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10 Ways to Cope When You've Lost Control

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

In this blog, you'll find . . .

Lifequakes + Control

Hey friends! Whew. I am writing you this note of love and compassion from smack in the center of an intense lockdown in the country currently doing the worst at managing the Covid pandemic. What a time! In all seriousness, with a very sudden closure of schools and strict lockdown measures put into place with a few hours' notice, our daily lives were rocked and turned upside down in the matter of an afternoon. It's gotten me thinking a lot about control, and what happens when we lose it. Some might argue that we don't actually ever have control over things in our lives - which in many ways is true. But there are also these seismic events that rattle our regular day to day existence to its core. I know there have been a number I've personally experienced - death, a breakup, the pandemic to name a few.

Have you heard of the idea of "lifequakes"? Author Bruce Feiler coined the term to describe life events that rattle reality, shake your foundation to its core, and can completely rearrange the entire architecture of your existence.

  • Each of us goes through dozens of events that disrupt our lives, one every 12-18 months or so.

  • One in 10 of these becomes a huge life event, which he called a "lifequake" — a massive change that leads to a life transition.

  • We go through three to five lifequakes in the course of our lives and each transition lasts an average of five years.

  • About half of lifequakes, 53%, are involuntary, which includes events like having a spouse cheat on you, losing your job or getting a medical diagnosis.

  • About half, 47%, are voluntary, which includes you cheating on your spouse, you leaving your job to start a business or you choosing to move to a new country.

  • Lifequakes can be positive, including getting married and having children.

  • They can be personal — something that happens to you or your family — or collective, like a natural disaster, a recession, 9/11 or a pandemic. “In some ways, this is a massive involuntary collective lifequake. We all are going through this pandemic at the same time,” Feiler said. “But what’s already beginning to happen is that people are starting to ask questions like, ‘Do I have the job that I want to have? Am I living in the right place? Am I in the right relationship?' The pandemic is the lifequake but the life transitions that come out of it are just beginning.

I love the idea that these lifequakes are normal (because they can feel far from it), and that they can be positive or negative (because sometimes we feel guilty when positive lifequakes are overwhelming and disorienting when they're "supposed" to be joyful moments) - and that one lifequake can cause a ripple effect (as you'll see in that last bullet point).

Some of the common features of these lifequakes is that these are moments when life knocks us off balance, often when the situation is out of our control (as you can see above, more often than not), and that they're also moments when great transformation is possible. There are these quakes throughout life, and we all deal with them differently. But whether you get very stressed, go with the flow, feel sad, retreat into yourself, do whatever it takes to feel happy - I wanted to share ten ways to re-frame your situation and shift your mindset when it feels like the train's gone off the rails, you've lost control of the steering wheel, or whatever vehicular metaphor feels right to you when it comes to not being the driver of your own life. In this video I walk you through three of these cards - New Skin, The Artist, and The Body - and you can read about seven in this post, bringing it to ten cards hand-picked for you from the Clarity Deck to offer you a new way of seeing things when it feels like you've had the rug pulled out from under you and lost control - and, in turn, perhaps have lost your way. Let's get you back to feeling more yourself. Ready, friend? Come on. You can start by watching the video, or skip ahead to read about the cards that'll get you feeling more yourself, and see the light in a dark situation.

#1: New Skin

This is the first card I go over in the video linked below - head to time marker 2:05 or just click the video below to jump right to this card and get the lowdown on how to use New Skin to help you feel more at peace with the present circumstances. Hint: it has to do with what you will, and won't accept - and how to notice ways you're using old tools in a new situation that aren't compatible!

#2: The Rebel

Building off the New Skin card, this Rebel Card invites us to take a deeper look into ways we are trying to do things in old ways that might not be relevant any more. Specifically, this card invite you to explore how you might be following rules that you don't actually care about any longer. Often, the moments when we lose a sense of control, and things are out of our hands, shake up our day to day life. While this can be stressful and disruptive, it's also a moment when we are able to look at our life more objectively, and really take stock of what is and isn't working for us any more.

This is the exact idea that makes lifequakes so powerful - even if the change to your circumstances isn't your choice, the reassessment of old ways, and the birth of new ones, that comes out as a result can be your choice.

Feiler explains this idea exactly in the context of lifequakes: "If a transition is to follow a lifequake, it must be voluntary — you must choose to enter the process, Feiler said. It’s natural to feel frozen and scared, but transitions work. “This is how humans respond to a difficult life circumstance,” he noted. “Transitions are an effective means of navigating change.” The Rebel Card invites you to look at the rules you're following that, perhaps, worked for you in a past chapter of your life, but are no longer relevant or important to you now that things - and you - have changed.

