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Stress Relief Toolbox: Control What You Can Control

Posted Apr 06 2009 7:50pm

Do you ever feel like your life is out of control?  Your house is a mess, work is crazy busy and the family needs you.  Your needs may even get pushed aside in order to manage your life.  How do you react?  Have you ever considered how your reaction affects the outcome of the situation?

In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield suggests the following equation:

E + R = O


Event + Reaction = Outcome

Event.  This is the situation causing you stress or angst, which is often out of your control.  For example:  traffic, sick kids, last minute project dropped on your desk by your boss.

Reaction. Do you take a few deep breaths to clear your mind and calm your body, or do you become tense and frustrated?  The reaction is up to you.

Outcome.  How does the story end?  Positive?  More stress?

Many people, myself included, try to control the event.  As Canfield suggests, the event is out of your control.  You can however control your reaction to the event.  And regardless of the original event, your reaction has an incredible impact on whether the final outcome is favorable or not.

Here is a simple example, if you get stuck in traffic do you allow tension to take over and possibly ruin your day or do you look at it as more time for you to listen to your favorite music or (Gasp!) enjoy some quiet time in the car?  You have a choice in how you react.

Last week I wrote about the stress relief toolbox, or the tools you can use to react in a way that produces a favorable outcome.  When you get stressed do you let thoughts consume you or do you take a few deep breaths to clear your mind and create a plan?  Do you try to go it alone or do you reach out for help?  The reaction is up to you.  If you need to feel in control, then see what you can do to shift your focus from the event to the reaction in order to experience a positive outcome.  In other words, control what you can control – your reaction.

If you would like to experience more favorable outcomes (and control!) in your life, check in with how you react and keep the following in mind as you do:

  • You have choices. You can pause and breathe, or you can yell and scream. What will you choose?
  • Hold yourself accountable. Whether you react favorably or not, remember you chose it.  Take responsibility for your choice and use it as a learning for the future.
  • Avoid judgments. Reaction not favorable?  Accept it for what it is and promise explore your options and create that toolbox for more favorable outcomes in the future!

The next couple of posts will be designed to help you add a few tools to your toolbox.

When you think about stress in your life, which piece of the equation do you most often try to control - the event or the reaction?

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