Managing stress: Focus on what you can control.

When you feel stressed, what do you tend to focus on?

Many of us get stuck on things that we have no control over – unexpected events, circumstances that are beyond our control, or what other people think, say or do.

We can often feel like our lives are controlled by outside forces (e.g. the economy, our boss, our children, the weather), and like we have very little say on how our everyday lives unfold.

Feeling like we have no or very little control over our lives makes us feel extremely stressed.

The alternative is to realise that we always have some control, some choice, no matter what the situation or our circumstances.

We might not be able to directly change our circumstances or control the events of our lives, but on the most basic level, we always have a choice in how we think about things, our attitude and how we will react.

This belief that YOU are ultimately in control of your life, is what we refer to in psychology as an internal locus of control.

Studies have found that people with an internal locus of control are not only happier, but also less stressed and able to deal with adversity.


When faced with situations or circumstances that we feel are out of our control, it helps to turn our attention to identifying the things that we CAN control (however minor they might be).

Next time that you are feeling stressed, ask yourself:

  • Am I focusing on things that I have no control over? (If the answer is yes, realise that hanging on to it is not serving you and give yourself permission to let it go.)

  • What options do I have? (e.g. actions that I can take, thoughts/attitude that I can choose)

  • What are the choices available to me?

When we’re able to identify our options and choose the ones we will take, we immediately feel more in control of our lives.

This in turn, can help us feel less stressed and makes it easier for us to relax and enjoy life.

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