Circle of Control
World events are leaving a lot of us feeling shaken, I don't think any of us were expecting war to break out so soon after the world was ravaged by Co-vid.
These events have had a huge negative impact on our levels of anxiety and stress.
Whether we have family directly involved in the current situation, or are still recovering from the effects of the loss of loved ones during the pandemic, or maybe we are simply to trying to explain the current situation to children already struggling to deal with their anxieties, our own feelings too may feel as though they are no longer under our control.
“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” —Arthur Somers Roche
This CBT strategy is widely used in many forms of therapy, to help refocus our thoughts, and bring order to the confusion that we feel when anxiety overwhelms us.
Using journalling and art therapy combined, you create a personal circle of control that you can refer to when you need to steady your thoughts and calm your mind.
You can re-visit it as and when you need to, add and subtract from it, thoroughly personalise it for a particular situation or use it to deal with anxiety when coping with a specific upcoming or past event.
Start with a blank sheet of paper, and draw a large circle, freehand, or use a dinner plate as a template.
Inside that circle draw a smaller circle.
Be as bright and colourful, or as structured as you like.
The central circle is the sphere of things that we can control. I have written in the main points, but you can use doodles, drawings, text, photos, collage images - anything you like to help you focus on what it is in this particular moment or in general that you can control.
I WILL FOCUS ON WHAT I CAN CONTROL:
The amount of effort I put in
How I take care of myself
How I handle my feelings
How I treat others
My personal boundaries
“Not everything that weighs you down is yours to carry.” —Anonymous
The outer circle is all about the things that we cannot control.
THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF MY CONTROL:
Pandemics, illnesses, natural disasters, wars
What other people do
What other people say
Things from the past
How other people feel
Other people's belief
Other people's choices
Again, you can customise your circle, add drawings, name specific people if you wish, add particular circumstances, remember this is your circle of control, personalise it so that it has meaning and creates focus for you.
Now that you have your two circles you can begin to see where they may intersect, over a work or relationship problem, a family issue or a state of anxiety that is escalating. The intersection will help you differentiate between the portion that you can control and the portion that you have no influence over. Using that information you can then begin to create self-care strategies to help you deal with your emotions.
Here's a worked through example for a typical social anxiety issue:
Those things that we cannot control:
size of venue, the people present, what they may or may not think or say about us, how previous events have gone badly, the fear of the unknown - not knowing how this event is going to turn out...
- and how we can combat those fears with the things that we can control:
wear something that makes us feel comfortable and secure, watch or read some current affairs, or swot up on a topic appropriate for the venue (art gallery, historical building), take deep breaths and count to 10 when feeling the press of people, step outside for a moment of fresh air if required, give yourself some positive affirmations before heading out and repeat them to yourself during the event to keep your mind focussed, smile but be yourself, and if panic arises, find something in the room to focus on, a painting or a window and use that as your focal point while doing some deep breaths.
Over time time and with practice, use of the circle of control can become automatic and you will be able to identify the most appropriate coping mechanisms for the situation that you find yourself in.
However, should you find that you are still suffering from heightened anxiety, remember that therapy is always an option and a guided CBT therapy can help you create self-care strategies for daily life.
Other support sources here: Red Cross