When life begins throwing you for a loop, as it inevitably always does, most people seek to find more control in various areas of their life. How this control manifests can be blatantly obvious as the classic “control freak”, or can be more subtle ranging from eating disorders all the way to a new hair cut.
If you are feeling as though life is out of control, know you are not alone. The goal of this blog post is to help provide you with tangible ways of thinking and actions you can take to help you during these unsettling times in your life.
The main thing you want to focus on is understanding that you can not control everything.
There is, however, one area you can always control.
No matter what life throws your way, begin to build your will power by reminding yourself:
This is temporary
This is a challenge, I will do my best to overcome
If you submit to a victim mentality, "oh woe is me", you have already lost the battle. By telling yourself you will overcome whatever the obstacle, no matter how big or small, you are prepping your mind for the best possible results.
THE DOWNWARD CATASTROPHE SPIRAL
Many people begin to fall into a downward spiral when life throws them for a loop. There are a few mental paths we as humans fall down, but the one I am going to focus on is catastrophizing.
Our brains create intricate and extremely unlikely connections. Next thing you know you somehow end up thinking that if we get a bad review at work we will be homeless, in a ditch, with our children in the system in the next five days.
When we begin to catastrophize our bodies respond as if our wildest nightmares are actually coming true, our hearts speed up, we prepare for fight or flight.
If you fall prey to catastrophizing, allow your wildest fear to enter your mind and speak it out. Then think of the best possible scenario, and visualize how you would feel as a result. Usually the outcome of a situation is nestled somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
You want to create a glass half-full approach to living, and ultimately foster a zest for life that is able to overcome any setback put before you.
There are four simple everyday tactics you can use to help you build resilience during difficult times.
SMILE - Physiologically, smiling (even when you don’t really want to) makes you happier. You are tricking your mind to feel happier. Begin your day with a smile and smile at people on the street. Make light conversation with the man checking you out at the grocery store.
HAPPINESS FILTER- Being optimistic is a choice. Having a positive attitude is a choice. If you begin your day upset because you overslept and you ran out of coffee, you are placing a negative lens over your eyes often for the rest of the day. People will ask you how you are doing and your response will be “oh it’s just been one of those days”.
When moments like these happen, and they definitely will, you have two options.
Hit the reset button. Take a breath, and tell yourself that this is upsetting but you will not allow it to affect the rest of your day. Turn on some happy music or an uplifting podcast and make your way to work. Make a conscious choice to turn the day around.
Reframe as you go. If you find yourself pissed off at how your day is evolving, take the time to reframe the situation.
“Ugh I slept through my alarm, now I am going to be late for work.”
“Shoot I slept through my alarm, but at least I woke up before my shift started, I can call the manager and apologize and let them know I will be there ASAP. This is the first time this has happened to me, I am sure they will understand. “
“Man I am already late and now I can’t even have my coffee! This day is the worst!”
“I am out of coffee, maybe someone at work will have made some, or maybe I can use this experience to drink more water. At least I can afford the luxury of coffee.”
By turning difficult situations into positive learning experiences you are building your resilience. Soon you will have trained your mind so well that these small nuances will not even phase you anymore.
EVERYONE HAS OFF DAYS - Okay let’s be real. Some days are unable to be turned around no matter how positive you are. You have tried reframing and you get home and it has just been real awful.
Take a moment to breathe, and release the day you just had. Let go and as you fall asleep know that tomorrow is a fresh new day, full of endless possibilities and unhindered by the day before.
SHOW UP - Metaphorical masks are developed as a result of over-controlling behavior. You may struggle opening up to other people because you have shut yourself off in order to preserve your wellbeing. In order to truly let go of things beyond your control, and create a positive life, you must shed whatever masks you have developed to shield yourself from having to be too vulnerable.
This takes time, reflection, and hard work.
When going through this phase there are a few affirmations you can say everyday to help:
I am open to new friendships.
I am going to be authentically me today.
I look forward to what today has to offer.
Being vulnerable when you are struggling, especially when you are lacking control (and usually you have a vice grip), is a huge undertaking. Be compassionate to yourself and know somedays you will be more free than others, but with time you will begin to let go and move forward.
By allowing vulnerability into your life you are able to confront the difficult times and ask for support from close friends/family. Passing off some of the burden you may feel and relinquishing your desire to control everything gives you space to find joy in the smallest of moments.
Seek joy and you will find it, seek negativity and you will also find it.
Your attitude dictates how your day is going to unfold. There was a time when catastrophic thinking (back in the stone ages) could have saved your life. Today, letting your mind unravel into a downward spiral will bring you only unnecessary anxiety and stress.
Instead, focus on small things you can implement into your everyday schedule to build you joy and resilience. Smile, search for the good in every situation, have self-compassion for days when it doesn't work, and show up each and everyday no matter what.