Why are feelings of control so important to our mental health? Control gives us the power to influence situations and helps us to feel valued; it motivates us and it empowers us to exert our effort and energy into the challenges and opportunities that present themselves to us. There are many things in life that we have control over. We can control what we choose to contribute or input into any situation, and also the way we choose to respond to situations that we encounter. When we see things happen as a direct result of our own input, it shows us that we are able to influence events, which can then motivate us further.
However, some things in life are simply beyond our control. Even though we can determine what we put into a situation, the ultimate outcome is often influenced by factors that are beyond us. This can cause a great deal of stress and frustration, especially where that outcome is something that matters to us and something that we feel passionately about. This resource is designed to help us learn to distinguish between the things that we are able to change, and the things that we are not – and, importantly, how to use this knowledge to protect and cultivate our own mental resources. So whether you are worried about a particular issue or problem that does not seem to be getting any better, or whether you are someone who finds themselves feeling generally anxious or frustrated due to the uncertainties in life, this can help you to view these situations in a more realistic and healthy way.
Through raising your awareness of the things that are (or are not) within your direct control, you can begin to ease the pressure you are putting yourself under and learn to better accept the things that you simply cannot change. In doing so, you will find your mental resources are freed up to focus in on the things that you can change and the differences you can make. This should result in a more positive overall perception of the situations you encounter and can help protect your health and well-being in many ways.
Before we begin, here are a couple of tips…
Step 1 – Focus your thoughts
What is it that is worrying you right now? Focus in on exactly is the thing that is making you lose sleep. When we try to supress our thoughts and block them from our mind, they can end up bubbling away in our minds and returning with increased frequency or at unexpected times. Actually paying attention to them can really help with this. Of course, sometimes it is not that simple as there may be more than one thing on your mind. If this is the case, list the things that are causing you the greatest deal of concern at the present time. In the steps that follow, we can then focus in on the thing that is weighing most on your mind at the present time.
Step 2 – Break it down
Write down some facts about the issue that is worrying you, and what it is that makes it feel so troubling or unresolved. If you have listed more than one thing above, take just the first one for now and make a few notes about it to help you understand why this particular issue is one that concerns you.
Step 3 – Identify what you can and what you cannot control
Step 4: Shifting the focus and preserving our energy
Ask yourself: are you really focusing on the things that could be making a difference?
Try to focus your energies and focus on one or two things that are in your control, once you have done so, allow yourself to set aside the aspects of this situation that you cannot control, feeling confident in the knowledge that you have done all you can for now.
Step 5: Evaluate
Think about how you feel now you have completed this exercise. Over time, you should find that you are exerting your efforts and energies into more fruitful actions and activities; the things where you can really make a difference. You should start to feel more relaxed and in control of the things that you can change, while worrying less about the things that you cannot influence.