#3: The Sidekick

Who is here to help you, and what needs to shift in you in order to receive this help? Often we we are going through a tumultuous moment when things are turned upside down, it can be hard to reach out for help, or receive it when it's offered. Sometimes we are just trying to hold it together and trying to think of ways that others can help us feels like more effort than just doing it on our own. Other times we might be struggling privately, and others might not even be aware of how much we are having a difficult time. This card invites you to really name what, in this moment, would feel helpful right now. What would, in an ideal world, help you feel more supported and resourced right now? What guidance would help you feel more calm and together? What logistical, physical support would lessen the stress right now? What do you need to hear from someone right now, if you could hear any message at all? When you get clearer on what support would actually feel helpful to you right now - and not just become an additional burden! - then it also becomes clearer about who could give it to you. You might be surprised at who it is - sometimes our closest friends, family, or partners aren't the "sidekick" we need in these moments of vertigo. Sometimes it's as simple as finding an expert who created a YouTube video around a topic we need to understand, to get us through this hard time. It might be that the Sidekick is a delivery person who helps you with getting your groceries while you navigate this moment. It might be that the Sidekick is a person in a Facebook group who has been through a similar situation and has insight into what got them through it. When you get clearer on the help you need, you'll get clearer on who can give it to you - and then, it's your next step to figure out what blockages you might need to clear in order to actually receive that help.

You might feel embarrassed or guilty asking someone else to help you. You might have a lot of pride and identity attachment around being self-sufficient, together, and the one that others turn to. You might feel too vulnerable and uncomfortable opening up to others about the help you need. Whatever your particular blockage is around receiving help - the sooner you can identify it, the sooner you can start working to move through it.

Some ways to think about receiving help if doing so is hard for you:

  • How can you receive help in a way that doesn't ask anything of someone in your life - in other words, by reading blogs and articles, watching a video that helps your particular need, or hiring and paying someone to help you, so you feel that you're not burdening someone in your life (if that's a struggle issue for you)

  • When you ask someone in your life for help, what good feelings will it make them feel? Useful? Trusted? Connected? Valued? A resource? Thinking about the positive ways being asked for help can make someone feel shifts the focus from our draining them in some way, to our giving them an opportunity to feel helpful, valued, and connected. If this is hard for you, ask yourself - what good feelings do you have when someone asks for your help or advice?

  • How can you phrase your request for help in a way that feels comfortable within your identity? In other words, if you derive much of your sense of self from being self-sufficient and "together," how can you ask for help in a way that doesn't tear down this image that is important to you? What language can you use that doesn't make you feel badly about yourself as you reach out for support - perhaps asking for an opinion, saying you'd love to learn how someone managed x situation in the past because you respect how they handled it, or asking for references, phone numbers, or resources of other people who could assist you with xyz feels more comfortable than saying "I need help." While it would be worthwhile to spend time examining why this image and identity is so important to you, and how you can have a strong sense of self while still being human and having needs and moments of weakness - in the middle of a difficult life moment is not always the best time to start dismantling our identities, and if it's between your asking for help or not, find the way to do it that works with what you've got.

#4: The Artist

This is the second card I walk you through in the video linked below - head over to time marker 5:25 to get some very concrete tips on how to use this card to get unstuck when you're trapped in a situation you don't have control over, don't like, didn't create - or don't (yet!) understand how to change! Don't worry - I'm not going to ask you to simply think outside the box when I know you're tired, your reserves are drained, you're likely frustrated/angry/sad/grieving, and creativity might feel far away. Give it a listen - I bet you'll be surprised at how powerful, yet simple and doable, the solution offered by this card is.

#5: Silence

One of the things that can happen when a situation occurs that causes control to lost, the rug pulled out from under us - is that it can create a feeling of chaos. Perhaps it's the suddenness and that this wasn't part of the plan; maybe you didn't have time to prepare; or, there are lots of people chiming in with suggestions or offers of help - or their own complaints about the situation! This can all create a lot of noise. The Silence Card invites you to think about how you can create more moments of quiet in your day, or metaphorically how to "cut the noise" from this situation on a whole. Are there too many people offering their input? Is your inner dialogue on endless chatter mode?

Where would some silence and stillness help you to gather your thoughts, collect your energy, and make a clear plan for moving forward? What noise is making things feel more stressful, messy, disorganized, or chaotic - and how could you take steps to lowering the volume?

#6: The Body

This is the third and last card I discuss in the video linked below! I do want to offer a trigger warning that I acknowledge that control/bodies can be a very difficult, and extremely sensitive topic for folks, so if this doesn't feel like a topic you're ready to explore, please scroll on to the next card, Openness! If you do feel comfortable exploring this topic, we're going to think through some new ways you can listen to your body, and make shifts in your relationship to your body, to get you where you need to be in your current situation. Head over to time marker 8:20!

#7: Openness

One of the hardest things to grapple with when we lose control is that it feels like life is just happening to us. Often we don't choose the circumstances that cause us to feel we're booted out of the driver's seat of our own life, and that can feel scary, depressing, frustrating, triggering - you name it! The Openness Card here is inviting you to consider the difference between being passive, and being receptive. Passivity has a connotation of helplessness, of apathy, of just letting things happen to you. Being receptive is a more positive way to orient ourselves to these moments when we are not as in control as we usually are, or would like to be.

