When we are juggling multiple responsibilities, competing priorities and care about matters of importance in our larger community, It can be easy to become overwhelmed with anxiety and worry. For some, it may often feel like they have a internal monologue or list of worries playing on repeat in their head. One way to cope with this anxiety and overwhelm is to work to identify what is within your control or influence vs. what is completely out of your control or influence to change. Worries that you have at least some control or influence over can be turned into concrete actions to take, while worries you have no control or influence over can be set aside, at least temporarily. A focus on what you have impact and influence on, can help disrupt the anxiety cycle and help you feel empowered over your life.
For example, something completely out of the control or influence of any one individual might be COVID 19 and when it will be under control locally, nationally and globally. That might be something that is weighing on you and causing a lot of stress and anxiety. However, If you were to ask yourself the following question: is there anything I can do to directly control or influence this issue? you might find that you do have control over some parts of the worry. Some examples of ways you can influence this worry would be controlling your individual behavior, washing your hands, keeping your distance, becoming vaccinated etc.
Another example might be around school stress. You might worry that you will fail a class or an important task you have coming up. When you ask yourself the question " is there anything I can do to directly control or influence this issue?" you would likely be able to think of lots of things that you do have control or influence over, such as reaching out for support through the tutoring center, talking to your instructors, delegating or reducing outside responsibilities, reaching out for emotional support from a friend or professional etc.
If you are deeply worried about some large social issue in the world effecting many people, instead of becoming overwhelmed with anxiety and hopelessness about the largeness of issue you could ask yourself the same question, about what things small or large you can do to impact the issue. Some example might be getting involved in a community organization, joining a taskforce at work or school, registering to vote, talking to people in your personal and professional life about the issue and more.
Taking the approach of identifying and focusing on those actions you can take, however small, to create positive change in your life and the world around you, can help you have strong personal boundaries and self care, help you remember what is your responsibility and what is outside your sphere of influence, help reduce your overall anxiety and can help remind you of the power you do have to make positive change in your life and your communities, despite all those things outside of your control or influence. Over the last year there has been so many changes and transitions, grief and trauma surrounding COVID, wildfires, large scale social justice movements, political unrest, massive shifts in the way we learn, work, socialize and exist. It is easy to be overwhelmed with all the stuff that feels outside our control. Amidst all of this, it can be extremely helpful and empowering to focus on the things we do have control over, and can make a positive impact on.
The next time you are worried or anxious about something ask yourself the following questions: "Is there anything I can do to directly control or influence this issue?" If the answer is yes, make a list of the things you can do to impact the thing you are worried about. If the answer is no, try to release yourself from responsibility to solve that problem or reach out to someone who can help.
For other ideas for positive coping and wellness for every day in the month of April see Action for Happiness' ACTIVE APRIL CALENDAR
Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services