What to Do When Life Feels Out of Control

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There are many decisions that you must make throughout the course of a day. Whether you're deciding what clothes to wear, which activities to do, or which people to see, life consists of constant decision-making at pretty much every moment.

Although you can make choices and plans for life, no one can ever be prepared for the unexpected. When these unexpected situations add up, it’s easy to become overly anxious and feel as if your life is out of control. This is why we often seek control whenever we can.

Feeling as if your life is out of control comes from the anxiety of not always having access to the driver’s seat of life. People have no idea when disaster may strike and for how long, so it produces fear that triggers other emotions like sadness, frustration, and anger.

The best way to handle this is by finding ways to be content with not knowing. Of course, this is easier said than done and is a constant process, but doing so is worth it.

This article discusses some reasons why you may feel like your life is out of control and offers tips on how you can cope with these feelings.

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Reasons Why You Feel Like Your Life Is Out of Control

There are plenty of reasons why life may feel out of control, the following are a few:

Stress

A lot of anxiety and overwhelming feelings can often be caused by stress coming in at every corner. A person can feel overloaded with the pressures of having to keep everything together for their family, job, finances—it all starts to pile up.

Stress can be very toxic and it’s really easy for it to make life feel out of control, so it’s important to try and manage stress.

Health

People often worry about both mental and physical health, especially when they have a health condition or are susceptible to one. Then, there’s the chance of health issues suddenly making an appearance.

There are a lot of health issues that are just out of one’s control. They can be due to genetics, environmental factors, or even by chance. It is a very scary thing to have to be constantly concerned about not just your health but also the health of loved ones.

Health can be a very stressful aspect of life but then stress can trigger many health issues. It can be difficult to not worry and wonder about health but vital for you to not worry too much.

You can only really focus on what is in your control—taking the appropriate health precautions, engaging in wellness practices, and attempting to remain optimistic.

Relationships

All of the different relationships that you have in your life can begin to feel overwhelming. Although you may be grateful for these relationships, it doesn't mean they won't take a toll on you at times.

Whether you're busy being a parent, spouse, friend, caretaker, etc., every relationship comes with a different set of obligations. Relationships carry responsibilities, compromise, and sometimes require taking on other people’s feelings and problems. It can also be pretty stressful for you when a loved one is going through a difficult situation themself.

It is important to have relationships in your life, but these relationships cannot consume your life, especially not to the point where it's affecting your mental health.

Additionally, if you find yourself in a toxic relationship (with a partner, friend, or even family member), this could cause you to feel like your life is spinning out of control especially when all attempts to mend the relationship have failed.

National Crises

The combination of living through a pandemic, and witnessing natural disasters and social injustices has been overwhelming for everyone.

It’s important to find ways to process everything that is going on in the world because constantly hearing of tragedies can not only become disheartening but can produce feelings of defenselessness, anxiety, fear, and even anger.

Work

There are times when a person’s job consumes all of their time and it seems as if it’s taking over their entire life. People can become very overwhelmed by what they have to get done inside and outside of the workplace.

Sometimes you can fall into a need to constantly keep busy and be productive, but a healthy balance is key.

Tragedy

If you've experienced a tragic life event (e.g., a death in the family, job loss, etc.) you might be feeling extremely overwhelmed. When tragedy strikes it is often sudden or abrasive, producing a lot of overwhelming emotions. Since these kinds of situations are out of your control, you may feel helpless and lost.

Additionally, tragic events typically produce painful emotions that can stay with you long after the event has passed. The experience of a tragedy may feel like an attack that you didn't see coming or couldn’t prevent. In fact, one of the most common traumatic experiences is the sudden death of a loved one, and this type of trauma is cited as a major leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Regardless of the nature of the tragic event, it's common to experience a flood of varying emotions, and it might seem as if it's too difficult to cope with them.

In being overwhelmed by such uncontrollable circumstances, you may feel like you have no control over your own feelings and your response to the tragedy.

What to Do When Life Feels Out of Control

Some of the below steps may be useful when life starts to feel out of control.

Pause and Take a Break

It is important to take a break every now and then. It is perfectly OK to take some time to yourself; meditate, destress, and practice self-care

A recent study discovered better stress management and quality of life for medical students who engaged in self-care as opposed to those who did not.

Try to Change Your Perspective

Rather than viewing your life as "out of control," it may help to take an “it is what it is” perspective for the time being.

This does not mean accepting poor treatment. Instead, it just means letting go of needing control; letting go of a need to control everything can life lead to greater life satisfaction.

Take Control of Things You Can Change

Even though people may not have control of everything in their lives, they do still have control of some things. Work on changing the things in life that you do have control over, like going to the gym a bit more, eating fewer sweets, or removing a toxic person from your life.

Even if it is the littlest of things, it can help in establishing a sense of control and optimism in your life.

Be Confident in Your Life Decisions

Sometimes life can feel out of control when you are constantly worrying and wondering if you are making the right choices in life. With the things you do have control over, you tend to want to make sure you get it just right, almost perfect—but nothing will ever be perfect.

Take pride in what you created for your life and, if you made a few bad decisions, learn from them and move forward. These mistakes may have fostered personal growth and wisdom.

In suffering comes resilience and determination to seek greater opportunities for your life. So, it is important to remember that whichever paths you decide to take in life, try not to worry too much about how things will pan out.

Try to also be appreciative of challenging situations in your life because they push you to keep going and brought you to better times.

Talk it Out

It is beneficial to talk about what may be making you feel overwhelmed and stressed. Whether it be with a loved one or maybe receiving professional expertise from a therapist, it's helpful to have someone with whom you can voice your concerns and worries. They can help you deconstruct these feelings and sort them out accordingly.

Pick Up a Hobby

Hobbies are a great way to take your mind off of things you can’t change. Whether it be going for a daily walk, or jotting down a few sentences in your journal, hobbies may help you to feel a bit of an escape from life's challenges.

Hobbies, in a way, act as a simple reminder that you do hold the steering wheel to your life since it's you who gets to choose how to spend your free time.

Think Positively

Try to think positively. Life won’t always feel this way, it will get better if you believe it will. Practice focusing on what is going well in your life, and aim to be thankful for the things you do have.

It’s also important to remember that sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. Do your best to be appreciative of challenging situations in your life because they can foster so much personal growth.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Tiara Blain
Tiara Blain, MA, is a freelance writer for Verywell Mind. She is a health writer and researcher passionate about the mind-body connection.