How are you feeling like a passive bystander in your own life, and how does that make you feel? What would it feel like to bring into these areas of your life a sense of being along for the ride, a sense of curiosity, and a sense of being receptive to what this experience might give you that is unexpected and worthwhile?

We are in control of how receptive we are - to messages, to lessons, to experiences, to information. This isn't telling you to just buck up and find the silver lining or lesson in this situation and stop being so negative. Nope! We don't do that nonsense here. What this card is showing you, is that you do have a choice - control - over how you orient yourself to this situation that's happening to you, and the way you relate to it. When we are focusing on being receptive, we can ask ourselves how we can be in step with what's happening - going with the flow, instead of swimming upstream and exhausting ourselves. We open ourselves to the possibility that while this situation is not our choosing and we don't like it, that doesn't mean there might not be elements of it that are pleasant, interesting, or at the very least help us grow into our best selves.

#8: Tasks

This card is inviting you to take a moment, take a big breath, and stop what you're doing. Sit down. Have an honest talk with yourself. How many things are you trying to do right now? How many of those things are actually necessary? How many are things that you'd be able to manage if this were a normal time, but it isn't a normal time - and so it's OK if they don't get done? What are you telling yourself around what you have to shoulder on your own, versus what you can get help with right now?

Are you telling yourself to just grit your teeth, sleep less, and finish the list? Are you telling yourself things will fall apart if tasks remain unfinished? Are you asking yourself to proceed as usual and not let anyone know how much you're struggling inside, dropping no ball and letting nothing slip?

When we look at our relationship to Tasks, we can often more clearly see the ways in which we are making an already stressful situation more stressful for ourselves by having unfair expectations for ourselves, wanting to keep up good face with others, and beating ourselves up for not performing under duress. Take a moment to sit with the card to find some new ways that you can create peace where there is stress, grace where there are expectations, patience where there is anxiety.

#9: Perfection

Perhaps you sat with the New Skin card, and you're better able to accept that whether or not you like it, this situation is happening. The problem can now be that we begin to have expectations around how this situation should look, how we should be showing up in this context, and this can be a whole new source of stress! What story are you telling yourself right now about the way things are supposed to be? Is this causing you to run yourself ragged, trying to create a situation right now that just isn't feasible or isn't worth the extraordinary effort at the moment? Are you still grieving how things were supposed to be, and how different that is from how they actually are at the moment? Just like with the New Skin card, attaching ourselves to a vision of how this situation should look prevents us from engaging in the present moment, and all it has to offer us - even if we didn't choose it.

The frustration, shame, guilt, and anger that arises when we constantly tell ourselves "it shouldn't be like this, it should be like xyz" prevent us from being able to actually make our situation more as we would like it, ironically.

So - how are visions of "shoulds," "perfection," or even simply expectations getting in your way at the moment, and making this moment harder? How can you shift these, to have a bit more peace?

#10: Beauty

Similar to the Silence card, the Beauty Card invites you to think about the ways beautiful spaces could help you to navigate this difficult moment. Often when we are in a situation of losing control, we focus only on what is right ahead of us, trying to hold it together, keep the ship afloat, and make sure logistics of our life keep happening as smoothly as possible. Things like beauty can feel like a luxury in these moments of stress, crisis, or even just change. This card reminds you that there are many different ways to fill your cup, put on your oxygen mask, recharge your batteries - whichever self-care metaphor suits you! Being in beautiful spaces, or around beauty however you define it, is good for the soul. It inspires and uplifts. It helps you remember that this moment, no matter how difficult, is small in comparison to the grandeur of the world at large. In comparison to your own life at large, even. Beautiful objects and spaces remind us that there's something much bigger than us out there in the world. They make us smile and bring us pleasure - something that can go a long way when you're feeling depleted, helpless, or upset.

Recap: 10 Ways to Cope When You've Lost Control

There you have it, friends - 10 ways to cope when you've lost control, are experiencing a lifequake, or want to shift your relationship to outside circumstances outside of your control. I hope these 10 Question Cards from our Clarity Deck have given you a few new strategies for feeling more at peace, getting the support you need, and finding hope and possibility in a situation that come make you feel helpless or hopeless. Please remember - while seeing things from a fresh perspective is great and can truly be life changing, we can't reflect our way out of clinical depression. If you are feeling depressed or unable to cope with life on a regular basis, please make sure to reach out to a licensed mental health professional who can give you the right tools you need to become healthy and whole. That being said, I hope that even in a situation where you're in the thick of things without a sure way out or endpoint in sight, you can remember that you do have power over your thoughts, the vantage point from which you see things, the way you relate to people in your life, the ways you relate to your own body and self - that there is still a lot for you to work with to get where you want to be, even when the world outside of you might feel a bit like a dumpster fire, or at least out of your control. I'd love to hear from you on which of these Question Cards resonates the most in your current situation - drop a comment below to let me know! We also talk about these cards regularly in our Facebook Group, so you can always pop in there too to join the ongoing conversation! Sending you big hugs, friend. You can do this. xoxo Justine

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