great part of grief and bereavement counselling, it isn’t the only kind of loss. There is a concept of disenfranchised grief; these are losses that are present in us but are not openly acknowledged

The reality is that grief results from different kinds of losses: loss of a relationship (of any nature), religion, identity, even an idea or a fantasy. Letting go or moving forward is a process – a process that has no set timeline and one that works differently for each person. While I don’t have much a solution for you, I can give you this: it’s alright. Take as much time as you need to in order to come to terms with your reality. You don’t need to rush things; be true to yourself. You will go where you need to at your own pace and the MOST important thing I can say is this: there is no right or wrong feeling or thought in this process.

Whatever comes up for you: Stay with it. Observe your body’s reactions.

You say that you have mood swings and that your emotions move from one end of the spectrum to the other. That can be quite confusing, especially when you’re not sure why it’s happening. Here’s what I can recommend for you:

1. Stay with it

Try to stay with what you’re feeling. Our immediate response to emotions, especially ones such as anger or sadness, is often to push them away. But they are our response to the world as WE know and perceive it and, therefore, deserve to be felt.

2. Be aware of the sensations

When you feel emotions, try to unpack them and remember that we FEEL our emotions, we don’t think them. Be aware of what’s happening in your body. Is your chest feeling heavy? Is your heart beating a little faster? Is there more tension in your head that usual? Be mindful of what you’re feeling and give yourself some space and compassion for those feelings to exist. Remember that your emotions are part of you and it’s okay to let them (and yourself) be.

3. Create a Feelings journal

Write down the emotions as well as the sensations you feel in the body. Try to be aware of the environment, thoughts and any possible triggers that may have brought about this emotion.

Too many thoughts? That’s okay. They’re part of you too and you have control.

While there’s no concrete answer in terms of causality, one thing is for sure: our thoughts and feelings are linked. Sometimes when our thoughts become too much, they can impact our body or vice versa. If your thoughts are overwhelming, try to see if these tools help make sense of what’s happening:

1. Acknowledge your thoughts:

Sometimes we have so many thoughts flying through our mind that we can’t make sense of anything. But try closing your eyes, breathing and counting your thoughts. Try to visualize the thought, count it as one and move onto the next one. This will help you gain control over your mind and give your thoughts the acknowledgement they might need.

2. Journal:

Write it out. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes seeing our thoughts written down in front of us can give us the clarity we need.

3. Take a break:

This is not a solution, but it’s alright if you just want to distract yourself. Our thoughts and feelings can take a toll and sometimes, breaking out of that endless loop is what you need. We all have rituals of self-care or things that we turn to for comfort. Some that I’ve found to be personally effective are:

  • A warm shower.
  • Listening to music.
  • A light, feel-good TV show or movie.

4. Talk to a friend, loved one or a professional:

An old and simple one, but very effective. Talking out your thoughts has shown to provide a sense of relief or catharsis for those who feel overwhelmed. Be mindful of who the person is and make sure it’s someone who can provide you with the safe space you need.

Healing and moving forward is a process. What we often forget, or rather what we often don’t realize, is that the process and timeline for this healing differs from person to person. It’s important to keep that in mind and give yourself the compassion and space you need to facilitate this healing. If you’re still struggling, reach out to a counsellor or a therapist who can provide that space for you. I really wish you well on your journey of healing. Take care and stay in your power.

Good luck!

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