10 Signs It’s Time To Release Something That No Longer Serves You

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We’re all on a journey of constant growth and change.

As with any metamorphosis, there will be things that once fit us which become either confining or simply not quite right after we’ve grown.

You don’t fit into your toddler clothes anymore, and it’s unlikely that you’re still working at your first-ever job either.

The 10 signs below are surefire indicators that it’s time to release something that no longer serves you—be that a relationship, a job, a living situation, or any other aspect of your life.

1. You only think about it in negative terms.

Just about all of us have held jobs that we had to drag ourselves to for the sake of keeping us fed and housed, rather than because we actually wanted to work there.

Similarly, many of us have been in relationships where almost all the thoughts and feelings we had about our partners were less than charitable.

Take some time to think about what it is that no longer serves you. I’m a huge fan of making lists, so consider writing down all the positive and negative things you feel about it.

Don’t feel obligated to drum up false positives either: if you don’t sincerely feel anything good, don’t lie about it.

Then, take a good look at all the negatives you’ve written down. If your best friend came to you with this laundry list of crud, what would you recommend they do? Stick with it? Or release it to make room for something that nourishes their soul?

2. It leaves you feeling drained and depleted.

When you’re dealing with this situation, do you feel energized and happy afterward? Or are you so drained and brittle that you need to lie down in a dark room to recover?

If, after doing this thing (or spending time with that person) you feel as though you’ve been fed through a threshing machine, that’s a rather strong indicator that it’s time to move on.

We’ll all have to deal with situations that drain or deplete us eventually, but those situations are usually fleeting and far between (tax season and family reunions come to mind).

When situations you’re dealing with drain you day in and day out, they’re only going to end up harming you.

We all have a well of energy that we draw from to be able to function. This well needs to be replenished regularly, as living in perpetual deficit is damaging to the body, mind, and spirit.

3. You can’t or won’t experience any progress in it.

When you think of the situation that may no longer serve you, do you feel as though it has stagnated with no chance of improvement or progress?

Just about everything has a growth “cap” at which a person plateaus and can’t proceed any further.

If you’re in a position where you want to keep moving forward but that’s a literal impossibility, it’s likely time to make some big changes.

Picture this like reaching a dead end on a road. You might still want to keep traveling onward but there’s either a wall or a massive canyon in your way.

There are many alternate routes you could take to keep progressing on your journey, so it’s up to you to choose whether to change direction and try another road or to keep spinning your wheels in place, burning energy, and going absolutely nowhere.

Some people choose to stay at these dead ends because they feel they’ll disappoint others by moving on.

The key here is to ask yourself whether you’re willing to keep throwing yourself under the bus to keep others happy, rather than living a life that’s true to you.

“I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.”
– From “The Invitation”, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

4. It offers little to no reward.

It’s difficult to keep going in a situation when you receive next to nothing in return.

If you’re dealing with something that offers you only disappointment and loss despite your efforts, where’s the incentive to continue with it?

As you take stock of the various things you devote your time and energy to, ask yourself whether you’re getting a return on your investment. If the answer is “no”, you need to be honest about why you’re still spending valuable minutes of your life on it.

Martyrdom isn’t anywhere near as special as it’s chalked up to be.

5. You feel trapped by it.

One overwhelmingly common reaction to things that no longer serve us is the feeling of being “trapped”.

A person might feel they’re stuck with this, whatever it is, and will remain stuck indefinitely because they have no other option. This feeling can cause panic and despair—rather like a prison sentence with no end date.

If you’ve been feeling this way, know that no matter what you’re dealing with, there are other options available.

There are other jobs, other housing situations, other caregiving options, and even other partners, depending on what it is that’s making you feel trapped. And there are organizations that can help you, no matter where you are.

Talk to someone you can trust, and take action to extricate yourself from this situation.

It won’t be easy, and depending on the circumstances you may find yourself on the receiving end of mistreatment from those close to you, but freeing yourself from torment is far more important than making others happy.

6. You’re dealing with it out of obligation rather than desire.

When you think about this situation (or person), do you feel that you truly want to devote time to it? Or are you doing so out of a sense of obligation and duty?

