How to Focus When Things Seem Out of Control
Someday, soon I hope, we’ll reread these blogs and be amazed by how much the pandemic affected our lives. Or maybe not! This has been a life-altering, universe-shifting experience and I hear from so many clients, family, and friends that the one overwhelming feeling is that everything is just out of control. This is natural because you don't know when this boogeyman, this virus boogeyman, will come to attack you or somebody you love or attack somebody you know. That is an unsettling feeling and really does lead you to feel as if you are out of control of your fate. Let’s work on shifting that feeling.
What CAN you Control?
So, I want to talk about it and flip this on its other side: instead of focusing on what we can't control, let’s focus on what we can control. This mindset shift truly moves your brain out of fear and into action (even if it is all imaginary).
You know how it goes: you start thinking of all the things that might happen, that could happen, that maybe will happen, if you keep going, you will feel like there’s nothing you can do. You’ll start to move into the worst-case scenario land where you start thinking: I'm here for a long time; my business is never going to recover; I'm never going to be able to go to the gym; I'm scared this person's going to get sick and they're going to die. All these things we can't control but are just thoughts that haven't even happened.
Let me repeat that: all those bad things you’re worrying about have not happened to you. They are not real. They're all thoughts in our minds of what could happen. Yeah, maybe it could happen, but it could also not happen. But while you’re thinking about them, your body starts to feel them. Your anxiety kicks in, your flight or fight reflex fires up, you start to experience the event as if it’s really happened!
So, first step: Stop! Take a breath and return to reality.
This doesn’t mean you’re not acknowledging things that truly frighten you. Yes, the pandemic is scary. Yes, the future is uncertain which can be anxiety causing. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns that could affect you and your business. But you have skills, you have tenacity, and you have the ability to weather the storm!
Just from that experience we know our thoughts have power. So now think of what you can control, think of what is actually in front of you, and how you can determine how that situation plays out. Even in the worst-case scenarios: what can you do if faced with one of those awful situations you’re worried about? What exactly can you do?
Start with Right Now and then Build a Toolkit for Every Situation
The best way to feel more in control is to break it down into small chunks. Whatever you can handle right now and be successful at. Look at your day-to-day life – what piece could you change slightly so you’re in control? Can I get up 15 minutes early to meditate and have quiet time? Can I add a short mid-morning break to get some fresh air and a little stretching? Can I add more healthy food to one meal? Pick something that will help you cope with – and stop – the circle of the thoughts that take you down the rabbit hole of what-if, what-if, what-if.
It may not seem like it but long before the pandemic we had hundreds of things to worry about and lots of rabbit holes to get lost in. And I know you dealt with then and you’ll deal with it now.
Here’s what I’ve done in my daily life to arrest this thought cycle:
First of all, I wake up every morning, and I spend time in what I consider meditation. For me, meditation looks like this (there is no one right way!): I start breathing and follow my breath consciously. I keep a certain chant in my head, a couple of words I start to focus on, and then I start to generate and feel this feeling of love and connection inside my heart. I spend about half an hour every morning doing this. So now I’ve controlled how I start my day.
Second, I “get ready” to workout (even if it’s not right away). I get dressed in my workout clothes, drink some water, and take some of my probiotics beforehand, and I then control doing a workout, which makes me feel really good. So now I’ve controlled how I take care of my body and how I will feel for the day.
Third, I plan ahead and prep for healthy eating. I love smoothies (especially with matcha, seeds, and chocolate!) and juicing so I get my shopping done so I have all the ingredients on hand. If you have time, you could also prep ingredients individually for each smoothie so you can just dump and go. So now I’ve controlled my health as much as I can by eating right.
But don’t miss out on the value of the process! Whether it’s cooking or cleaning or watering the plants – remain present in that task, view it as a living part of your day, and experience everything around that task (the sights, smells, sounds, feels). Don’t let your mind wander but focus on what you are in control of in the moment.
Lastly, I can control parts of my business that give me joy. I can design my day so those parts are sprinkled in between the mundane or challenging tasks. For me, it’s the creative process and I’ve really found enjoyment and peace in writing a book for women entrepreneurs. So now I’ve controlled my future through my business!
Little Steps Build Big Success
Combined, all of these things, the meditating, the exercising, the eating right, having creative projects make me feel good. They all help me wrestle back control of my life and empower me to know that I can handle the hard stuff. They also build a foundation upon which I can build more “little things” which eventually add up to dealing with bigger things. They build a toolkit for me of practices I can rely on when I encounter new and scary situations. Even if I’ve never faced it, I know that I’ve handled similar things before.
So, I throw back it back to you, what can you control every day? Focus on that to help you get through this time. Not just get through it but blissfully get through it.
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Who is Leslie Kuster?
I became a 7-figure woman entrepreneur in my 50s -- with my successful Back from Bali clothing brand! It took some getting real with myself to finally say, “Damn it, I want money!” Now I am here to ignite women entrepreneurs -- like you -- to experience the empowerment, independence and joy of creating a business that brings you both money and freedom. Read more about my story here.