When I am stressed, a persistent voice in my mind whines "Everything is out of control!"
The superintendent's office hasn't prepared sufficiently for online learning and I am anxious about how I'm going to manage my child's learning.
The workplace is changing and I barely recognize it anymore - everyone wants definitive answers and there aren't any.
I've dropped my child off for their freshman year of college but I suspect none of this is going to work and my child is going to be home again within the month.
The whole tenor of my business has changed and I am exhausted by the prospect of having to reinvent. Again.
Having agency is a built-in survival mechanism for humans, so not having it in the workplace and at home naturally makes us feel itchy. And right now, so much is out of our immediate control. But not everything. Consider the advantages of reframing this familiar narrative, particularly now, as we are looking a pandemic autumn straight in the face.
Here are three "frames" to consider as you determine choices that are within your control.
Control actions that are externally focused, paying attention to process rather than outcome. Write that check, while there is still time, to the political campaigns of your choice. Make a plan for your "Fall Pandemic Pod" and actively clean out the garage so you have a safe place to share coffee and connection. Lift your head up high enough to notice who is living alone and commit to making that weekly call to say "hello, you are not alone in this!" Get involved in a local, national or international organization and help support a child or student in need. Create active groups to nurture connection for employees and team members.
Control actions that are critical self-care, paying attention to process rather than outcome. Make a plan to keep your house clean (enough) without the additional risk of outside help - invest in a new lighter weight vacuum, and clean out the messy yucky storage space under the kitchen sink so that you have room for the new lavender counter spray you are going to buy for yourself. Buy stamps so that you can send gratitude cards to those you care about. Commit to spending an hour a week with a trusted coach or therapist to explore the uncomfortable "hooks" that are coming up right and left. Practice using kind, authentic language with overwhelmed staff - the words that come out of your mouth are all within your control.
Pause, pause pause. Instead of habitually jumping into saying "yes" to anything and everything and then feeling out of control, consider pausing. "Let me think about that." "Let me consider my options." "Let me get back to you." And then take the time to contemplate, using your own top two values as scaffolding.
Then step back and notice how much healthier it feels to focus on what you can control, rather than what you can't.
Wanting to feel in control is human. Feeling out of control is uncomfortable, for a reason. Focusing on what you can control and then moving that into action is just plain smart.
And of that, you are in control.
As always, it is reassuring to remember that my actions, aligned with my values, support my optimal health.