How to deal when life feels totally out of control

out of control

Last month, I ended up in the Emergency Room twice in one weekend.

I first went in for a pretty extreme allergic skin reaction all over my hands and neck. I’m still not sure exactly what caused it — whether it was poison ivy or some other kind of allergen — but it was rapidly getting worse and I was starting to freak out. I was afraid it might be infected or my neck might swell up and cause bigger problems, so I rushed in to get it checked out.

The next morning, I woke up and had another freak out when I looked in the mirror and saw that my face had swollen up to the point that I hardly recognized myself. It was like looking at my face in a fun-house mirror that threw my normal proportions all out of whack.

I panicked (naturally) and went back to the ER, only to be told that it was a side effect of the high steroid dose they’d given me the day before.

That whole weekend was scary and made me feel completely out of control, and the past month since then hasn’t been much better while I’ve been healing. The skin on my hands isn’t fully back to normal yet, and I still don’t know what caused the reaction in the first place.

I’m realizing that, even though I’ve rarely experienced this kind of out-of-control feeling when it comes to my physical health, I’m no stranger to feeling this way in other areas of my life.

We’ve all been here at some point. Whether you’re feeling out of control in your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, or any other situation, it can make you feel scared, powerless, and alone.

In years past, I haven’t always known how to deal with that out-of-control feeling, and I’d go down the rabbit hole of dread and fear until I was practically frozen with overwhelm. But I’m trying a new approach this time, and it seems to be working.

STOP FIGHTING YOUR SITUATION

My first response to this scary skin reaction was to stress out, think (and talk) incessantly about how uncomfortable I was and how much I hated this situation, and feel generally miserable.

Until I realized, I used to do the exact same thing when I was feeling frustrated and trapped at my old job … and it didn’t help at all. It just made me feel worse!

twitter-bird Resisting your current reality only causes more stress and closes you off to possible solutions.

Eventually I got sick of hearing myself complain, and I decided to try something different. I stopped resisting and accepted that, for now, I’m in this situation. And that’s OK.

Honestly, it felt like a relief to give up the fight.

I want to be clear, though, that just because I decided to accept my current situation does NOT mean I’ve just been sitting around, tolerating misery, resigning myself to a lifetime of irritated skin.

No way.

I’ve been tweaking my diet, seeing a Naturopathic doctor, changing my daily supplements, choosing more natural soaps and detergents, asking for support from friends and family, getting more sleep, meditating more regularly, and saying “No” to more things in the name of slowing down and healing.

Acceptance doesn’t mean not taking action — it just means having more patience and less judgment about what’s happening right now. It means remembering that this is temporary.

THIS IS TEMPORARY

During my worst days this past month, when my skin was inflamed and I was having terrible side effects from the strong medications, I would tell myself, “Right now, in this moment, I’m OK.” Then a few minutes later, I’d check in again. “Yep, still OK.”

Sometimes, when things are scariest and most out of control, all you can do is take life moment by moment and remember that you’re still here and you’re still OK.

If you’re uncertain, overwhelmed, scared, confused, or just over it … tell yourself as many times as you need to that this is temporary. Life won’t always be like this. And, in fact, your life might turn out even better because you’re in the situation right now.

THINGS BREAK DOWN BEFORE THEY GET BETTER

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, “What if this is ultimately happening for your highest good?”

In the moment, I’ll admit that I was at a low point, feeling cranky and physically uncomfortable, and I was so annoyed by that question. You know when you’re having a particularly bad day and someone is cheery and perky and overly positive, and it just gets under your skin? Yeah, it was like that.

But I’ve been revisiting that question a lot lately (in a much better frame of mind!), and I’m realizing that every time it’s felt like life is falling down all around me, it was actually preparing me for something even better on the other side.

That’s because things breaking down isn’t a sign that something is wrong — it’s just a way of clearing out the junk and creating space for something even better to show up.

twitter-bird Things break down before they get better.

There’s nothing like feeling totally out of control to wake you up out of your day-to-day routine and remind you what’s really important in life.

MISERY SPARKS CHANGE

There’s also nothing like misery to motivate you to make a change.

Going to the ER twice and dealing with a month of health issues was more than enough motivation for me to finally reach out to a local naturopathic doctor, who’d I’d been wanting to contact for months but kept putting off. And she’s helping me take my health to the next level.

Feeling miserable and trapped in my old office jobs was the motivation I needed to break free from Corporate America and start a business with my best friend. If Rachel and I both hadn’t been SO unhappy in our respective jobs, Clarity on Fire wouldn’t exist today.

As much as your current situation might suck, it may be the perfect catalyst into a better life than you ever thought was possible.

So I’ll ask you what I’ve been asking myself for weeks now:

What if this is ultimately happening for your highest good? What is this situation asking you to do differently?

WHAT WILL YOU MOST APPRECIATE AFTER THIS CHAOS IS OVER?

As I’m slowly healing and getting back to normal, there are SO many things that I’m appreciating now that I took for granted before. Little things, like sleeping fully through the night, having energy and mental focus, and going out in public without feeling like everyone is staring at me like I’m a leper. I’m grateful for the little things that I used to overlook.

If you’re still in the midst of your frustration, uncertainty, or chaos, visualize how you’ll feel and what you’ll most appreciate after this is all over.

In fact, spend a few minutes every day relishing in how you’ll feel on the other side of this. Not only will it help you remember that this is temporary, it may open you up to receiving the end goal you want even sooner.

So tell me, are you feeling completely out of control in some area of your life? How can you try to see your situation through this new perspective? Leave a comment to let me know!

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Much Love,

Kristen (+ Rachel)

11 Comments // ADD COMMENT

11 comments

  • Sarah

    I went through a similar health issue with allergic reactions, so everything you’re describing about the discomfort, lack of control, public embarrassment and lack of sleep really hit home. I’m sorry you’re dealing with it now! It was really frustrating at first, but a naturopathic or integrative doctor did help a lot. I also read “Allergies: disease in disguise” by Carolee Bateson-Koch and Natasha Campbell-Mcbride’s GAPS diet book, which I recommend. Both helped me learn a lot and had practical things to do!

    • Kristen Walker

      I’m so sorry you had to deal with this same thing! Ugh, it’s not fun. At least it helps to know we’re not alone, right? I’m really grateful for the book recommendations — I will absolutely be looking into those!

  • Grace

    Thank you for this post! I frequently get caught up in what I call Stress Spirals, where one thing stresses me out so much that it has a domino effect and leaves me feeling like I have absolutely no hope of ever being on top of things again. Various sources have told me that being present in the moment, shifting my mindset just a little bit, can help, but I like the way you’ve broken that intangible process down into several parts that are easier to grasp. My counselor told me, “Emotional states are not personality traits.” As you put it, this is temporary. Great post!

    • Kristen Walker

      “Stress Spirals” is the perfect way to describe that domino effect of fear and negativity that we’ve all experienced. It’s true that staying in the present moment can interrupt that stress spiral, but sometimes that’s easier said than done, so I’m really glad that breaking down my own process step-by-step was helpful for you! And I really love that phrase “Emotional states are not personality traits.” So true!

  • Rod Miller

    Challenges can accelerate positive change! When people say that there is another side after the challenge that will bring us to our higher self I wonder about the tension between fate, karma, and focused control/choice. Is just letting go the best approach to getting to the positive otherside? What is the best self-talk for the situation? Is it finding a deeper loving inner/outer belief in oneself?

    • Kristen Walker

      I absolutely agree that challenges can accelerate positive change — that’s certainly been the case for me! I love the deep questions you’ve posed about all of this. I won’t presume to know the answers to such huge, universal questions, but I will say that it’s helped me lately to find a balance between letting go, trusting that all is well, and being kinder/nicer to myself. Thanks for adding another layer of depth to this topic, Rod!

  • Riya

    Omg Kristen I hope you’re doing ok! That would freak me out for sure! It’s so hard to think rationally when things get overwhelming…but yeah once you accept the situation it feels like a huge weight has been lifted. Hope you feel better!

    • Kristen Walker

      Thanks, Riya! (Great to hear from you, BTW! 🙂 ) I’m definitely on my way to feeling better, thank goodness!

  • Andrea

    I read this ages ago and found it helpful. You might, too.

    https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/bridges-transition-model.htm

    The biggest hazard is rushing to fill the space with more of the known – and it feels as energised as flat beer. It’s intuition and curiosity time, for sure.

    Wishing you good healing and a great transition journey.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your wise insights… at this point in my life (and unfortunately for too long a time now), I’ve been feeling pretty much out of control but staying calm and denying it, and worse, not doing anything about it… both in the professional as well as personal arenas of my life… but, reading your encouraging thoughts do help a great deal, such as: ” visualize how you’ll feel and what you’ll most appreciate after this is all over.” and, “In fact, spend a few minutes every day relishing in how you’ll feel on the other side of this. Not only will it help you remember that this is temporary, it may open you up to receiving the end goal you want even sooner.” Your words make a lot of sense and there are spiritual leaders/speakers that have said things along those lines – that doors will open when we are courageous enough to take a leap of faith. Thank you again.

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