3 Ways to Find a Sense of Control in Today’s Dumpster Fire of a Year

Robyn Eckersley
3 min readSep 29, 2020

It’s no surprise that 2020 is the star of the Worst Year Ever show with a seemingly endlessly expanding repertoire that includes such chart-topping hits as:

  • Global pandemic fuels 1 million deaths, health and economic disaster, and conspiracy theory storms,
  • Pancreatic cancer claims the lives of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Representative John Lewis,
  • Unspeakable human rights atrocities are quietly happening in detainment centers across our southern border, and
  • Inappropriate, stomach-turning amounts of Donald Trump in our lives, all the time.

During a time where the hits keep coming, it’s easy to feel a debilitating mix of lost, hopeless, numb, heartbroken, even enraged, which can roll up into an overall feeling of nothing being within our control.

For things to improve on any level, we must first tackle this sense of control on an individual level. There are a myriad of ways to do this, here are my top 3 recommendations:

  1. Close your eyes, & take 5 slow, deep breaths in through your nose.

When we feel out of control, we always want to begin with our physiology. Closing your eyes can help to limit the amount of stimuli your brain is receiving in the moment, which is important often when we feel out of control, it can seem like our brain is moving a million miles a second.

Breathing in through our noses helps out our lungs with passing oxygen into our bloodstream more efficiently because it moistens the air. (Yes, I said moisten. No, I’m not a huge fan of the fact that I chose that word but it’s the best I can come up with at this time. Focus on the part where I told you that breathing through your noses helps your body out.)

It can also help to hold something in your hands or to place your hands on something solid while you do this.

2. List 10 things your are completely in control of, out loud.

When we’re feeling out of control, we become world-class experts at listing all the things that are not in our control and that are not happening to our preference. This becomes a destructive cycle that can start to spin out of control, totally dominating our headspace to the point where we feel we can’t even control our own thoughts.

When this happens, our mind needs to switch tracks and start using that amazing answer-seeking ability for good, to support ourselves, instead of for purposes of self-torture, sabotaging our happiness and quality of life. To do that, task the brain to come up with 10 things that are within your control, and say them out loud as you think of them. This forces the brain to not only mentally whiz up a more self-supportive list, but to also engage the neural and physical sequence of verbal articulation. Essentially, it gives the overactive, panicking brain something productive to focus on.

3. Take small, self-supporting actions by asking yourself the key question: “What can I do, where I am, with what I have?”

The problems of the world will take many people working together for many years to come close to fully resolving, and it is easy to let our brains convince us that we have to be the Lone Ranger that takes it all on themselves and saves the day. This is an impossible task for any one human being. Instead of feeding into a sense of overwhelm, focus on that key question to help you take one step at a time toward the reality that you would love to see.

Our responsibility is to continually make progress toward the world we envision, not transform the world’s ills overnight or on our own. Focusing on one empowered, doable step at a time is not only outwardly productive, it fosters a sense of control within us, which is exactly what we need in a time like this.

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Robyn Eckersley

Impact & Empowerment Coach, Founder of Own This Life Coaching