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By Lisa Caplan

What do we actually have control over? When I ask my clients why they need to be in control, I get a lot of answers, but one common response is that it helps them feel calmer and more relaxed when they know what is going on. If they don’t have control, they feel agitated, nervous, frustrated, scared and even angry. So, I’m concluding that most people are on an emotional rollercoaster – feeling relaxed when they think they can control a situation and it goes their way, and anxious when they can’t. It seems like this approach to life may result in a constant state of uncertainty, because we actually have control over very little. I’m guilty of trying to control too, but think about it, the only things that we can actually control are our own actions and choices. We can’t control other people, the weather, society, etc. Letting go of that need to control can free you from a lot of angst that you don’t need.

Here are some tips to help you to start letting go of the need to control:

  1. Admit to yourself that you need control. The first step in changing anything is to admit that you do it. Once you do, you can begin to make changes. Make a list of how you feel when you think you have control of a situation and when you don’t.This can help you recognize the feelings behind your need to control.
  2. Let go of the need to control. Once you recognize that you like to be in control, letting go of that need is empowering. When I realize that I don’t have control over a situation I feel a sense of calm. I often ask myself if I have control over a situation, and, if the answer is “no,” then spending a lot of emotional energy on it is exhausting. Like anything, this takes practice and patience to look at a situation and decide to let go instead of trying to control.
  3. Break it down. Since you know that you can control your own actions and choices, break down the situation to see what you can control. Usually what you find is that you can change your reaction to the situation and decide what is best for you.
  4. Your way isn’t necessarily always the best way. We often believe that we know best, and holding onto that belief can cause a lot of anxiety and emotional struggle. It can also cause us to make choices that don’t turn out and may have had a better outcome if handled differently. History repeats itself. If you often make choices that don’t turn out well, then you will probably continue to do so. Maybe it is time to not control, and listen to someone else’s ideas.
  5. Take a mental and physical break. Sometimes we just need to take a step back physically and emotionally from a situation to get clarity. Everyone does this differently. I start each day with less than 10 minutes of yoga and stretching. It helps to ground me before I start my day. It also helps me manage the rest of my day and be able to take a deep breath when my day gets stressful. You may want to step away from your desk and go for a walk around the building or down the hall, find a hobby, exercise, or practice a breathing exercise. Find tools to build into your life that allow you to take a step back.
  6. Cut back on social media. Social media will suck the life right out of you. I think I might offend some people by saying that I prefer to live in the real world not the virtual word. Social media is all about comparing yourself to other people and their lives. First of all, most of what you read is hype. Most people don’t advertise the rough parts of their life on social media. They talk about all the “great things” going on and often exaggerate. I have talked with many people who I know are having a very rough time but you would never know from looking at their social media. You have to decide what is best for you, but if looking at social media leaves you feeling bad about yourself, maybe you need a social media vacation.
  7. Listen to your body. I tell my clients that your body will talk to you, and if it needs to slow down and you don’t listen, it will slow down for you. This may come in the form of an illness or injury. If you feel tired, resting will help you accomplish more, where pushing on won’t allow you to do your best.
  8. Stay in the moment. Focusing on the past and everything that has happened can cause depression, and focusing and worrying about the future can cause anxiety. The only thing you really have is right now. So that you don’t miss out on what is going on now, pay attention to it.
  9. BREATHE. As long as you are alive, you can breathe. Try this: take a deep breath through your nose, filling yourself up from your feet to your head, hold, and release very slowly though your nose or mouth.
  10. Call your Lawyer Assistance Program. Each person is unique and we can help you come up with a way to help you let go of the need to control.

For assistance, please contact the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling. We have a network of counselors throughout Maryland. Jim Quinn, Lawyer Assistance Director, (443) 703-3041, jim@msba.org; Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, Associate Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program, (443) 703-3042, lisa@msba.org.  Toll Free 1(888) 388-5459.

 

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C has over 20 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and trauma.