For many of us, the struggle with anxiety is real. We spend time thinking and then rethinking details, imagining potential scenarios gone wrong, and visualizing how things should be while planning what to do in case something goes awry.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone! Whether or not you consider yourself to be an anxious person, the fact is that most of us will struggle with anxiety from time to time. For some, this can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Oftentimes, though, this anxiety and frustration boils down to one simple thing: our need to be in control. Problems arise, however, when things that are out of our hands start to spiral out of control, and we’re unable to change the circumstances—so naturally, we become anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, or sad.
While there are many things in life that we can’t do anything about—we can always change our perspective, learn to let go, and live with the fact that some things will always be outside of our control. Recognizing this and learning to accept it may sound like giving up, but it’s something that’s necessary for our emotional well-being. In many ways, it’s the first step toward regaining a measure of control over your own life.
Control: A Paradox
Being in control is something that comes naturally to us. After all, we want to make our choices and find our own way in life. This causes problems, though, when the lines start to blur between what is ours to control, and what isn’t.
The fact is that many things are outside of our control. And when we dwell on these issues—whether something that happened in the past or something that could happen in the future—it stops us from fully experiencing life and keeps us from having peace of mind.
“The more we try to control things the less control we will experience,” writes licensed therapist and life coach Joseph Wilner. “Things will inevitably be different than we expect and can change in an instant. When we can embrace that things are ever-changing we begin to loosen our grip on, the many areas of life we try to hold sway over.”
When we desire control, but can’t have it, we feel worried, frustrated, and anxious. Our mind starts jumping to conclusions, and we start dwelling on the negative things that could potentially happen. This only becomes worse as we increasingly crave control, and soon we start living in a state of frustration, or even fear.
The solution, then, is to recognize that some things are out of our hands. But how can we arrive at a place where we accept this? How can we move on?
While relinquishing our hold on things that are beyond our control is very much a constant journey and something that will always be a work in progress, there are a few thoughts that can help us in our journey. How easy or difficult this is will largely depend on the things that you’re dealing with, but getting into the right mindset can help—especially for small day-to-day issues that arise and threaten to overwhelm.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few ways that you can ease into a mindset that’s less about control, and more about acceptance.
1. Recognize That Control is Rooted in Fear
It’s important to realize that we often want to control things, because we are afraid of the potential outcome, or fear what might happen if we relinquish control.
2. Recognize That We’re Attached to a Specific Outcome
Other times, we’re attached to a specific outcome, and feel that it’s the only option, assuming that we always know what’s best.
3. Recognize the Need to Let Go
This is one of the most difficult steps of the journey—and one that’s ongoing for most of us. When we recognize that some circumstances are out of our hands, we understand the need to release ourselves from the responsibility of having to control things. Once we’ve reached that point of surrender, we can trust that it is what it is—and will be okay. No matter what life throws at us, we can’t micro-manage the universe. Recognizing this can help to life a heavy burden off of our shoulders, freeing us up from this tremendously overwhelming responsibility.
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If you feel that you’re trying to swim upstream, it could be a sign that it’s time to let go. By releasing the things you can’t control, you’ll be able to work from a place of acceptance. This means understanding that while we can’t fight against reality, we still have the ability to shape our life and the lives of those around us positively—making an impact in a meaningful way.
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