Letting Go: How to Handle this Touchy Subject

by | Oct 30, 2015 | 8 comments

Last month I engaged in two experiences that dealt with this notion of letting go. First, I spoke at the Wyoming Nurse’s Association Annual Convention. Part of my talk involved introducing these nurses to the Nursing from Within process. As I found myself in the portion of the presentation on letting go, I shared with them how this step might just be the hardest aspect of this four-part model.

Next, I interviewed a guest for the Your Next Shift podcast (which won’t air live until December, so I don’t yet have the link) and interestingly enough, she brought up this concept in a roundabout way. When I asked her about a career philosophy as I do each guest, she shared with me how hers has shifted over time. In the early part of her nursing career, her philosophy was to help people heal. Now, as she has had some nursing experience and added in complementary methods to her professional practice, she realizes that sometimes we need to loosen the grip of control and just let things flow.

Letting Go: How to Handle this Touchy SubjectI do think that the very idea of letting go for a nurse is particularly challenging. We want to fix things. We like to do. In order to help and take care of our patients, we want outcomes and are looking for results. Add to that the very fact that our work is often measured in safety and quality indicators- of course we feel as though we ‘have’ to make things happen a certain way.

So in today’s post, I’d like to share with you some of my very favorite (and hopefully practical) strategies for letting go. As I heard myself say in Wyoming: ‘I teach what I do’. So you can be sure that I practice all of these in my own life and thus the reason why I am sharing them here with you today.

[Tweet “Here Are My Top 5 Tips on Letting Go.”]

  • Have a Good Cry. I don’t know about you, but a good cry clears so much up for me. In fact, I can almost feel it coming on when things are just welling up inside. And then I try my best to urge the tears on through (I know it sounds weird) because I am sure that after the fact, I am going to feel better. Sometimes we just have to allow ourselves to feel the emotions. Let them come to the surface. That way we can release through the cleansing tears that follow.
  • Write a Non-Send Letter. This one works wonders for nursing professionals. Think about it- you may not be able to say it to a boss, colleague or hospital executive. But you certainly feel it, right? So take some time to sit down and write out everything you want to say (and may never actually do). This is your non-send letter. What does that mean? You don’t have to send it; in fact, when you are done you can tear it up in teeny-tiny pieces or burn it (safely) outside. So take this opportunity to say everything (and I mean EVERY thing) you’ve ever wanted to!
  • Shake Things Up. One of my AHNA colleagues brought this idea to light for me. She said that sometime she likes to stand up and just shake it out. Like a dog who has just had a bath. Really shake, rattle and roll. Move every aspect of your body. Or- if you are stuck (like stuck when writing a paper or working on a school project) then get up away from your work and take a walk. Create a new scenery for yourself which will help you clear your mind.
  • Letting Go: How to Handle this Touchy SubjectClear the Clutter. I think this is my favorite one. I’m an organizer and I love to purge (not physically). So at least twice a year (oh, who’s kidding… probably four times a year) I go through my closets, drawers and living spaces to find things to discard. Pack a box to donate. Send things off to family members. And, let’s be honest, throw some crap out. This physical release of material clutter helps me clear my mind. I feel so much lighter after the ‘stuff’ is let go of.
  • Set a Vent Session Timer. Another great one for nurses. Sure, we like to get together and gab. Sometimes the conversations can head down Lamenting Lane. We start to gossip, vent and complain. So instead of totally telling yourselves you can’t do it (which is next to impossible)- set a ‘venting session timer’. Simply set a stop watch or clock to something like 5-10 minutes. Then when the buzzer goes off- BING! It’s time to shift the conversation to a more solution-oriented focus. Clear it out so that you can move proactively ahead.

And if that’s not enough for ya… Here’s one of my favorite blog posts found on Tiny Buddha on letting go.

I’d love to hear what I missed. What would you add to the list above? What other things have helped you to let go? Share a comment below and thanks for reading!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and virtual conference host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within‘, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.


  1. maureenpowers

    Letting go is a great topic. This has been an ongoing focus for me throughout my nursing career. It was Integrative Nurse Coach training that really grounded this concept for me now is incorporate into my practice. It is true Client centered care.

    • Elizabeth

      Wonderful to hear you have found great value in this concept. Thanks, Maureen.

  2. Beth Boynton

    Brilliant post, Elizabeth. I love how these tips capture important process pieces that can make the difference between letting go too early which I think can minimize our grief, frustrations or any feelings and being able to truly let go. Once again, the value of emotional intelligence communication comes into play for me b/c your ideas about having a good cry and get your feelings out in a non-send letter are like listening to and validating your own experience. Shaking it out shows assertiveness and trust for self and others. I love your other tips too, btw.

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks, Beth. I am so happy to hear that you see the benefit in feeling the feelings and then releasing them, as I do. And great point about the synergies between this post and emotional intelligence. Thanks for sharing your comments with us!

  3. Dr Rachel Silva, DNP

    Wow, Elizabeth! You just keep it real 🙂 And, I love the idea of the vent session, haha. I’m going to go try that one now!

    • Elizabeth

      Great to hear, Dr. Silva. It certainly does work (the vent session, that is). I mean we all know it’s on our minds… why not let it out for a timed amount of time and then move on to more productive conversations? Let us know how it goes!

  4. Erica MacDonald RN (@Writer_EricaMac)


    I can not tell you how many times a week someone says to me “let it go”. I always thought it was just me, but this seems to be a nurse personality trend. I love your tip about setting a timer to vent- this just may work for me!

    • Elizabeth

      Great to hear, Erica. I agree- letting go can be a very tough one. Thanks for sharing that you will try the vent timer tip. Let us know how it goes!


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