Letting Go of Things You Can’t Control

Control and Free Will

Learning to understand what we have control over and what we do not is one of the epic challenges of being human. Figuring out what exactly it is that we have control over can actually be fairly anxiety-inducing. That’s because one of the things that makes us most human—free will—is something we share with everyone else and that can often make our experience unpredictable. We are constantly faced with people and situations over which we have no control—from our company downsizing to the over-eager driver who cuts us off at a traffic light.

To complicate things further, we are also at the mercy of how we interpret these experiences. We all see the world through a different lens and, while one person might see a layoff as a result of downsizing an opportunity to explore new employment opportunities, someone else might see it as a personal affront and commentary on their value as an employee, or even a person. We may find ourselves in a very angry frame of mind if our boss, who doesn’t have a family to support, retains his or her job, while we lose ours. That’s one of the keys to letting go of control—not taking things personally.

Barometer for Control

When we buy into the things we can’t control, we actually end up victimizing ourselves. One of our most powerful tools is developing the ability to differentiate between what we can control and what we can’t then using it as a barometer for our experience. Most of us have a great many things in our lives we can control. Making a list of these—things like clothing, food or activity choices—can provide us with some perspective. It can also help us to recognize that choosing between doing something and not doing it empowers us even more because, even before we make a choice, we have to make the choice to make the choice.

Another powerful tool for developing some perspective around what we can and cannot control is exercising gratitude. That sounds like a platitude—‘be grateful’—but it can be a powerful tool in the recognition of what you have done to create your life as it is today. Gratitude of this kind is little deeper than giving thanks around a holiday dinner table. It means taking a daily inventory of those things that nourish us. Some people do this through prayer or meditation. Others journal or keep a gratitude jar in a central location, like in the kitchen or family room of their home. In fact, research shows that practicing this kind of deep gratitude on a regular basis has enormous emotional benefits that can help you counteract those moments when life starts to feel out of control and unmanageable.

Understanding what we have control over based on our decision-making gives us a contrast for recognizing what we can’t control. Once we have developed the awareness to differentiate between the two, we can take the perspective we’ve gained from understanding what we can control and release those things that we can’t.

Sometimes it is difficult to recognize the difference between life circumstances that we can control and those we can’t. At times like this counseling can offer great benefit. If you believe counseling could help contact us here or call us at 860-571-4646.

Techniques to Help Manage Chaos and Maintain Calm

Dismiss the Chaos

The stresses we face in our daily lives can sometimes be overwhelming. Whether it’s our relationships, finances, family, children, career, or our personal struggle, things can pile up and leave us feeling paralyzed. The good news is, you don’t have to spend every day feeling buried. There are some simple techniques you can use to minimize or even alleviate your stress and anxiety, dismissing the chaos you might be feeling at the moment from your life.

dog-chaos-calmTechniques to Maintain Calm


Practicing mindfulness helps you learn how to notice present thoughts, feelings and sensations, and then allow them to just go by, without judging them or yourself. This allows you to become aware of your experience, which is central to helping you let go of painful thoughts and emotions, helping you heal. Mindfulness is a focused activity that can help you free yourself from the stresses that may be weighing on you.


There are many different forms of meditation. Most of us are familiar with the formal sitting meditation of Zen Buddhism or yoga. In fact, meditation can be done anywhere, at any time and by anyone. The simplest form of meditation as a means of quieting the mind is to simply sit and follow the breath by keeping your attention focused on it. Another form is guided meditation, where someone guides you through a series of steps—focusing on points in the body or asking you to visualize a particular experience—that bring you to a state of deep relaxation.


Another way to de-stress is through creative visualization. One strategy for this is to develop a picture in your mind of somewhere that has brought you peace or happiness in the past. Once you have a hold of that picture, you sit with it and connect with those feelings to help calm you down. This can also be done by creating a picture in your mind that is not a real place, or is a place that you want to be. Again, by connecting with the positive feelings associated with what you’re imagining, it supports you in getting back to a place of balance.

Nadi Shodna (alternate nostril breathing)

This is a technique found in Kriya yoga. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and involves alternatively breathing out of one nostril and then the other. This is done by using the thumb and ring finger of the right hand. In the daytime, you start by closing off the right nostril with the thumb and inhaling through the left nostril. You then close off the left nostril with the ring finger, exhaling and then inhaling through the right. You repeat this for 11 rounds, with a round being an inhale and exhale on both sides. When you use this technique after sunset, you do it the same way, but starting with the right nostril.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind around managing the chaos you may encounter in your life is that it’s happening around you. That means, no matter how crazy things may feel like they’re getting, you can almost always remove yourself from those feelings. Using these simple tools can help you do just that, getting grounded and reducing, or possibly even eliminating, the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing in your daily life.