Be honest with yourself, and if it’s obligation, ask yourself if it’s really on your shoulders to carry, or if you feel manipulated into doing so by others.

Alternatively, you may feel you have an obligation to see something through because you’ve already invested a significant amount of time into it.

As such, if you don’t keep going with it, you might feel your investment was wasted, even if it’s making you miserable.

Some people feel this way about their education, while others develop this feeling about a long-term relationship or marriage.

They might desire a completely different career but feel like their years of study or training would have been a waste, even if they despise their current job.

Or love might have left the marital home a long time ago, but because they’ve spent so much time and energy on it, they think they might as well stick with it until the (very) bitter end.

7. You feel relieved when you don’t have to deal with it.

If you’ve ever worked a job that sucked away at your will to live, how happy were you the instant your shift ended, and you could run screaming from the building?

Or if you were in a relationship that made you feel smothered or drained, how much lighter did you feel when you had some alone time?

Feeling relief when you don’t have to deal with someone, or something is probably the strongest sign that it no longer serves you and it’s time to move on.

We only have so many hours of this lifetime to enjoy, so we don’t have time to waste on things that perpetually steal our light.

The people and situations you contend with day in, and day out should rekindle your flame—not extinguish it.

8. You don’t miss it when it isn’t around or happening.

When something is engaging and fulfilling, you miss it when it’s not around or isn’t happening. For example, have you ever taken a class that you loved? You likely looked forward to it every week and missed it in between sessions.

In contrast, there were probably classes or events that you didn’t miss at all when they weren’t happening. You may not have disliked them per se, but you didn’t think about them when you weren’t there and had no emotional investment in them when you were.

This, like so many other items on this list, can apply to relationships and pastimes as well as jobs or educational classes.

If you don’t think about a person unless they’re in front of you and you don’t miss them at all when they’re gone, why are you choosing to continue your relationship with them?

If the item that needs to be released from your life is an intimate partner or friend, it’s best to set them free so they can spend their precious time with those who truly want to be with them—not someone who tolerates their existence in the moment but doesn’t give them a second thought otherwise.

9. It’s made you lose joy in other aspects of your life.

When we’re stuck with something that no longer serves us, the ripple effect from it edges into other parts of our lives.

This is particularly true if being stuck has caused us anxiety and/or depression.

These conditions don’t simply turn on and off conveniently, but affect us on countless levels all the time. As a result, they affect parts of our lives that would normally bring us joy and fulfillment.

For example, someone who’s depressed about their job or marriage might lose interest in hobbies that they used to adore or stop enjoying their favorite foods. They might not be able to go to concerts or restaurants they were looking forward to because of rolling panic attacks.

Different aspects of our lives don’t exist in vacuums, so if one part is affecting us negatively, it affects us on every level.

10. You know in your gut that it’s the right thing to do.

When you know something has reached the end of its lifespan, you just know.

You don’t need someone else to confirm to you that yes, it’s gone through its death throes and isn’t even gasping for breath anymore: you simply feel it in the core of your being.

It’s at times like this that we know full well that it’s futile to continue—as futile as trying to give CPR to a body that’s already in rigor mortis.

We’re often taught to ignore our intuition and go along with what others think is best, but doing so does us an immense disservice.

Our bodies and minds tell us what we need, and when we don’t listen, we can end up seriously harmed.

If you truly love and respect yourself, you’ll follow your intuition and release what is no longer serving you. If you don’t love and respect yourself enough to listen to what’s being screamed at you from every cell, it may be time to ask yourself why.


As we go through life, many things that we once needed or enjoyed end up either hampering or even poisoning us at times. Think of the eggshell that protects a baby bird but then ends up smothering it if it can’t break itself free.

It’s difficult to adapt and change to meet these new situations, especially if said changes are uncomfortable. People remain in awful circumstances because they’re comfortable and familiar.

The problem is, if they don’t break free from their confines, they too can end up trapped and smothered.

Change isn’t easy, and stepping free from situations or relationships that no longer serve you comes with a measure of pain and sorrow: either your own or that of the individual(s) being released.

In the long run, however, the growth that occurs is well worth the temporary discomfort.

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About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.