top of page
  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Are You Worried about Things You Can’t Control?

I recently took an informal survey on my Facebook Page and asked what one thing causes my friends the most stress. Guess what the most the most common response was? "Things I can't control."

As I am still recovering from gall bladder surgery and trying to get back to a regular schedule, I'm reminded of what I can't control. A gall bladder attack and subsequent surgery to remove it a few days later was not on my agenda for the month. Worrying about my situation wouldn't have done me any good - but I still managed to worry about all the appointments I would need to reschedule and how I would juggle with kids while I was recovering.

The Swedish proverb is true that worry gives a small thing a big shadow. If you saw me on FOX 4 Good Day last year then you heard me say that "worry is the misuse of imagination." Click here to watch my interview on FOX.

Anxiety is a significant problem for 13% of adults in any given year. Most people tend to act fine, even though they don't "feel" fine, contributing even more to feelings of worry.

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. 40% of people report worrying more now than they did 5 years ago. Most of the time it is for general life events like a final exam (click here for our tips on handling test anxiety), finances after losing a job, a job interview or a teenage child who is 10 minutes late past curfew. When unrealistic, persistent anxiety is a part of everyday life, then it is possible that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may be present. GAD affects 3-4% of the population and can be treated with psychotherapy.

Use these Smart Moves to handle things you can't control:

  • Know the difference between good and bad worry. If you live in a high crime area it's good to worry about being out alone at night. Living in fear that someone with a rare disease will breathe or cough in your face is an unrealistic worry.

  • Focus on what you can control like how many times you smile today, how honest you are, the amount of effort you put into your work, how well you listen, etc. This is an interesting list of 50 things you can control right now. Remember this the next time you are at the airport and your flight is delayed! You can control how you react to this situation.

  • Avoid what-iffing about situations. Stay in the here-and-now. Ask yourself, "Is there evidence that I need to worry?" Ask yourself: "Am I trying to control things out of my control?" "On my deathbed will I be glad I worried about this?" "Will this matter to me next year, next month or next week?"

  • Use worry to your advantage. If you've been goofing off and not preparing well for an upcoming project then worry can help you spring into action. But don't let worry be a substitute for taking action.

  • Seek treatment from a professional. Treatment doesn't always mean medication is necessary. If there are significant physiological symptoms and impairment in daily functioning, medication prescribed by a physician with specialized knowledge in the treatment of anxiety can give greater relief quicker than when medication is not used. More importantly, medication can provide the kind of relief and stabilize the anxiety so other forms of treatment are effective long-term.

Most anxiety is obsessive and repetitive. Telling someone not to worry further encourages that person to keep the worry to him or herself. It's important to learn how to extinguish the anxiety so daily satisfaction can be increased and you can stay in the Smart Zone.

By the way, I'd love for you to join my Facebook Fan Page or follow me on Twitter!

bottom of page