Let’s be honest, life can get pretty out of control sometimes, often yielding disappointments and unmet expectations. Isn’t that when we often find ourselves feeling frustrated, bitter, or angry… when our expectations are not met? When a spouse didn’t handle a situation the way we thought they should? When a co-worker or employer made a decision you disagreed with? When things didn’t work out the way you expected them to?
I know for me, there have been many unmet expectations I’ve had to work through and learn to let go of in a healthy way, the biggest being my struggle with Recurrent Pregnancy Loss. As people, we have expectations for pretty much everything in life whether we realize it or not. We have expectations for what our marriage should be like, what our families should look like, what our friendships should be like, and how our work dynamics and relationships should function. When our expectations aren’t met, it can be very upsetting.
How do we survive the moments when life throws us a major curveball and our expectations aren’t met? When we lose someone or something we love? When a friendship or relationship with someone we care deeply about is over? When we lose our job? When someone close to us does something (intentionally or not) to hurt us? When financial crisis hits? When life doesn’t work out the way we imagined it would? Ally Condie puts it beautifully when she says, “In the end, you can’t always choose what to keep. You can only choose how you let it go.”
Over the last few weeks, there have been several moments where I have felt the effects of many circumstances in my life being outside of my control. But even in the midst of uncontrollable moments, we are always able to control the way we respond to those moments. We can choose to foster bitterness, or we can choose to move forward. We can choose unforgiveness, or we can choose to forgive. We can choose to regret the past, or we can choose to learn and grow from our experiences in the future.
In addition to choosing how to let go, it is equally important to choose when to let go. Self-reflection and self-awareness are valuable keys to recognizing unhealthy circumstances, relationships, or emotions in our lives so we can learn to let go of those things in order to have more peace and joy. There will never be a time when life is simple. There will always be time to practice accepting this and learn to let go in a healthy way.
Below are 10 tips to help with letting go of anger, bitterness, and frustration with yourself or your circumstances in your life:
- Change your perspective. Try to look at the situation from another perspective, or ask for help from someone you trust who is able to provide an unbiased viewpoint.
- Make a list of your accomplishments (even the small ones) and add to it regularly.
- Focus your energy on things you can control instead of dwelling on the things you can’t.
- Channel your discontent into an immediate positive action. This could mean making some calls about new job opportunities, seeking out opportunities for professional development, or volunteering for a cause that matters to you.
- Engage in a physical activity. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, chemicals that improve your state of mind (check out my blog post on the Power of Endorphins here).
- Feel it fully and completely. Stifling feelings doesn’t work. Like a volcano, there will eventually be an eruption. It is important to allow yourself time to truly feel, process, and work through your emotions in a healthy way.
- Remind yourself there are only three options available to truly let go of bitterness: to remove yourself from the situation, to change it, or to accept it.
- Remind yourself anger and bitterness hurt you more than the person who upset you. Someone very wise once told me, “Fostering bitterness and unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. We all make mistakes. Chances are you could have easily slipped up just like your husband, father, co-worker, boss, or friend did. Having compassion helps to dissolve anger.
- Take responsibility for your actions. Many times when you are upset, it is much easier to keep your focus on what the other person did wrong in the situation. When you shift your focus towards what you could have done better, you often feel empowered and less bitter.