How to Let Go of Negativity and Stress

Truly effective stress management involves a mix of habits and thought patterns that minimize the stress you encounter in life and increase your ability to cope with the stress you must face. There are several habits that can increase your resilience to stress, including meditation, exercise, focusing on the positive, and surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people, to name a few.

While building your resilience to the inevitable stress you must face in life can go a long way in helping you to stay balanced with stress, it's by no means the only route to stress relief, nor should it be. Cutting out stressors whenever possible is always a good idea. Letting go of our own self-defeating habits is another important strategy. You may not even be aware of all the ways in which you self-sabotage, so here is an important refresher course.

Releasing grudges, negative perspectives, toxic relationships, and other vessels of negativity in your life may feel difficult at first, but once you have started to release your grip, letting go becomes increasingly easier.

The following are some of the more stress-inducing things you may be holding onto, with some proven strategies for releasing them from your life. 


Let Go of Grudges

Thoughtful man with hands behind his head

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There's a lot of press about forgiveness and its many benefits, and unless we face some serious wrongs that have been dealt in our direction, most people probably think of themselves as basically forgiving. We all know that forgiveness can be freeing, but we may not realize how much we are holding onto, or we may not know how to let go of the grudge. 

If you are wondering if you can benefit from letting go of anger, ask yourself, do you find yourself ruminating about things that have happened in your past? Are you holding onto anger from your younger years—either anger at yourself for not doing things differently or at others for things they did intentionally or unintentionally that affected you in a negative way?


Cull Your Clutter

Interior Of Modern Living Room
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Have you ever walked into a messy room (or a messy house!) and just felt tired? How do you feel when you walk into your own home at the end of a long day ​and do you have a specific room you can go to where you feel truly relaxed? Many people don't realize the toll that clutter can take on our stress levels. There are many hidden costs of clutter, and they can all act as energy drains that create stress, even if we don't consciously realize it. 

If the clutter you have is causing stress, it may be time to prioritize simplification and streamlining—your space and your life.


Drop Negative Attitudes About Yourself or Others

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Like subtle grudges, you may not be aware of limiting beliefs you have about yourself or others. Do you find yourself negating your own abilities, minimizing your successes, thinking you can't do something before you even try, even if it's something you really want? In the same vein, do you find yourself begrudging others' success because you feel minimized by their triumphs, even though you logically know this isn't necessarily true? Learn to recognize negative thinking patterns and cognitive distortions, and then change them.


Cut Out Tolerations (and Learn What They Are)

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Tolerations are those things in our lives that drain us and create stress but we live with them and maybe don't even realize they're adding a small piece of stress to each day. If you take a moment to become aware of your energy drains, your patience drains, and your other tolerations, you can create a plan to eliminate them from your life for good, and cut out untold stress in the process. It's more than worth the effort.


Say No to Toxic Relationships

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Relationships can act as powerful resources for coping with stress or as prolific sources of particularly heavy levels of stress. It's even more surprising that certain 'friendships' that are conflicted, negatively competitive, or otherwise lacking in trust, can actually create more stress than relationships that are unfriendly but stable. 

If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship—a romantic relationship or a friendship, working to create a healthier dynamic is a great way to minimize stress. But if that doesn't work, learning when and how to let go may be necessary. If you've tried your best to improve your toxic relationships but are still finding them to be stressful, here are some tips that may help.

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A Word From Verywell

Letting go of these stress-inducing thought patterns and lifestyle features isn't easy, but it may be easier than you think. And it can be addictive—once you start letting go of some of the stressors in your life, it becomes easier to let go of more.

You may want to choose one at a time to focus on for a few weeks (once a month is a good place to start) and move onto another one when you’ve let go enough to feel relief. Notice and congratulate yourself on the progress you make as you make it, and remember that in the end, it will be worth the effort to have greater peace.

If you are struggling to go of negativity, professional help may be helpful. Consider seeing a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional who can help you learn strategies to combat negativity and decrease stress.

1 Source
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  1. Roster CA, Ferrari JR, Jurkat MP. The dark side of home: Assessing possession 'clutter' on subjective well-being. J Environ Psych. 2016;46(6):32-41. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.03.003

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.