It’s just NOT possible to control everything. So when you try, it inevitably leads to tension and stress. When the body’s stress response is triggered, you switch into “fight or flight” mode. This causes your muscles to tighten, your heart rate to rise, and adrenaline to pump throughout the body.
Fight or flight is your body’s natural response during emergencies. But when it’s routinely triggered during everyday activities, you can end up feeling exhausted and run down. Letting go of trying to be in control all of the time will help to relieve stress, and can be beneficial to your health.
You might think your stress comes from everything you have to accomplish in a day, but it’s often the thoughts and emotions underneath—the fearful feelings about what will happen if things don’t work out the way you want them to.
While you may not realize it, emotions actually influence how you view a situation. You may think you are seeing clearly, but you may not be.
- Control freaks tend to either discount the positive aspects of other people’s contributions and instead, focus on their mistakes or exaggerate the catastrophic potential of NOT being in control.
- Control freaks are also prone to “all or nothing” thinking, where you feel like if it’s not perfect, it’s a failure.
When you find yourself in “it’s my way or the highway” mode—micromanaging or being super critical—it can help to admit that your control-freak flag is flying. Try these seven ways to let go.
How To Stop Being a Control Freak About Your Future
1. Name It to Tame It
In order to learn how to stop being a control freak, take a moment to check in with yourself throughout your day. Identify the feeling underneath your need to be in control, and try to name it.
Often, just by naming it, the intensity of the emotion will decrease. This creates the mental space that allows you to resist the urge to be controlling.
2. Question Your Thinking
Pay attention to when you use words like: should, must, always, perfect, never. You might be stuck in “all or nothing” or “catastrophic” thinking.
For example: “This HAS to be perfect. Otherwise, it’s a failure. I have to take care of this because no one else can do it right.” When you find yourself thinking this way, ask yourself three questions (according to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond, By Judith S. Beck):
- Is my thought really true? Take an honest look the evidence supporting whether it’s true or false.
- What is an alternative way of viewing this situation?
- What is the worst that could happen, and how could you cope if it did? What’s the best that could happen? What’s the most realistic outcome of this situation?
3. Focus on the Good
Another way to help shift your thinking is to focus on the positive. Our brains are so attuned to dwelling on the negative. It helped our ancestors survive, but it’s now 2017!
Scientists have actually shown that paying attention to positive experiences for at least 10 seconds desensitizes the brain to negative ones. This can help you shift your whole way of thinking and perceiving. It’s also good practice on how to stop being a control freak.
- Throughout your day, every time something good happens, take at least 10 seconds to soak it in. Make a point of expressing appreciation. Say to yourself things like “That was great.” or “I really enjoyed that.”
- Look for the positive qualities and abilities in the people you interact with. Try choosing one or more people and describe why you are grateful for them.
- You can also learn to focus on the positive by practicing gratitude meditation.
4. Take Deep, Relaxing Breaths
Before you interact with someone, focus on taking deep, calming breaths. Intentionally expand your lungs as you breathe in slowly and deeply. Then without any effort, exhale naturally.
By switching attention to something physical, like deep relaxing breaths, you can take yourself out of the emotional storyline that fuels your controlling behaviour.
5. Put Yourself in Another’s Shoes
Being a know-it-all is a buzz kill! Do you really think you know everything? This way of thinking not only puts a strain on your relationships, but also compounds the stress. When you’re struggling to allow someone to do things in their own way, try seeing things from their perspective.
Take time listen, all the way through. Be open to learning something new by seeing how other people do things. You can take it even further by trying a guided compassion meditation, which will help you to become more open to the experience of other people, and recognize the fact that there are many ways to view a situation.
This should slowly help you learn how to stop being a control freak.
6. Practice Letting Go
One of the hardest things to do is to allow things to just be, without feeling compelled to fix or change them. One effective way to strengthen your muscle of letting things be is to practice a body scan meditation.
A simple body scan involves focusing your attention on each part of your body from your head to your feet with open curiosity—without judging or trying to change your experience. The body scan is an opportunity to practice letting go of the impulse to change whatever is happening to conform to what you think “should” be happening, by simply being present with your body instead.
Studies have shown that regular practice of the body scan can reduce stress and have a positive effect on emotional and physical well-being.
7. Go with the Flow
Take some time each day to think about how nothing stays the same. It can be as simple as noticing the light change as time passes over the course of the day, noticing how often your thoughts and emotions change over the course of an hour, or spending some focussed time listening to a guided meditation about change.
Recognizing that everything is changing all the time can help you become more open, flexible, and able to go with the flow. Learn how to stop being a control freak by accepting that most things are out of your control.