When You Can’t Control What’s Happening

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control how you respond to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.” Unknown

Given the rapid rate of change we are all experiencing at the moment and that fact that we are all in unknown territory and we don’t know what to expect, it is no wonder that there are high levels of anxiety being experienced in the community.

Change often brings a fear of the unknown with it. When there is significant change the accompanying fear can feel overwhelming. If left unchecked, this can become incapacitating, leaving us feeling powerless to cope with our new circumstances.

Yet whilst we may be powerless to stop the event, we do have the power to choose how we respond.

“We generate fears while we sit; we overcome them by action. Fear is nature’s way of warning us to get busy.” Dr Henry Link

When working with children I often explain to them that when we address our fears and face up to them it takes away their power to control our lives. I ask them to think of a time when they might have been frightened in a darkened room by the mysterious shapes that appear. In that murky darkness our imagination can run away with us and we can get ourselves really worked up and terrified. Yet once the light is switched on, most often we see the reality of the situation and can allay our fears somewhat. It is very difficult for those fears once the light is on. That’s why nightlights work so well.

Addressing your fears by naming them, effectively shines a light on them and helps to determine just how valid they really are.

One of the tools I use with children is the When I Am Feeling FEARFUL tool. This is just as practical for adults. Writing your answers down is even more powerful.

Who hasn’t felt the drama of lying there in the dark at two o’clock in the morning with a drama going on in your head of gargantuan proportion which shrinks to a minor molehill in the cold hard light of day?

Here’s a practical tool to help you when you are feeling FEARFUL

Face the Fear

Ask, “What is it that is really worrying me? What am I afraid is going to happen?

Be honest, spend some time really working through this. No-one will see it. It is your exercise for you.

Ask “How likely is this?”

Ask “What is the worst that could happen?”

Ask “What can I do?”

Educate Yourself

Find out some facts about what is worrying you.

Is it something that you have blown out of proportion?

Can it be solved by talking to someone?

Is it something that you could do some research on? (Just a word of warning here – if you do, do some research, make sure it comes from a reputable source. Government sources or researched articles from legitimate agencies are far more reliable than social media which can be highly emotive and often inaccurate.)

Getting the facts straight helps us to put our worries into perspective. Or at least gives us a starting point for taking action.


Armed with information, make a list of actions that you could take to manage your worry. Make the list as extensive as you can so that you have plenty of options for taking action.

Select the most appropriate action for you to take right now and DO IT! Don’t put it off. Do It!

How many times have you heard of people who sleep with a notepad by the bed so that they can download anything that bothers them in the middle of the night? This is an example of taking action. It gets that thought out of your head until you can deal with it in the morning where in the cold light of day you will decide just how much of a concern it is.

Taking action directs our attention away from emotional reactions (worry, panic, fear) and towards positive solutions and helps us to feel less powerless over our circumstances.

The more actions we take the more power we regain over our lives.


Collect as many resources as you can to help distract you from your worried state?

Is there something you can read? Can you download a book that you’ve always wanted to read but never got around to reading?

Is there a website that has great ideas addressing your area of concern?

An app that helps you to switch off and relax?

Is there someone you trust that you can talk with?

Do you have a journal into which you can download all your worrying thoughts? Write out your plan?

Do you have a hobby that totally absorbs you and can serve as a temporary distraction from what is worrying you?

Make a physical list of all the things you have gathered to help to you and keep it handy. When you start to feel anxiety creeping up on you, you may find that you cannot think clearly. Having the list ready and resources organised makes it easy to switch from emotional reaction to positive action.

It is so much easier to manage our worries when we are prepared for them.

Foster the habit of Gratitude.

Being grateful reminds us of the positives in our day. Consistent practicing of gratitude can retrain your brain. Having a habit of Gratitude helps develop a mindset that defaults to positive thoughts above negative. It challenges the negative thinking patterns that contribute to anxiety and helps create a sense of calm.

Focus on the small things in your day, there are many of them in any one day - a friend contacting you to see how you are doing, your home, the quality of the water we drink, There are so many little moments that we all have in our day that we can be grateful for, the joy of Autumn, that first coffee in the morning.

Try to make this a daily practice.

Use your Resources

Whenever you find yourself starting to worry grab that list, take a moment, be kind to yourself and choose what is most appropriate for the circumstance.


This is a chance to reset our thinking by being aware of our self-talk.

Instead of telling ourselves that we are going to be trapped in our homes remind ourselves of all the unfinished projects that we might get to complete now or all the books that might get to read, new recipes to try or teach yourself a new skill.

Instead of worrying about catching the virus read up on what you need to do to protect yourself and set those things in place, then tell yourself that you have done everything you can and do something that brings you joy.

When you find yourself slipping into negative thinking patterns and can feel your anxiety levels rising, ask yourself “What positives can I take from this?” “How can I view this in a positive light?”

It is not always easy to reset our thinking and it is something that we need to keep on top of in this climate, but it is worth the effort!

This Coronavirus is unprecedented and serious and can feel overwhelming but if we plan for action, we can reduce our levels of anxiety and safeguard our mental health and sense of wellbeing.

Live well,


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