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Tips to Help You Cope When Things Feel Out of Control

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For a lot of people right now, life feels pretty strange. It's hard, maybe impossible, to make long term plans. You might feel like you have to make big decisions about things without having all of the info you need. Or you might be stressed about the things you don't get to decide. People everywhere are trying to figure out how to cope. Here are some things that might help.

  • Acknowledge your feelings.

    It's good for you to have and show a range of emotions. This can help you to have a better outlook on life and cope with change. Grief, anger, and sadness are normal, healthy feelings in situations like loss or when you've been treated badly. It might help to write down what's going on and how you're feeling. Think about where in your body you notice your feelings, for example in your stomach, head, back, or hands.

  • Pay attention to your mindset.

    Nobody's saying that the key to coping is forcing every lemon to be lemonade. But the way you think about things really does affect the way you feel. If you tell yourself that something is too hard or too stressful, it's definitely going to feel that way. But if you tell yourself you can handle something hard, you're more likely to be able to. Remember: If you tell yourself you can or if you tell yourself you can't—either way, you're right.

  • Focus more on what you can control and less on what you can't.

    Here are some things you can try:

    • Make a list to organize your thoughts. Then decide what things on the list you can take action on and what things you can't. This can remind you to accept what's in your control and what isn't.
    • Try to keep a routine, especially if you're spending a lot of time at home these days. Maybe you can commit to taking a shower and getting dressed every morning. Or maybe you make a plan to get outside for a walk at lunch. But don't be hard on yourself if there are days your routine gets interrupted. Just do your best to pick it up again tomorrow.
    • Look for sources of stress that you can limit, and then limit them. That might mean limiting how much you use your phone, watch the news, go onto social media, or even having less contact with certain people.
    • Choose to spend time on things that are meaningful to you in some way. For example, you could do fun projects with your kids, write postcards to friends, or do random acts of kindness for your neighbours. Do things that make you feel good or bring you joy.
  • Take more breaks.

    Pay attention to your current challenges, but find ways to take your mind off the chaos. Take a break by spending time on a project, a hobby, or by making an effort to call a friend once a week. Whatever you decide, choose things that help you feel better and are in line with your values. For example, streaming movies or TV shows can be a great way to distract yourself. But if you're going to spend a lot of time watching something, maybe choose a comedy series to make you laugh. Or maybe you have some big travel dreams (you know, for when travel is a thing again). If so, check out some documentaries about places that interest you.

  • Be careful about coping strategies that might make things worse.

    Keeping yourself busy might keep you distracted. But it can also make you feel exhausted or add stress. A glass of wine or a beer in the evening may help some people relax. But too much drinking isn't a great way to deal with stress. It can actually make stress and anxiety worse. If you find that stress and anxiety are making it hard to manage daily life, talk to a doctor or healthcare provider.


Adaptation Date: 8/13/2021

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.