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Feeling out of control

Updated: May 26, 2020

Right now, there is so much we are not in control of. We can’t control if we or someone we know will get sick. We can’t control if other people won’t follow the social distancing order or the shelter in place order. We can’t control if we get to keep our jobs. We can’t control what supplies are available at the stores. We can’t control how long this will last.

With all these things we can’t control firing off in our brains it is hard to feel in control of our lives at all. The news reminds us of what we can’t control when our brain doesn’t. It feels like right now the world is constantly screaming that our glass is half empty and there is nothing you can do about it. When we feel overwhelmed and out of control it makes sense that you fall into pessimism, depression, and/or anxiety. You can get stuck in your head. In times such as this it can help to redirect our brains and remind ourselves that as much as there is that we cannot control there is still so much we Can control. Focusing on what we Can control can help decrease the power of what we cannot control on our thoughts and well-being.

Here is one tool to help you redirect your brain

Step One: Creating a list/diagram of what you Can and Cannot control

There are a few different ways to diagram your control visually. My personal favorite is the Bubble of control that shows how the more you focus on what you can control the bigger the bubble of your control becomes. As it gets bigger it starts pushing out all the things you cannot control further out and tighter into the wall of the outer bubble till it seems slim in comparison. It shows how focus on one bubble makes the other bubble smaller in comparison.

There is also the listing method. You create a list just as you would with the bubble but you now have two columns instead of bubbles.

Below I created an example of both the Bubble of Control and the listing method.

Another way to see it is with the graphic created by which has been circulating on a variety of social media platforms.

Step Two: Actively engage the Can Control list

Now that you have made the diagram or list of what you can control it is time to engage your brain in zeroing in all these things. Otherwise your mental energy will still lean towards that looming list of cannot control. You will remain in focus and will not be able to let go of them. Engaging the list of what you can control redirects that mental energy that has been focused on the cannot list.

This means breaking down your can control list into tangible activities and then following through with them.



· Pick days of the week you will exercise

· Create workout routines

· Look up free yoga classes

· Follow one of the personal trainers on Youtube to create your workout routine

· Make an appointment to do a video personal training session with a personal trainer

Chatting with friends

· Make a list of friends you can reach out to

· Reach out to them about how often you can talk to them and how you are both comfortable socializing (video chat, phone, text, email, video game platform)

All the things you can’t control are still there but since you can’t do anything about them this helps you put your mental power into what you can control and gives you a list of tangible accomplishments you can refer to.

When you feel overwhelmed you can look at the list you created of what you can control to remind yourself of things you can do and pick something from that list to actively do. When you actively engage in activities you can control, it reminds your brain that not everything is out of control, and can ground you in your here and now.

(If you want a printable version of the list diagram that is kid friendly and engaging I suggest this packet created by which also comes with other pages of activities to do with you kids to help them in the middle of this virus. The whole packet is a free download during the Corona virus)

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