Life sure makes a nasty habit of forcing us into situations where things don’t go our way. If you’re anything like me, you probably visualize exactly the way you want things in life to turn out. And when it doesn’t work the way you planned it, you find yourself feeling sort of lost and even victimized. In times like this, it can start to feel like nothing you do will ever help you regain a sense of control.
The need for control has always been a huge area of struggle in my life. It was a major contributor to the development of my eating disorder during my teenage years, and while it manifests differently now, I still struggle with it today. But I am learning that I cannot control everything in life. And I am slowly learning to respond differently to these situations. I am not saying that I have mastered this—not by a long shot—but I am working on it.
So today, for my sake and yours, I thought I would compile a small list of helpful responses to those “out of control” situations in life. Here are five healthy ways you can respond when things don’t go according to plan:
1. Show yourself some love.
When it feels like life is out of control, and everything is crashing down around you, make sure you take some time for yourself. In times of grief, tragedy, or crisis, it can be easy to get caught up in focusing on the needs of others around you. That’s good—they probably need you. But don’t forget to look after yourself as well. Give yourself some time to process the situation, and do something nice for yourself. Buy yourself a special drink, take a bath, go to a game, color in a coloring book. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you are being recharged in a draining situation.
2. Accept your circumstances.
A huge step is simply accepting the fact that the circumstances are what they are and cannot be changed. Sometimes we fight for change and we are successful. Other times, the outcome of a situation is completely out of our hands. In those times, we have to be able to come to a place of acceptance or we will go on to live very unhappy lives. This may take some time, and that is okay. But ultimately, if you want to move on, you will have to accept and come to embrace the fact that you are not in control.
3. Look for the silver lining.
There is always a silver lining. I have found that even in the most difficult circumstances, if I look hard enough, I can find a small source of comfort and hope. I can always seem to think of at least a few things to be grateful for. This is not necessarily easy to do, particularly if you are in the middle of a mental health battle. So if you’re struggling with this one, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Ask others to help you find those small glimmers of hope that you can cling to. Write down at least one thing every day that you are grateful for. And over time, watch the list grow!
4. Choose forgiveness over bitterness.
Bitterness literally poisons your soul from the inside out. I have experienced this personally, and I never want to experience it again. I was in a situation once where my fate seemed to rest in other peoples’ hands… and those people were not on my side! It was painful and offensive, and I became very bitter. But allowing bitterness to take root in my heart was the most destructive and excruciating thing I could have done. Eventually, I came to a point where I realized that I had to forgive them in order to move on and return to a healthy state of mind, body, and spirit. Never underestimate the power of either bitterness or forgiveness. They both have the power to change your life—one for the worse and one for the better. Be sure that the next time you find yourself in an “out of control” experience, you choose the right one.
5. Look at the big picture.
Remember that there is more to life than this experience right here and now. It may be the only thing you can think about in this moment. It may even seem like the sun will never rise again. But remember that every day brings with it a new chance to start again. When you feel bogged down and stuck in the middle of unwelcome circumstances, be sure to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of your life. You might not feel like it right now, but life will go on beyond this moment. So set yourself up well for the next step by showing yourself some love, accepting the situation, finding the silver lining, and choosing forgiveness over bitterness.
What did I miss? How do you navigate the “out of control” situations in life? How do you keep yourself healthy in the midst of grief, tragedy, or crisis?