What to Do When Everything Feels Out of Control.

Most of us like to feel in control. We adopt routines and put systems and schedules in place so that we have a pretty good idea of what will happen when, where, and with whom. Surprises are fun, but being ambushed is not.

We also adopt and develop these behaviors because it lets us believe we can prevent bad things from happening. If we do everything right, then nothing can go wrong.

So, when life suddenly hands us a metaphorical hurricane, we want to battle and fight our way out of it until we drop back down to a calmer setting with our controls firmly in place.

Looking at the headlines, it seems there isn’t a place on earth that isn’t battling their own metaphorical hurricane. Whether it be a political hurricane (pick almost any country) or a health crisis hurricane (the world!), or a climate crisis hurricane (literal in the case of Hurricane Zeta in Louisiana), millions of people feel as though everything is out of control.

The truth is, much of our life has always been out of our control. Even though it appears as though we planned for a certain outcome, often, it is more by chance than pure design.

As much as we would like to stand in our front gardens and yell at everyone else to wake up and see the sense of doing things our way, we can’t.

When it comes right down to it, the only real things we can control are our own thoughts and actions.

Whatever hurricane you are personal battling, it’s time to take a breath and to try to find the eye of the storm, that calm spot right at the center—because heaven knows, none of us can put the brakes on a hurricane.

Control your thoughts:

The first thing to do is step away from all sources of negativity. If your next-door neighbor loves to dwell on all the doom and gloom, then just wave and walk on.

Don’t drown in social media or mainstream media. Do stay informed, but make strategic decisions and limit how much you consume. Think of these sources like devil’s food cake; a little is fine, but too much will make you sick.

Dive into a book, listen to music or a podcast, take a class, or watch a great movie; put your mind where it will be cherished, not assaulted.

Control your actions:

Shake up your routine. We all agree that routines help us feel in control, but take some time to create new ones. If you’ve been doing something a certain way since May, try a new approach. Simply being in control of these decisions will make you feel less helpless.

My pencil drawing of a gate in Italy.

Tackle a creative project. Doing something creative will pivot your brain away from the world-is-coming-to-an-end focus and help you put your attention on something else. I like jigsaw puzzles and pencil drawing, but there are countless creative projects out there.

Clean house! There is something enormously satisfying about waking up to a sparkling clean bathroom or reaching for an apple in your spotless fridge. The world may be spinning off its axis, but you’ll sleep better in fresh, crisp sheets.

Actively organize stuff. This is the ultimate killer of feeling powerless. There are hundreds of websites offering ideas and even more stores where you can get products to help you remain organized. I guarantee you will feel brighter when you open your closet door to see your color-coded sweaters in a perfect pile. I was ridiculously excited when my Lazy Susan turntable spice rack arrived. The joy of twirling it around and finding the exact spice I needed was a delight.

None of these suggestions promise to restore the control of our pre-hurricane lives—if it ever existed—but we can mitigate some of the harsher effects of the constant onslaught.

You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.

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