17th March, 2022
Our Sense of Control
“I can’t control anything anymore”.
“I feel things are getting out of my control”.
“There’s nothing I can control”.
These are statements that might be familiar to some of us – this sense of a loss of control. A feeling of things slipping away from us, that perhaps we thought we had a sense of control over.
But what is this control? Do we really have a sense of control over the things going on in our lives?
A part of mental health is the ability to cope with the normal stresses of life. It is normal and inevitable that we face stresses in life that can challenge us.
We all go through stresses in life. Some of these are not within our scope of control, such as the recent global challenges we’re facing – the Covid-19 pandemic, the conflict in Europe – that can have a profound impact on us, whether it’s a direct or an indirect impact. Other challenges may not be under our control either, such as uncertainties at work or some personal challenges that we face. Many of our worries tend to stem from areas that we cannot control in our lives.
It is important to realise for ourselves what we have control over and what we don’t, so we can manage our expectations better, and our mental health. It can help to alter our perceptions of the situations we are in, in order to cope accordingly.
An exercise like this can help us to differentiate between things we have control over, versus things we do not:
You might be asking then, what we can have a sense of control over? This is different for everyone, but some things which come to mind are…
- Our thoughts
The way that we think or perceive a situation we’re in. This can really be the driving force towards how we feel or behave. Could there be other perspectives in how we think, moving from that magnifying glass to a wider lens viewpoint?
- How we respond to our emotions
We feel a certain way in response to the situation we’re in, and sometimes how we feel cannot always be within our control. But what can be within our control is how we recognise and respond to our emotions. Can we respond in a different, more skilful manner?
- Our impulses or behaviours
We may have some automatic impulses or urges when it comes to responding to a situation, some behaviours that we tend to take part in. Some may be healthy or unhealthy in nature. Could we be more aware of these, and perhaps shift to alternative behavioural responses?
- Taking care of ourselves
A big aspect is self-care, to take care of ourselves in the midst of everything going on. Perhaps taking action to support our well-being, especially at times when things can be difficult. What actions can you think of that can nourish you?
- Listening to our bodies
We may not always be in tune with our bodies and find that we are living more in our mind. Whether that is being with our thoughts all the time, riding along the mind-train, or being busy doing whatever our mind tells us to do. Sometimes our bodies may be sending signals to us – pain, tension, exhaustion, fatigue… are we able to catch these signals and be more aware of what our body may be telling us?
- Enhancing our sense of awareness
There’s a lot of mention about awareness already. This really is the first thing – are we aware of everything going on internally, or are we on autopilot? Waking up from autopilot allows us to enhance our awareness of ourselves, whether that may be our thoughts, our reactions (from an emotional and behavioural perspective), what our default actions may be, what vicious cycles we may find ourselves to be in, how our body is responding physically… there’s a myriad of awareness points to take a note of. What do you notice for yourself?
- Our acceptance
Acceptance can be very challenging, especially when we face situations or circumstances that are difficult or impossible to change, and we face a lot of resistance towards it. We simple don’t want it in our life and we want it to go away. But that may not always be possible. To be compassionate towards ourselves, it can help to practice a sense of allowing and accepting our feelings about the situation.
Is there anything else that you can think of for yourself that might be within your control?
Recognising what we are in control over versus what we are not can help us to manage our feelings of stress or anxiety when they arise.