Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt completely out of control? If your answer is yes, you’re not alone.
We all like to feel like we are in control of our environment, but there are certain situations where things feel out of our control and the panic, fear, worry, frustration or anger starts to set in. This is different for each person. Some feel out of control if they are in a crowded area, for others, isolation does it. The environment that most people will get that out-of-control feeling in is everyday life. The more everyday stuff that gets thrown on top of an already busy life, the more out of control we feel.
The only thing you can truly control is yourself
In any given environment, the only thing you can truly control is yourself. You can’t control your environment, but you can influence your outcomes in a situation or event by controlling your own actions and challenging the negative internal voice that is telling you that it is time to be fearful, or angry, or guilty, or frustrated, or sad. You can choose how the events in your life and around the world affect you. How you respond, and the meaning you gain from the situation or event determines the outcome for you. Plus, the meaning gained will be different for every person.
Whose problem is it really?
The first step in controlling only what you can (your own thoughts and behaviour for those who slept through the first bit), is to recognise who owns the problem. As an example, think of a time where you said or did something that someone found offensive. We have all had that foot in mouth moment. If you are a socially conscious person and feel bad for upsetting another human, this is your problem to own, therefore, this is the bit you can control. A simple apology or explanation usually slots right into place here. However, their being offended by your actions is their problem to own. As an aside; In my experience, people don’t go out of their way to try to be offensive, but we seem to be rapidly transforming into a society of offended individuals. Offense is a choice, explore other possibilities or directions before you jump on the trend of being offended. Offense is also aggressive; I am offended by offense. My problem, I’ll work on it.
Gain control for yourself
To gain control for yourself, you need to recognise what you have control of in the situation you are in. Try to separate what is yours to own, and what belongs to others. The Serenity Prayer has been adopted and popularised by Alcoholics Anonymous and other organisations, but carries a simple message that we could all apply to ourselves; “(Insert deity here) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” This is difficult to do when you are smack in the middle of an out-of-control moment. First you need to recognise your own signals that stress levels are ramping up for you and follow through what you need to do to get back into control. Think about things you can change in the situation to get the best outcomes for you. Sometimes this is as simple as acknowledging that this is someone else’s problem, and not yours to control or stress about.
We can start to feel like we are losing control when all the stress factors seem to come on at the same time. Work is busy beyond what you can handle, the house is being renovated, the kids have school holidays, and now you caught a cold. When things get like this you can feel out of control, so control what you can. For work, list and prioritise jobs to gain perspective on what is important right now and what can wait. You can only do the work of one person, so tick off one job at a time. List and prioritise the jobs that are yours to do for the home renovations and trust the professionals to do the job they are hired for. Remind yourself of what you have organised for the school holidays and trust that you have done well as a parent, so your children do not require 24/7 entertainment. Illness is sometimes your body telling you that you need to rest for a bit. So, take a break when you can to allow recovery to happen.
Be box clever!
Often, life is viewed as one big box with all the life stuff chucked into a jumbled mess. We have work stuff jumbled up with family stuff, which is tripping on the recreational pursuits, even though they are trapped in a corner behind the health and fitness pile. Then after the social life is thrown on top of everything, the valued volunteer work falls out the side to give you something else to feel guilty about. We don’t need to gain control; we just need to tidy up. View each aspect of your life as having a smaller box all its own. When you are at work, open the little work box, recognise what is yours to own and control and go to it. If you are working at home and a child (yours, not a random) comes to you with a problem, close the little work box, open the little family box, control what you can to influence the situation, close the little family box, open the little work box again.
Contrary to popular belief, we are not multitasking creatures. When you catch yourself in a negative out-of-control space, focus on one thing at a time and remember that you have total control over your own thoughts and behaviour, control these two things and you are controlling the universe as you know it.
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