By Barb Ward

It’s 2:30 a.m. and again, you are lying awake worrying about things that you can do nothing about. As you toss and turn, your anxiety increases to the level where you might as well get up, because sleep is no longer an option. If only you had control!

This is a common feeling for many of us in this time of constant and relentless change, both in our everyday lives and in world events. And this is why it’s more important than ever to let go of control. Sounds scary right? But letting go of control is an important skill for reducing stress and anxiety, improving relationships, and finding more peace and happiness at work and in life. It can also improve your health by helping:

  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Lessen bouts of insomnia
  • Relieve muscle tension and headaches
  • Improve ability to concentrate
  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Control high blood pressure

A tool that can help you “re-center” yourself is the Circles of Control model shown below.

The center circle focuses on things that are directly in our control. Such as our own behaviors, actions, words, or thoughts.

The second circle demonstrates things that we don’t directly control, but that we can potentially influence through our behaviors or actions. For instance, while we cannot control another person’s behavior, we may be able to alter it based on our own words or actions.

The outer circle illustrates circumstances, issues, problems, etc., that we have absolutely no control over. An example would be something that happened or a decision we made in the past that we cannot change. When we focus our energy here, our anxiety increases.

It’s important to note that although we may not be able to change a circumstance or outcome, we can always maintain control over the way we interpret or react to it, and this can make all the difference.

Try thinking about the things that worry you and place them in the appropriate category on the model. As you become more aware of the three circles of control and the things that reside in each category, you can begin to analyze them to determine if any of them can be moved into the circle of influence if you change your perspective. If you cannot influence, change, or control them, you have identified those things you need to let go of, in turn, helping you release the anxiety they create. 

If you are still having difficulty letting go, here are some additional tips to consider:

  • Identify Triggers: Pay attention to the situations or areas of your life where you feel the strongest urge to control things. Understanding your triggers can help you address them more effectively.
  • Accept Uncertainty: Remind yourself that you can’t control everything. Try to focus on the opportunity for growth and learning that results from ambiguous situations rather than trying to control them.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation and techniques can help you catch yourself when you try to exert unnecessary control and allow you to step back.
  • Delegate: Learn to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others, whether it’s at work, at home, or in any other area of your life. Trust others to handle tasks, even if they may not do them exactly as you would.
  • Prioritize: Focus your energy on what truly matters. Determine your priorities and allocate your time and effort accordingly. Let go of trying to control everything and concentrate on what is most essential.
  • Learn from Mistakes: Accept that mistakes happen, and they can be valuable learning experiences. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Letting go of control is hard work. Treat yourself with the same empathy and understanding that you would offer to a friend or co-worker.
  • Seek Support: Talk to a therapist or counselor if you find it especially difficult to let go of control. They can offer strategies and support tailored to your specific needs.

While letting go of control takes intentionality and persistence, it is worth the effort in the long run. Just remember, this is a process, starting small with less important challenges and gradually working your way to more significant changes can offer you more success along your journey. Over time, you’ll likely find more peace and flexibility in your life as you learn to let go of unnecessary control. As you achieve success, celebrate your ability to adapt and trust the process. 

You are on your way! With any luck, you’ll soon be able to turn off the light, roll over, and get a good night’s sleep!

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