What is your baggage allowance?
At the time of writing this, autumn is fast approaching and I am aware that some of you may have been fortunate enough to take a holiday abroad. If you have travelled by air, one of the first things you would have done as you arrive at the airport is to hand over your luggage to the airline. They then check the weight of your bag against your baggage allowance. If your baggage is too heavy there are penalties incurred.
As we experience the turbulence of life’s ups and downs we too can accumulate excess baggage. This can come in a variety of experiences such as childhood trauma, a failed relationship, bereavement and loss to name just a few. Imagine a donkey with a heavy load on its back. It walks very slowly with its head down making it difficult to see the way forward. Whatever life experiences may be weighing you down, the heavy load can be quite overwhelming.
The cost of too much heavy baggage at the airport is usually financial but the cost of too much emotional baggage can be far more serious. Anxiety, panic attacks and stress have become commonly known words in today’s society. The effects of excess emotional baggage may start with feelings of fatigue and a general dissatisfaction with life. Left unchecked these feelings can lead to depression. In some instances, the weight of depression can be so heavy that it results in an inability to get out of bed.
According to the NHS around 10% of us are affected by depression at some point in our lives and 5% affected by generalised anxiety disorder. Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness and absence from work according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Taking care of our mental health is as vital as taking care of our physical health and yet it is something we often overlook. We may even be aware that something is wrong but put off doing anything about it saying such things as ‘I will be happy when I’ve changed my job… I’ve had a holiday… I’ve lost some weight… The children have gone to school’ therefore putting off the potential for being happy today.
Reflecting ‘out aloud’ to a therapist about what is going on in our lives today can help us to process the experiences from our past. The mental clarity that this provides enables us to acknowledge who we are today and look towards the future unencumbered by the excess emotional baggage from our past. If the image of a donkey and its heavy load resonates with you then imagine how it would feel to lighten the load and begin to look up again.
“Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?” - Mary Manin Morrissey.
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About Sian Maman
Sian is a counsellor and psychotherapist working within her own private practice and also within a counselling agency in Nottinghamshire. Her specialities include anxiety, panic attacks, depression and loss.
She has a BSc (hons) in counselling and psychotherapy and a BSc (hons) in healthcare studies.