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individual therapy

A Look at What you Can and Cannot Control

I often hear form clients frustration about so many things beyond their control. Believe me, I am also frequently annoyed at things beyond my control. But knowing what things are within and out of our control can help us to feel more in control.  Sounds strange but I promise it’s true. 

What Happens When we Focus on Things Outside of Our Control?

When we get fixated on thing beyond our control such as: the behavior of others (i.e.bosses, colleagues, family, friends), thoughts and opinions of others, our limitations placed by physical or medical disabilities, (i.e. mobility issues, infertility concerns, loss of independence), or any other items out of our control it can make us feel really hopeless, anxious or even angry.  These feelings usually lead to negative thoughts and behaviors. They very rarely help us feel at peace, at ease or happy. Looking at items within our control help us to feel more at peace, it gives us something to work towards to possibly change our situation and makes us feel more at ease. So here are some reminders of things within your control:

Your Actions

You can always control how YOU respond to others. So let’s say your friend continually is violating your boundaries (yes very annoying!) You are able to make it clear that they are violating a boundary, tell them how it makes you feel and if it continues remove this person from your circle.  You are not in control of how they act but always how you respond. You are in control of your choice of words and your tone of voice. You are in control of the boundaries you set and whether or not you enforce those boundaries. 

Your Schedule

You control what you do. Yes I do know you need to work and that those hours may be set, but you can always look for another job if that schedule is not what you want in your life. You decide who you see in your free time, what extra circulars you do and most importantly your routine. Creation of a routine is a great way to manage and regulate stress and anxiety, as when we know what to expect- we are less stressed and anxious. 

Your Meals

What you put in your body effects how you feel. Eating healthy meals helps to decrease fatigue and increase our energy levels. Meal planning and prepping can be a pain- yes I know. But it is a good way to keep your physical-self (and your budget) healthy. It’s also great stress relief to cook food that you actually enjoy eating- and no Karen not all healthy meals taste bad.

Your Socialization

You control who is in your social circle. If you have toxic people who don’t’ make you feel good- you can weed them out of your life. Surrounding yourself with people that bring you up and motivate you is within your control. Yes plans may be cancelled by others- but you can always reschedule, call another friend or make another plan that you can look forward to.  Socialization is key to positive mental health- click here to see why, and click here for tip on how to improve your social circle. 

How Much Media You Consume

By media I mean news and social media. You are in control of what news channels you what and how much news you intake. Lately politics have everyone all stressed so if that’s you maybe cut back on how much your consuming? Same goes for social media. The comparisons are crazy now that everyone posts their “best lives” on social media platforms. If you find yourself constantly wishing you were more like Cindy on TikTok or wishing you had hair like Sue on Insta- you may want to start restricting that consumption. Also just remember people spend crazy time taking perfect photos and editing them to be even more perfect. Rarely do people post about their difficulties and hardships so try not to compare. 

How Prepared you Are

You may not be able to avoid Covid-19 or giving that presentation at work via zoom but you are in control of your preparedness to handle those situations. Having a plan if someone gets sick can help you feel more in control. Same as being prepared for that big presentation will make it a bit easier to muddle through come the big day. 

How Mindful You Are

Practicing mediation, guided imagery and yoga can be a great way to relax your nervous system and feel more at peace. It can help you feel more aware of your emotions and thus less likely to impulsively react on them.

What to do if you do not Feel in Control of The Categories Listed Above?

So if you feel like okay I may have control over some of that but I don’t have the motivation to do it right now, or it’s really hard for me to switch up when I am in that negative mindset- you may be struggling with anxiety or depression that is keeping you stuck in what I call “the hamster wheel”. Which is basically when even though your rational brain knows ruminating on this negative topic is not helpful and it is beyond your control- you just keep running on the wheel spinning the same thoughts over in your head no matter how hard you try. At that junction it may be best to speak with a trained therapist who can help you work on strategies to challenge those thoughts, get out of the loop, increase your coping skills and supports so that you can go back to enjoying your life. 

Stay Shining,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW