Ah, control — what a double-edged sword. Being in control of certain situations, like making our own decisions, allows us to feel like active participants in our own lives; thus having a certain degree of control is essential to our mental and physical health. But control gets tricky when we begin to “over-control”; in other words, become a perfectionist. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to be perfect all the time, and end up never feeling fulfilled or successful. So, in the same vein as last week’s prescription, this week’s prescription is to let go. Relax the control freak tendencies and let God take control. Easier said than done, though!
First, challenge your thinking. When you feel yourself slipping into control-freak mode, which can include perfectionist tendencies and catastrophization, force yourself to stop and challenge your brain. When you think, “My boss is going to write me a bad review and then fire me because there are a few typos on this report,” think instead, “Will I really get a bad review for a few typos in one report? Will one bad review really affect my employment status?” When you think, “My friend canceled our plans, saying they were sick. They must not like me or want to be friends with me anymore,” think instead, “I’m so bummed they canceled, but let me reach out to them to make some new plans.” Every time a control-freak thought enters your consciousness, think, “Is my reaction helpful? Is it really as bad as I think?” Spoiler alert: it’s never as bad as you think. When you neutralize negative thoughts, you quell the stress of exaggeration.
Second, take baby steps. Unfortunately, this prescription can’t be finished in a week. It could be two weeks, or a month before you start to see a consistent reduction in your controlling thoughts. Some people are more predisposed to “control-freakism” than others — that’s okay, and knowing that it might take some people longer than others to change controlling behavior is extremely important. There is no element of our lives worth obsessing over so much that it hurts our friends, family, and other relationships.
Finally, think about taking breaks. It is often said that rest is essential to doing one’s best work, but control-freaks tend to feel guilty taking time to rest. As what psychologists call “maximizers,” control-freaks don’t want to rest because it always seems like there’s something better they should be doing with their time. But think about “rest” as not “rest” but “recovery,” an essential step in preparation for the next big thing. Letting go of the need to control, assessing our thoughts, and recovering a bit is both mentally liberating and stimulating. Our faith, too, is always there to be relied on — “For I know well the plans I have for you, oracle of the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11). Let go of control a bit, allowing God to take it up for you, and breathe.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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