With everything going on in the world today, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. It might seem as though you have no control over the world, or even your own life, as covid-19 has pushed you to shelter in place for months on end, with no definite finish line in sight. Even if you are going out into the world for work, or for whatever else, there have been massive changes in day to day social encounters. With the more recent racist incidents that have sparked up anti-racism protests, the sense of doom and gloom all around can start to feel suffocating. Even if you are contributing to the movement, you may feel like a minuscule part of something that is much too large for you to have an impact in.
In psychology, there is a notion around “locus of control”. Specifically, people with an internal locus of control believe that their own actions determine the rewards that they obtain, while those with an external locus of control believe that their own behavior doesn’t matter much and that rewards in life are generally outside of their control.
Having an internal locus of control can give us confidence, boost our self-esteem, and enable us to maneuver our lives the way that we see fit. It supports our mental welfare and reduces feelings of depression, hopelessness or helplessness. On the other hand, having an external locus of control can feed into feelings of despair and de-motivation. People with an exclusively external locus of control are also more likely to experience anxiety since they believe that they are not in control of their lives. Although locus of control is partially an inborn trait that is cultivated through childhood experiences, there are exercises that you can intentionally take part in to try to feel more in control of the many moving pieces in your life. Here are some simple ideas that can help you to feel like both of your hands are on the wheel:
- Control what you can and let go of what you can’t: If there are areas that are not in your power to change, don’t force it or you will find yourself getting frustrated. Instead, focus on those areas of your life that you can influence. So, this pandemic has you sitting at home and away from your loved ones. Instead of wallowing in your losses, try to capitalize on your gains. Now is the perfect time to do those things that you always wanted to do but never had the time for. Or simply to just take a break, rest and recharge!
- Do small things with great effort: Small accomplishments make you feel competent and able to face whatever challenge comes your way. If you are feeling overwhelmed over the social injustices in our communities and feel like you aren’t doing much to support your fellow citizens, realize that there are many simple actions such as reading about an issue or discussing it over the dinner table that you can take part in. These kinds of activities can help you learn and educate others around you, thus providing meaningful support to the #blacklivesmatter movement or any other causes that are important to you.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We are living through some unprecedented and troubled times, as a global community. None of us have ever experienced the turmoil that we face today. In spite of all the negativity, we can strive to find the silver linings. We are growing closer virtually, we are learning to care for one another and we are quickly improving our technologies to keep up with new challenges that we faced. All our life experiences, whether negative or positive, can help us become better people, if we allow it.
The need to feel in control of our life is essential to our mental, emotional and physical well-being. So, if you feel like life is spinning out of your control, remember… you are the author of your life and you can choose to change its course, little by little, day by day.