You’re not alone if you enjoy being the main influencer of your life. Most of us develop a sense of certainty from taking control, mitigating risk and driving outcomes and results we want to see, often with time frames attached. For some, our ability to take control not only determines our efficacy, but our sense of self.
For a huge majority then, increased restrictions inevitably mean less control: less control over everyday structures such as socialising, earning a living or getting an education and this can lead to a feeling of powerless over the whims of an ever-changing world. So how do we adjust to such a lack of certainty, to an overwhelming risk and to an outcome we cannot predict?
In other words, you may be asking: what do I still have control over?
One possible answer is both simpler and more extensive than you might realise.
1. You have control over your thoughts. Thoughts determine beliefs and values that drive how you feel, so be aware of them. They are like a lens you look through and switching the lens can help change what you believe. What are thinking and choosing to believe? Are you generalising your experience of lockdown – colouring everything as bad? Do you find yourself fixating on what’s lacking or absent in your life – the parties, the overseas holidays, the in-office banter? Instead, can you compartmentalise and see each thing that happens in a day or the week as separate from your life as a whole? Try taking making a list, in your head or on paper, of what is going well. Can you focus on what is abundant and present instead: time to be, to connect with family, to be still?
2. You have control over your actions. Your actions and the way you move your body have a considerable impact on your state of mind. For example, we know that exercise and general movement improves the body’s metabolism, releasing endorphins; we know that maintaining regular meal times and choosing fresh wholefoods will stabilise our energy levels and nourish our bodies at a micro-nutrient level; but we also know that taking control over simple actions like getting out a social board game or folding the smalls in your drawer Marie Kondo-style are ways of you taking control of your space, your mindset and ultimately how you feel. If opening your drawer and seeing your smalls colour-coordinated brings a feeling of zen, then that’s you taking control.
3. You have control over how you feel. I can imagine what you are thinking here, I don’t have control over my feelings, sometimes my emotions just come over me, I feel so down, frustrated, lost and hopeless. These feelings are completely natural. But here’s the thing – recognising that you are feeling down, lost and hopeless is the first step to regaining control. Don’t punish yourself for these feelings, but rather ask yourself: what action can I take right now to control the way I feel right now? During the inaugural lockdown of 2020, many of us took this as an opportunity to order Uber eats, finish off that tub of ice-cream in the freezer or open another bottle of wine. But as lockdown becomes an ever more prolonged part of life, these quick-fix habits become less sustainable and can undermine the physical and mental health we need to respond resiliently to the situation, as excess calories cause weight gain, hormone imbalance and perpetuate the not-so-good feelings we were perhaps trying to avoid in the first place.
4. You have control over your words. What you say and how you say it holds meaning. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the first agreement is to be impeccable with your choice of words. Choosing kind and grateful language with those you are in lockdown with (it’s hard!), will create a very different impact to impatient and critical language. Choose wisely and enjoy the ripple effect of what you say. Reach out to those you miss, let them know you are thinking of them. And, perhaps most importantly, take control of the words you say to yourself. Yes, this takes us back to where we started with being able to control your own thoughts, but if you don’t take ownership of them, then who will? Just as you would be supportive, understanding and hold great boundaries with a loved one, speak to yourself the same way. Take care of yourself and do what’s going to be best for you, rather than resorting to a quick-fix.
This might all sound very idealistic and out of reach right now – and that’s okay. But here’s an inconvenient truth about COVID not many are ready to hear and that is that every upset, every difficult feeling has two sides. On one, it presents as a challenge; on the other, an opportunity for you to step into more self control around how you manage the impact it has on your life.
Not everyone will see this chance, but those that do could emerge from lockdown with a new awareness: the ability to control all that is theirs to control and to regulate how the feel regardless of the situation at hand. It doesn’t happen overnight, but what you can take control of becomes a guiding intention for the trajectory of your life in spite of its events.
Which is a great segue our next blog…stay tuned!