How Control (and Letting Go) Can Help You Better Manage Stress

When you are experiencing stress, specifically the kind that just won’t seem to go away, it can feel like there is no way out. It can feel overwhelming, infuriating and completely out of your hands. 

Whether it is caused by your boss overloading you with work tasks, your kid (or kids) constantly not listening to you or just a general feeling of dread regarding what is going on in the world right now, it sucks. There really is no other way to describe it. It just plain sucks.

So, what do you do? How do you alleviate this endless supply of energy zapping, patience ATM withdrawing, “Ouch! Did I really just step on another Lego?!” stress?

If you Google it, or just look at the other articles on this site, you’ll see that there are a number of different ways to reduce your stress. The great news is if one of them doesn’t work, you can keep trying until you find one that works for you.

So, to keep this simple, here is another one of those tactics. It is based around control. Specifically, what you can control and what you can’t control. Even more specifically, making a list either on paper (recommended), in your hand or on your computer of what falls in these two categories.  See steps below to try this for yourself:

1.  Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left hand column, write “Things I Can Control”. At the top of the right hand column write “Things I Can’t Control”.

2.  Pick one or the other and start listing things out. It can be as specific or general as you like. When you finish one side, repeat on the other.

3.  Once you’ve completed both sides, go back and read through them. Think about what it would do for you to let go of the items on the “Things I Can’t Control” side. Then think about what it would do for you if you put your focus on the items under “Things I Can Control”.

Some examples:

Things I Can’t Control:

- Tasks other people ask me to do

- What traffic is like each day

- Events happening across the planet

- The Weather

- Other peoples’ opinions on social media

Things I Can Control:

- How I react to anything on my “Things I Can’t Control” list

- What time I go to bed to make sure I get enough sleep

- How much water I drink each day

- How much time I spend on social media reading other peoples’ opinions

- My breathing

- How I prioritize my time

Once you separate the two like this, it becomes much easier to set your focus on the things that will fuel you throughout the day. And remember to keep it simple. The whole idea behind this exercise is to give your mind the ability gain a better perspective and overcome what might be holding you back from feeling your best.


(Image Credit: Tara Winstead)