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How to Let Go of Control and Ease Anxiety

There are many unknowns in our everyday lives which can lead to anxiety being at an all-time high. For many, the power to control everything can appear to be a great way to counter anxiety, but in fact gives us a false sense of security to imagine we have power over the way things will turn out.

The need for control exacerbates our anxiety, and can also increase depression, anger, and create tension in our relationships. When we learn to release this compulsion, we are able to better manage our anxiety, depression, mood, and improve our experiences within all of our relationships.

Practices like mindfulness + meditation can help reduce our feelings of anxiety. They are also useful tools to help us understand our need for control and how it is holding us back.

Mindfulness is just as it sounds – it’s the practice of letting your mind be fully active in the present moment, rather than past or future events + anxieties. It is about staying fully present, aware of our surroundings so we can interact and engage with our environment rather than let our thoughts spiral out of control.

When we feel the need for control, we root ourselves firmly OUT of the present. We spend our time worrying and ruminating over the future and the fears we have about things that might happen. Because we can’t actually control what happens in the future, this energy is spent mainly on fears and hypotheticals. Because of this, we take ourselves out of the present moment, and restrict ourselves from living fully in the environment, situation, and moment we actually exist in.

Think about how your need for control impacts your daily life:

· Do you find yourself stressed at new situations?

· Are you frequently spending more time worrying about how people will react to your actions than actually thinking about what you want to do?

· Do you try to anticipate how people will react and adjust your behavior to try to ensure the “best” option?

These are all examples of the need for control ruling our lives. And if you said “yes” to any (or all!) of the above, no doubt your energy is extremely drained by the process.

Because what the need for control does, is take that energy that we could be putting toward things that fill us with love and joy, and uses it to try to predict the future. We try to anticipate how things will turn out, how people will react to us, what they will say, how we will manage the scenario we have decided will happen. In reality, none of this is up to us. We have no idea how situations will turn out, we have no control over how anyone else behaves, and no matter how much we regulate our own behavior we cannot determine someone else’s response.

This need for control is rooted in fear. Here are a few things to get you started:

Figure out the root fear

This is easier said than done, but when we get REALLY honest with ourselves, we can find out where this need for control is coming from. What is it we’re afraid of? Imagine what would happen if you didn’t have control. What is the terrible scenario that keeps your fists closed tight over your need for control? When you imagine that “worst case scenario” you can find that root fear. That’s what you need to start to address. How can you ease that fear?

Focus on the present

When you find yourself going down the “what if” trail try to refocus. Remind yourself that there is nothing you can do NOW to change the future. You can only live in the present. Try a grounding technique to get you back in the present moment. What is around you? Where are you? What can you see, smell, hear, taste, feel, etc.? Who is with you? Take in the moment you’re in now and remind yourself that how you act in this moment at the present is all you can control.

Make a list

What are those fears you got to the root of in #1? Write down what it is you’re afraid of, what is compelling you to hold tight onto that need for control. Then explore each of these fears a bit. Where is it coming from? Why is it so scary? And if this exploration is not enough to get you to let them go for the present moment, make a second list. For each fear, what is the worst case scenario? And how would you handle it? Keep these lists somewhere you can refer back to them. Remind yourself that you can’t control if these fears come true but that you ARE capable of handling them!

About Alex Greenwald (MHC-LP): Along with my professional training, my own personal history with emotional struggles allows me to establish powerful, empathic relationships with my clients. I provide honest, authentic feedback and am very goal-oriented and interactive. Through our work together, I will support you in your journey towards hope, happiness, and peace. I obtained my Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology and a minor in Expressive Arts Therapy from SUNY Oswego. While in graduate school, I obtained my first job as a Residential Counselor at Melillo Center for Mental Health. Since then, I have made it my purpose to help individuals resolve their internal pain and heartache. Areas of focus include: Trauma, Life Transitions, Bipolar Disorder, Relationships, Depression, Anxiety, Women’s Issues, LGBTQIA+ Issues, Stress.

Empower Your Mind Therapy is a New York City based group therapy practice offering in-person and telehealth services to adults and teens with an emphasis on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Areas of focus include individual and group therapy for: Anxiety, Borderline Personality, Depression, Eating Disorders, Life Transitions, Self-Harming, PTSD.


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