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Gaining a Sense of Control in Difficult Times

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

By Jeff Wax, Director, Baker Family Emotional Health and Wellness Center

Psychotherapist Jeff Wax at CHC in NYC
Jeff Wax, LCSW-R

In this historic period of Covid-19, it is more important than ever to take good care of ourselves. Just as we need to disinfect our physical body by washing our hands, we need to wash and care for our emotional body.

Rebalancing Our Life

The negative onslaught of world events threatens to overwhelm us as it swirls around our lives. This can make us feel disoriented, unsettled and anxious. This is not emotional wellness.

However, let me suggest that we can practice more emotionally healthy responses and re-balance our daily life.

The spread of our negative thought patterns threatens our ability to feel emotionally well, just as Covid-19 threatens our physical health.

Feelings of fear, anger, frustration, sadness and anxiety can be overwhelming, making us feel like we are out of control. These feelings are normal, and I want you to know that you have a powerful antidote in your pocket – safety and control.

Safety and Control

Our personal sense of safety and control in the world gets really shaken when the world is in chaos. When that happens, one emotionally healthy practice is to add back into your life that sense of safety and control. The negative thought response has taken away that sense of security, and we look to add some of it back. This might seem a daunting task, but remember we are not seeking to add safety and control back into the whole world, but adding it back into your world. I call this “adding other” – adding what gives you a sense of balance and security.

This can be as simple as leafing through a popular magazine (not news), watching a fun old movie, sticking to a routine, exercising, cleaning, knitting, singing. When we “add other” on-purpose, a more positive energetic shift takes place.

The writer Byron Katie says we can do this by challenging a negative thought (and the accompanying feeling) by answering 4 questions:

Is the thought true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? How do I react when I think that thought? Who would I be without that thought? How would I feel?

It has been shown that when we know the answers to these questions, we are adding in logical thought – aka not emotions. This calms us and gives us back our sense of control. Even if this is a momentary experience, the calming and

balancing of our emotional body serves us well.

Living Through a Feeling

Another emotional tool: When the negative thoughts and feelings emerge, name them. These feelings are not strangers. We know them, we have had them before, and we have lived through them before. When we live through a feeling and let it pass through us, we take the power away from the negative overwhelm. The negative transforms, resolves and dissipates. In allowing this process, and in giving it to ourselves, we also transform. This is adding emotional safety and control.

I’ve shared just a few of the many techniques to calm fears that arise and hope you will find them helpful in your life. Remember we do not need to change situations in the world, but we can change our perceptions and emotional responses in order to curtail fear and regain a sense of safety and control in our lives.

This is a challenge we all would do well to embrace.

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