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How to Stop Stressing About Things You Can’t Control

Have you ever heard of the Serenity Prayer? There’s one line from it that is often quoted:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

There’s such simple wisdom in this: we shouldn’t spend time worrying about things outside of our control. Instead, we should focus on the things that we can control.

That is something to keep in mind when dealing with stress as well!

Stress is a natural part of life. Whether it’s something good (like buying a new home, having a baby, or starting a new job) or something negative (like losing a job, relationship problems, or dealing with car troubles), there are bound to be things in our lives that cause us some degree of stress.

While we can’t fully eliminate stress, we do have the power to choose how we react to it. One way to do that is to stop stressing about things you can’t control.

Feel like that’s easier said than done? Trust me, I understand. It can take time to learn how to do that.

But it can be done!

Here are 4 strategies you can use to stop stressing about things you can’t control.

Learn the difference

The first thing you should do is learn the difference between what you can control and what you can’t.

For example, unless you have some kind of superpower, you can’t control other people. You can’t control what they do, how they think, how they feel, or what they believe. You can’t control the decisions they make, the mistakes they keep repeating, how they feel about you, or any of the other things we tend to stress out about.

However, you CAN control yourself. You can control your actions, your mindset, and your decisions. And, though you can’t control other people, you CAN control the boundaries you set between yourself and them. For example, you may not be able to control how someone feels about you, but you can set (and enforce) boundaries about how you expect to be treated.

Realizing that you can’t control other people can be so freeing — especially if you’re the type of person to worry or feel guilty about the things other people do, say, and feel. Release the responsibility that you hold on to regarding everyone but yourself and you might be surprised by how much stress falls away from you.

Switch to Problem-Solving Mode

Someone I know once told me something that stuck with me: “Worrying is a waste of time”. Granted, if you have clinical anxiety, it’s not really feasible to believe that you can just flip a button, and then you’re cured of any worries. It just doesn’t work that way. However, I do find it helpful to remind myself that stressing out about something isn’t going to change anything. That helps me shift my thoughts from stress mode to problem-solving mode. If the problem is something I can solve, then that is one way to eliminate the stressor. If it’s something that can’t be solved, then I move on to the next strategy.

Find a distraction

When you find yourself stressing out about something you can’t control, a great method is to engage in an activity that will take your mind off of it. Here are some common activities:

  • Talk to a friend

  • Write or journal

  • Arts and crafts

  • Exercise (running, swimming, dancing, yoga, etc.)

  • Meditation

  • Breathwork

Identify your emotional triggers

Perhaps the most important step is to figure out what your emotional triggers are. They can be events, places, thoughts, or even people. When they pop up, they can cause your anxiety to rev up to 100 — and cause you to react emotionally rather than respond with a clear mind. When you are able to gain clarity about your emotional triggers, you reclaim your ability to respond in a way that’s aligned with who you want to be and how you want to feel.

I offer a powerful Awareness and Triggers meditation in my 7-day program, Breathwork for Anxiety. Click here to access it now so you can stop stressing about things you can’t control and reclaim peace in your life whenever anxiety comes creeping back in.

I’d love to hear what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments!

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