Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Control what you can control
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Whoa … where is time going? I glanced up and December is almost half over, with Christmas on deck!
Of course, those who have a doctorate in “busy” and “hectic” and “chaos” will find this time of year so delightful! On the other hand, those who shun full schedules with no “white space” and rebuke the notion of “holiday extravaganza” will find this time of year something to endure more than something to enjoy!
Add to the busyness of the month any emotional tugs that nostalgia summons up in your heart, and you may be dealing with a very full plate!
Oh, and by the way, the oxymorons of the month are plentiful! We can try to “make haste slowly” in order to gain some semblance of control over our schedules, or we can savor the “fine mess” and the “quiet chaos” of the season ahead. Many are energized by the fullness of the schedule, while others are plain exhausted at the mention of it.
I believe it is important to our mental and emotional health to keep in mind that we can control the controllables but must NOT try to control the uncontrollables.
Why? Because trying to exert control over People-Things-Situations outside of you is futile and will feed the monsters of stress and overwhelm. Yet it is the very notion of People-Things-Situations conjured up in the holiday/December brouhaha that will bring each of us either full hearts of gladness and celebration or full “buckets” of overwhelm and exasperation. What can we do?
Remember that … I have NO CONTROL over:
- Hostile/Chaotic Atmospheres
- Others’ emotions
- Others’ moods
- Others’ words/spirit
Often during family gatherings, it is easy to get caught up in “taking responsibility” for the way others are enjoying (or not) themselves. Practice the mantra: I can’t control someone else’s anger or frustration; I can’t control someone else’s somber/blue or negative mood; I can’t control others’ word choices that are mean-spirited, spiteful or harsh.
Whether it’s stormy, windy, rainy or frigidly cold, I can’t control the weather. If the cookies stick to the pan, the meatloaf falls apart, or the baby spits up on my new silk blouse, I can’t control the situation. If the neighborhood lost electricity, the dog dug up the pansies or the lighted reindeer fell over in the storm, I can’t control the situation.
Traffic, noise, high costs, ungrateful relatives or the neighbors’ barking dogs – I do not have one single ounce of control over any of that.
BUT…I DO HAVE CONTROL OVER:
- MY Attitude
It may rain on my parade, but I choose to grin, shrug my shoulders and bring along a cute umbrella!
- MY Mood
If I wake up on the “wrong side of the bed,” then I need to hop back in and try again!
- MY Thoughts
I can harbor negative assumptions or conclusions, or I can get out a giant eraser!
- MY Actions
Simply put, I choose my actions … oh, and also my RE-actions!
- MY Responses
I get to CHOOSE how to respond to those People-Things-Situations I have NO control over by CHOOSING my response TO them!
Whether you are bounding with energy as you look at the month’s activities ahead of you or are wishing you could curl up in a fetal position until the new year is here, you DO have control! You will feel amazingly empowered when YOU KNOW that though there is much around you that you can’t fix, there is even MORE that you do have authority over!
The “Power Switch” is in YOU! Happy December – what’s left of it!