If you are human, then you are affected by the events and environment around you. When life gets chaotic and stressful, you begin to feel off. Life and environmental stressors manifest internally, making you feel anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, unhappy, agitated, and defeated.
Enter children. Now that out of control feeling…yeah, it is multiplied! With children in the equation, you have more variables, more factors added to your plate. You now have a tiny being to care for. A being with their own agenda. A being with their own needs, own voice, own thoughts, and own body. Not only must you manage, protect, and take care of yourself, but the life and happiness of another human being (or multiple) now resides in your hands.
Remember that control? Yeah…
I’ve realized that the more you try to control, the more out of control you may feel.
As a mental health and wellness professional who works with stressed-out moms (and as a mom to two little ones), I’ve learned that sometimes gaining control means letting go of control. Yes, you read that right.
Gaining control can mean letting go of control.
Confused? Hear me out.
Certain things in life are completely out of our control. For example, traffic, having to wait in a long line, your child waking up on the wrong side of the bed, an illness, the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, the reactions and behavior of other people (yes, believe it or not, we truly can’t control anyone but ourselves. I know…it stinks, right?).
The reality is there are situations, events, and outcomes that are probably going to happen or not happen despite our best efforts to influence them. Trying to control what is out of our control can be draining, stressful, and ultimately impossible.
So why do we do it then? Because as humans, we want to feel as though we have control. Because we desire control. We desire predictability. It helps us feel safe. It helps us feel there is order in our world.
Realizing that we can’t always change a situation or an outcome can be frustrating, disheartening, or even terrifying. But coming to terms with this reality can also be freeing. It takes the weight off of our shoulders. It can help us feel happier and less at the mercy of what goes on around us because we understand certain things we can control and certain things we cannot. And as moms, we clearly have enough on our plates.
Learning to let go of control can be hard. Really hard, actually. Particularly if you are a “worrier” or an anxious person by nature, it takes some work to learn to let things go, and it is often part of the work I do with moms. Learning to let things go isn’t something that happens overnight. Yes, it takes some work, but the benefits are definitely worth it.
Here are some of my tips for learning to let go of control:
1. Analyze It
Determine if the event, circumstance, or situation is truly in or out of your control. Ask yourself: “Is this something I can change? Is this going to happen despite what I do or say? Have I been able to control this in the past?
2. Let It Go
If you have determined that it is out of your control, remind yourself that this is something that your efforts and actions will probably have little influence over. See the situation for what it is and make a conscious decision to let it go. You can even think of Elsa as you do it. Or better yet, start singing the song. We won’t judge. We’re moms. We get it.
3. Refocus Your Attention
Once you have determined something is out of your control, focus your efforts and energy on what you can control. It will be much better served.
4. Pick And Choose Your Battles
Even if you have determined that the situation, event, or circumstance may be influenced by what you do or say, you must decide if it is worth your effort. You have to weigh the pros and cons of intervening vs. just going with the flow, choosing to let it go, or watching it simply play out. Ask yourself: “Do I want to invest my energy in this situation? Will my efforts (potentially) be worth the outcome?” And remember: even though we all wear the superhero mommy cape, we only have so much energy and time to give. Use it wisely.