Listen to this article
“Make no mistake, your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. Do you feel the straps cutting into your shoulders? All those negotiations and arguments, and secrets and compromises. You don’t need to carry all that weight. Why don’t you set that bag down?” These are the famous lines enacted by George Clooney, in the movie ‘Up in the Air’.
This ‘proverbial bag’, is carried by many of us, who have experienced traumatic and emotionally scarring events in our life. Often, certain life experiences stay within our stream of thoughts, creating emotional baggage. This signifies that, in order to progress in life, one needs to manage the residual emotional issues that are causing sadness, regret and anger.
Renowned psychotherapist Karol Ward, author of the book ‘Worried Sick: Break Free From Chronic Worry to Achieve Mental & Physical Health’, defines emotional baggage as all the unresolved emotional issues (be it personal or professional) and stress factors that adversely impact our mental and physical health, and become a barrier in achieving professional ambitions and healthy relationships. This baggage could make you introspect in a negative manner about your current or past state of life, making you feel physically and emotionally burdened.
There are certain signs of identifying emotional baggage that is holding you back from progressing in life and includes both physical (pain in the neck and headaches) and mental manifestations (feeling of guilt, anger, and trust deficit).
If left unresolved, emotional baggage could negatively impact your life and stop you from making positive changes or progressing in life.
A study published in ‘BMC Family Practice’ journal, highlighted that emotional baggage can hamper one’s ability to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercising or quitting smoking. The respondents of this study expressed how emotional baggage explains why they were stuck in old negative habits, adding load to their mental health.
Emotional baggage can have an intense effect on your mental health, throttling your brain function and impacting your life’s course:
1. Stuck in the past
A relationship gone awry or an abusive workplace causes emotional trauma, making your brain susceptible to recall it periodically. The stress hormones make you relieve the horrific moments over and over again. This factor can come in the way to focus on the present, and channelise your mental capabilities towards the tasks at hand, be it at work or at an educational institute.
2. Induces self-doubt and lethargy
Emotional scarring could make you doubt your abilities to pick up and finish tasks or socialise. You may also experience a growing disinterest in things you used to like before experiencing a traumatic event, and be lethargic towards tasks as mundane as eating your favourite foods and travelling to and from work.
3. Impairs cognitive function
Emotional stress enhances the amygdala (memory processor) function and reduces the hippocampus (regulates emotions) function in the brain. This inflicts paranoia, impairs hand-eye coordination, and may also make your ability to distinguish between past and present events diminish. This comes in the way to focus on current life events, and concentrate on relationships, work or educational tasks.
So, while it seems overwhelming to resolve emotional baggage, remember that you have the ability to overcome it and come out stronger. Seeking comprehensive medical care and therapy, could go a long way in leading a healthier life and make positive progress