STRONGER TOGETHER: Holding things tightly, holding things lightly

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Last updated: 27/04/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the concept of holding things tightly, holding things lightly.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Have you ever held onto an idea, goal, or belief so tightly that you’ve lost sight of the big picture? Enter the concept of holding things tightly, holding things lightly.

Before we explore this, grab a pen and take a seat. Extend your arm out in front of you, with your palm facing upwards and place the pen in your open palm. Now hold it tightly and notice how you feel. Open your palm and let the pen rest gently in your hand. Notice that you can move it around, watch as it gently moves with the motion of your body. Did you notice any difference in how you were feeling when holding the pen tightly compared to holding it lightly?

This concept is all about bringing awareness to those things or events that you might be consciously or unconsciously holding onto too tightly. Gripping onto it with all that you have, noticing tension build in your hand and your arm. Potentially that tension extends to other parts of your body – maybe your jaw, your neck, your shoulders. It can even manifest physically, causing symptoms such as muscle tightness, headaches and digestive issues. Sometimes we “grip” onto things so tightly that it can become a hindrance to our personal and professional growth. And sometimes, the inability to let things go can adversely impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Holding things tightly can create a sense of control, but it can also create feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. When we’re holding onto something tightly, we tend to be more reactive and defensive. We might jump in without taking a step back to assess the situation, and can become rigid in our thinking.

It can also cause a sense of tunnel vision, where we become so focused on one goal or situation that we can no longer see other opportunities around us.

In contrast, holding something lightly means we’re not attached to it. We can let go of our grip and allow things to flow naturally. Holding something lightly also means we are more comfortable with uncertainty and change. We are open to different perspectives and ideas, are less likely to become overwhelmed or reactive and can approach challenges with a more flexible and resilient mindset.

Could you be holding onto some things too tightly? Perhaps you have noticed feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, stress starting to creep in or are experiencing physical symptoms that are impacting your day-to-day life? If so, then it may be time to start loosening your grip and letting go.

Letting go can be challenging, but it’s essential for our personal and professional growth. One way to start letting go is to focus on being in the moment. Start by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for a few minutes, noticing your thoughts and emotions and then letting them go. You might even like to visualise them floating away from you. This mindful action allows us to be present in the moment without judgement or attachment.

Another way to let go is to shift our perspective. Instead of focusing on what we’re holding onto, we can focus on what we gain by letting go. We can look for new opportunities, experiences and relationships that may not have been possible if we had continued to hold onto the past.

I encourage you to grab a pen whenever you notice that you might be holding onto something too tightly, hold it tight and then release it, reminding yourself what it feels like to hold it lightly. Now write down what you have been holding onto and remind yourself what life will look like once you let it go.  

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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