Updated: May 7
You've suddenly been chucked in the deep end with a problem, experience, issue...You're panicking...You're deep diving into catastrophic thinking. It's all too much, and to top it off, now everything else is going wrong too!!
Speaking from experience this kind of situation used to happen to me ALL THE TIME.
In fact it happened to me yesterday. I needed to drive to a launch party for some colleagues and it was in a city I don't enjoy parking in. I had planned my route, which car park to park in, what time I needed to leave and so on. I arrived at the car park only to find that due to an issue it had become a pay and display car park! I had no cash on me and in 0-60 seconds I was panicking!
My mind was throwing out all sorts. 'You're late, you hate being late, you will be even later now, the whole room will fall silent and stare at you for being late, you cant even park a car successfully...'
Can you relate?
I shouted at the gremlin in my head to 'shhh for a moment' before parking the car. I then sat for a moment to run through my circles of control before taking the next step. Once I had run it through, I was able to take my next steps more clearly and also ask for help from a council worker regarding the pay machines. I arrived at the event 5 minutes later than planned and it was all okay.
You see I totally get it. When we are faced with a difficulty or challenge it can be hard to respond to the situation instead of react.
And that's why I want to share this quick and easy little tool I have used for years called circles of control. Now in truth, there isn't really much we can control in life but this little beauty helps you to step back into your peace, power and presence. Because when you are sat witnessing the chaos instead of being swept along in it, life gets a lot easier to deal with and you are able to see options you couldn't see while panicking.
Firstly. Stop and breathe.Seriously. STOP everything and just breathe for a minute. Count those breaths in and out, until you are back in the room.
Let's talk about circles of control.
When faced with a problem or issue that you find yourself reacting to with anger, panic, anxiety, fear, guilt or any other thought based emotion, you tend to find that your brain will begin to then focus on all the other times that that has happened. Your clever brain files everything into boxes and so out comes the box with all the past events that caused that same emotion and you begin to think that those emotions have always been the driving force of everything and you start to have catastrophic thoughts about the situation and then life.
Your brain then suggests that you attach yourself to outcomes into the future that will also be based on that emotion. Worrying that you will always feel this way, that nothing will go 'right' that everything is out of control. In moments like this it is so important to use a mindful approach.
Firstly, recognise you are watching and hearing this panic occur in your brain. You are the one watching and listening to that little inner voice. Therefore, as a witness you can take a step back from it and see the bigger picture. Becoming mindful of what you are witnessing will enable you to step out of that catastrophic pattern and allow you to take a realistic look at the problem. Below I show a mindful focal tool that can instantly help. It's just 3 circles, labelled 'control' 'influence' 'no control'.
What are the circles?
Control. This little circle tells you what you are in control of within that moment. Spoiler- Its just basically you. Your emotions, thoughts, feelings, actions. What you choose to do or not do.
Influence. This next circle out tells you what you can take action on to change or affect the issue. Spoiler- This isn't about manipulating others, but instead about how your power and presence can and does affect and change outcomes.
No Control. This last circle tells you about everything else regarding this situation that you have zero control over. Spoiler- Its pretty much everything, so instead we need to focus back into that inner circle (the inner self, clever right?)
Using my situation yesterday as an example- I immediately remembered that I can control whether to buy into that inner voice or not. I chose to recognise the fear I was feeling and take some deep breaths to calm my mind and become present in what is actually happening in the moment. I realised my influence was to go and look at the signs on the machines and follow the instructions, and ask a worker for help to use the machine. I let go of absolutely everything else because its pointless of worry myself over the stuff I have little direct choice or control over.
Using the circles
Focusing on the issue you are experiencing, firstly, label the main emotion you are feeling is. Secondly, remind yourself that this is what that emotion feels like in your body. Thirdly, accept it as a reaction and embrace that emotion for what it is, not labelling past issues or future worries, just being with that emotion and feeling it fully in your body and how your body reacts to it. Allow your self-compassion to flow and feel that emotion begin to peak and then subside, leaving you feeling a little calmer and present in yourself.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen and draw three circles like the picture below. (with practice you will be able to do this exercise in your head, but for now writing it out helps)
Write what you can control regarding the situation in the control circle.
Write what you can influence regarding the situation in the influence'circle.
Write what you have no control over, in the no control circle.
Use the control circle to realign you with your own power to control that within your control.
Use the influence circle to focus on coming up with a plan to strengthen those influential areas to help the situation.
Use the no control circle to accept that you cannot control everything and that is okay.
Accept you cannot control all things
Accept that you can influence some things.
Embrace that you are able to witness and begin to respond instead of react to your own self, your emotions and your actions.
I hope you find the circles of control useful and give the practice a go! I've been using them for years and the difference in how I manage situations is massive.
For more inspiration and support why not join the Dare to Be....You community on Facebook
Or join myself and Rachael Setford-Berry over at Real World Spirituality where we tackle these kinds of real life experiences via your spiritual journey every week!
As always, massive love!