How to Respond When You Feel Out of Control

Sometimes things happen in life that are out of our control. It can be painful, confusing, and difficult to understand. We may not be able to control the situation, but we can control how we respond to it.

Last month I discovered that my name was being used online as click bait without my consent or involvement to lure people into unsavoury sites. I was devastated and quite frankly scared. I did not know who would have done that, what to do to make it stop, or how it would impact my life and career. Like most people would, at first I panicked. I called a lawyer friend who helped me see it was not a someone doing the damage but more likely computer bots. I felt helpless and confused. Honestly, I also felt embarrassed and worried about what others would think of me if they saw it. It is funny how something we did not do intentionally can cause embarrassment because we worry about what other’s think of us. An amazing friend of mine reminded me that I did not do anything wrong and that became a mantra for me as I navigated the first few days. 

I spoke with Darren from thewhitehatter.ca who dedicates his retirement to helping children, and luckily me, with internet safety. I learned that making these sites go away is almost impossible. Even when it is possible, he said that bots can replace them easily. He told me that despite my desire to keep it hidden what I needed to do was get out ahead of it and share my story online. With that advice I decided that I would use it as a learning tool and wrote a blog about how to handle these situations on my website. Here in the Fix, I would like to focus on how to respond to situations that feel out of your control. 
First and foremost, nothing is ever as bad as it seems, honestly it isn’t. Our brains like to keep us safe so they will exaggerate scenarios in order to keep us on guard. What we need to do is stop, take a breath, and focus on the facts. Think about what has happened, who would know, how they would support you? Think about the pieces of the scenario that most humans could discern as odd or unusual and might reach out to you for clarification. If your brain is prone to catastrophizing, bring it back to reality and facts, not assumptions or guesses of what might happen.

Second, ask for help. No matter what the situation there is someone who can help. In my scenario I started asking around and was pointed in the right direction. And when help came, I listened and trusted the experts. I also leaned on people in this community. Despite what my critic said would happen, every person I spoke to was kind and offered to help anyway they could. No one judged me as I had originally feared. If someone judges you remember two things: one, it is likely more about them than you, and two, consider if you would like this person in your life if they offer judgment over support. 

Finally, find ways to self-sooth. When things happen that are out of our control it is okay to feel whatever we feel. It is also okay to provide ourselves with comfort. Everything you feel is okay - scared, angry, worried, embarrassed. The only way through something is to sit with the emotions as they come up and allow ourself to feel them. Offer yourself the kind words you would offer a friend, do a hobby that brings you joy, get cozy under the blanket and cry. When difficult things happen, we need to deal with them, and we need to allow ourselves time to acknowledge the influence they have in our lives. 

The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.

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