With spring here, it's impossible to miss all the ads and articles about 'spring cleaning'. I like the idea that as new growth sprouts up from the natural world, we have the opportunity to start fresh in our physical world too.
Wouldn't it be great if we could also start fresh in our bodies, hearts, and minds? Rarely, however, will you hear talk about 'emotional spring cleaning'.
Emotional spring cleaning is the opportunity to hit the refresh button on mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. Particularly as Intuitive Warriors (Highly Sensitive People), we have the tendency to hold onto things- thoughts, feelings, energies, and memories.
Because we process everything so deeply, we may have to "put aside" the issue at hand before it's fully digested as life makes demands on us. It's like putting an unfinished bowl of cereal into the fridge to finish eating later.
After not too long, the cereal gets soggy, making us unlikely to return to it, and now we have a gross bowl of mush taking up space in our refrigerators.
It works the same way with our thoughts and feelings: there may have been something that made you feel angry or sad 3 months ago that you never got resolution with, so you stored it away in your proverbial cupboard. Before you know it, it's March of 2018, and those thoughts and feelings are still sitting in there, taking up space and starting to stink.
So how do we figure out what inside of us needs to be cleaned out, and how do we do it so that we can make space for new feelings, dreams, and ideas?
After working with Intuitive Warriors for over a decade, I've identified 5 steps to achieve just that:
1. Acknowledge it. Recognize there's stuff in you that you're holding on to from the past. If your fridge is full of moldy food but it's so hidden behind other food you can't see it, it's never gonna get cleaned out. You must acknowledge your leftover feelings and unfinished business before doing anything else.
2. Identify it. Take out a piece of paper or open a word doc and list the thoughts, feelings, worries, stress and situations that you know you're hanging onto.
3. Sort it. On a new piece of paper, make two columns and entitle each, "Worth sorting through" and "Time to let go", respectively. Place each item from your first list under one of the columns.
If you're not sure which column to put something under, hold the situation/feelings/thoughts in your mind and take a deep breath. Ask your intuition, "is this something I need to sort through or let go?". See what arises. Your gut usually knows the right answer to that.
4. Process it. Look at the items on the "worth sorting through" list. One at a time, write about them, talk about them with a friend or therapist, and make plans to take action if needed. If you struggle to sort through your feelings and get overwhelmed by your thoughts, you may benefit from more in-depth support. You're never alone.
5. Release it. Now take the items on the "time to let go" list and consciously choose to do just that.
Here are some ways to let go:
- Visualize each item as a leaf and imagine setting the leaves on a stream where they will be swept away. Alternately, you can imagine each leaf being picked up and blown away by the wind.
- Ask God or your Higher Power to give you peace and take these thoughts/feelings/preoccupations from your mind and heart.
- Write each issue on a piece of paper and (safely) light them on fire or rip them into pieces.
- Visualize sending each issue (and the feelings that go with it) back to the person/people they belong to.
That's it. Depending on the issue, you may need to do this multiple times or use a combination of writing, talking about it, and letting it go.
Be patient with yourself, and do this at whatever pace is right for you.
Even having the intention of doing an emotional spring cleaning is beginning an important habit for Highly Sensitive People: acknowledging what you're holding on to and taking steps to either process or release it. That way, you can begin spring with a fresh start, both inside and out.
I'd love to hear how this went for you in the comments. What did you realize you need to sort through, let go of, and/or process more?
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT has dedicated over 10,000 hours to supporting Highly Sensitive People as a psychotherapist and global HSP consultant. She practices psychotherapy in Boulder, CO and specializes in working with sensitivity and healing of trauma (EMDR). She's also the founder of Intuitive Warrior, an online platform offering resources and support to Highly Sensitive People worldwide. An HSP herself, Brooke went years feeling overwhelmed and anxious before learning how to support her finely-tuned nervous system. She considers it a joy and an honor to get to pass that knowledge and support on to others.
You are a gift to the world. You aren't alone. We need you here.