CONTROL: Since last week’s lockdown announcement and schools closing, I think a lot of us are feeling a lack of control – in what we can do in our everyday lives, balancing work, home, children and living with a worry of unsafe uncertainty. However, some may feel lockdown actually gives us more control, as we can keep our home bubble safe without sending our kids to school. Everyone’s situations and feelings are different. But one thing we all have in common is wanting some sense of control.
Control generally refers to how a person regulates themselves or wants to regulate their environment. There’s a balance that most people would like to meet, of feeling in charge of their own lives as well as being relaxed. Our sense of control influences how we respond to events that happen in our lives and our motivation to take action. When we feel in control, we’re more likely to take responsibility, avoid being influenced by others, work harder and feel happier. When we don’t feel in control, we’re more likely to blame others or circumstances, be stuck or unwilling to change and feel hopeless or powerless. Feeling in control is great, but we also want to be able to accept, cope and relax when that’s not possible.
Stress mostly arises because of major change, uncertainty and lack of control. Now more than ever people are realising that uncertainty is a fact of life. There are four positions to consider:
1) Unsafe uncertainty, which means danger, unclear, random, chaos,
2) Unsafe certainty, which is negativity, toxic, criticism,
3) Safe uncertainty, which means challenges, adaptations, flexibility, innovation
4) Safe certainty, which is repetition, comfort zone, complacency.
Which one would you prefer to be in? Most people would say 3. (Safe uncertainty) – as it’s the most creative, explorative and helpful to our well-being and for improving ourselves. If you were in 4 (Safe certainty), and you had total control and everything in front of you was planned, your life set in stone, you may struggle to have motivation. We learn better when we perceive uncertainty, it allows us to dream big, to explore a wider picture and look for positives.
I wanted to share with you this little exercise that can help:
Draw a circle on a piece of paper and in this circle, write down things that you can control today or this week. They can be big or small but focus on things that are present to you at the moment. E.g., how often you listen to the news, how often you check your phone, whether you meet up with someone or not. Now draw a bigger circle around it and in this circle, write down things that you’re worried about, and can’t control. E.g., what’s happening in the news, how someone behaves, current restrictions. For each worry, tell yourself: ‘by worrying about this, it won’t help me…’ You can then try and find the positive or reality in each worry. E.g., that situation has taught me…, the depressing news has made me grateful for…, if my boss / colleague doesn’t understand my situation then…