Tips to Help You Cope When Things Feel Out of Control

Getting Started

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 with the chaos of this time. Here are some things that might help.

  • Acknowledge your feelings.

    Try to recognize what you're feeling when you're feeling it, without judging it as "good" or "bad." It might help to write down how you're feeling and why.

  • 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 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 turning off the news, staying away from 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 projects with your kids, foster an animal, write postcards to friends, or do random acts of kindness for your neighbors. Do things that make you feel good or bring you joy.
  • Find distractions.

    Look for ways to keep your mind off of the chaos. It could be a project, a hobby, or even making an effort to call a friend on the phone once a week. Whatever you decide, choose things that 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, make sure it's worth your time. Maybe that's 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 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.


Current as of: November 12, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

Tips to Help You Cope When Things Feel Out of Control