Anyone else carrying around some baggage? Geez it gets heavy. Perhaps you’re someone who avoids conflict at all costs, or grew up in a home where your self-esteem and confidence weren’t nurtured as a child, or you’ve been in an unhealthy relationship. Maybe you’ve experienced grief, heartbreak or trauma of some kind, and as a result, have some unresolved issues that are impacting you in ways you can’t see. I mean let’s face it, very few us of make it through to adulthood without collecting our fair share of hard knocks.
The bottom line is that it takes hard work to be an emotionally healthy grown-up. Often there are warning signs that we've unfinished business, even when we’re unable to pinpoint the cause. Feelings of sadness, anger or anxiety. Mood swings and depression. Inability to form close or trusting relationships. Trouble sleeping. Drinking, eating or spending too much to make ourselves feel better. That sensation of being both physically and mentally weighed down by whatever’s going on in our head.
Unsurprisingly, there’s plenty of evidence out there to suggest that holding on to unresolved issues can lead to problems later in life – everything from chronic pain to depression and other mental health conditions that can be passed down through generations. It can have a negative impact on relationships – creating paranoia, for example, that someone might lie or cheat, if you’ve experienced it with other people in the past. Emotional baggage can even be a barrier to making positive lifestyle changes, like exercising more or eating healthier food.
When emotional baggage appears to be rearing its head, we coaches ask our clients the following questions:
- What are you thinking about when you wake up in the middle of the night?
- What makes you sad and/or angry?
- Do you know what things you do that sabotage your health, relationships and wellbeing?
- What feedback have you had from people that you trust, that you know you should reflect on?
- Which aspects of your life are calling out for you to pay attention?
- Which relationships aren’t working and do you know why?
- What are the automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) you have that replay in your mind every day?
If you’re looking for a sign that something needs to change in your life to help you move forward, this article is it. Start by making a list of your unfinished business. Then plan out what you need to work on over the next three weeks, three months and three years to help you find closure. Identify some quick wins. Sometimes it’s as simple as deleting a number from your phone or calling someone you care about to say 'sorry'. Other, more deeply-ingrained unfinished business might require some professional support.
Remember: emotional healing is a process. The most successful, healthy and happy people in the world put in the time and effort to work on themselves. They recognise that the hardest things in life, the things that we’re often reluctant to attempt, are the ones that need our attention the most. Recognising that there’s something weighing you down, and making a commitment to face it head on, is a critical first step in helping you lighten the load.
To learn more about how emotionally charged events from your past can continue to haunt you, Dr Bradley Nelson’s The emotion code: how to release your trapped emotions for abundant health, love and happiness is worth a read. Also check out this TED Talk (14:44) from former NFL player Shamiel Gary, who uses the metaphor of 'cleaning out the trunk of your car' to demonstrate how good it feels to let go of emotional baggage.
– The Coach Place Global
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