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Things I can and can't control

Saturday, January 23, 2010



I don't know about you, but I think the most stressful things in my life are usually situations that I can't control. It makes me anxious to be at the mercy of some other person, to be dependent on the whims of some impersonal bureacracy, to wait and see if fate will deliver good news or bad. I have a lot of those kinds of situations in my life right now, and they cause me a good deal of nervous uneasiness. Here are a few of them:

- My advisor now has every chapter of my dissertation in his possession. This is good -- but I can't move forward on editing until he sends something back to me, and time to finish edits is very limited.

- I am working two jobs this semester for two different departments at my university, neither of which is my "home" department (where I'm getting my degree). This means that, in order for me (and my tuition) to get paid, representatives from both those departments have to communicate with my "home" department, transfer a multitude of forms and information to them, and then the accountant in my "home" department has to do some more paperwork and forward everything to payroll and the cashier's office, which then has to process everything and cut checks to the appropriate parties. (Clear as mud yet?) Last semester I had to wait 6 weeks for my first paycheck because the paperwork wasn't submitted properly before the deadline. Also, my tuition for last semester wasn't paid until December 23rd (after the semester was over), and this January someone found and gave to me a paycheck that payroll had cut for me last September. I hope I get paid on January 31st, and I hope my tuition is paid in time for me to graduate in May, but I have no guarantees of these things.

- I graduate in May but have no idea what I'm going to do for employment after that. I would apply for jobs in my field, but have found none to apply for. I have found a scant few postdoctoral fellowships to apply for, but none of them is anywhere near my sweetheart, who expects me to move to California and marry him after graduation.



These things are stressful -- very stressful. So sometimes I eat too much or drink too much to keep the anxiety at bay ... although it doesn't really help all that much. I'm trying, though, to take control of those things that I really CAN control, and I find that doing that eases the knot in my stomach that forms when I think about the uncertainties of my future and the things I can't control. Here are some things that I can control in my life:

- I can control what I put in my mouth. I can plan ahead and decide what I will and won't eat and drink, every day. I can eat a balanced diet and drink sparingly, and my body feels healthier and less stressed when I do.

- I can control what I do with my body. I can get up and exercise every day. I can continue to build up running mileage. I can train for and run a 10K race in March. I can strength train and tone my muscles for long-term health.

- I can control the amount and quality of work I do. I can write thoughtfully and well, I can read and edit carefully, and I can keep track of detailed data.

- I can organize my house and my daily schedule to live efficiently and well. I can put my kitchen in order so that preparing healthy foods is convenient and pleasurable. I can organize my living room, bedroom and desk area to help me work and live with minimal stress in a clutter-free space. I can plan my daily schedule so that I have ample time to do everything I need to do each day.

- I can reward myself and give myself credit when I reach goals and meet obligations. I can support myself and cut myself slack when I struggle and stumble. I can remind myself of past accomplishments and have confidence that I can meet today's challenges.

- I can ask for help and support from friends and colleagues when I need it. I can be confident that others want me to succeed and are willing to help me when asked. I can share my worries and my joys and give others the opportunity to give me advice and encouragement.



Just remembering that there are lots of ways for me to exert control in my life helps me to feel less helpless and anxious. I'll never be able to control everything about my life and my future, but there are many ways to tip the scales and make my life better and less stressful. The key for me, I think, is not to forfeit the control I do have in my life simply because I feel overwhelmed in a few areas. The more areas I confidently control, the smaller the spaces in which I cannot be effective.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • TRECECOOKS
    You are powerless over all these things and your life has become unmanageable. But - you can control those other things you mentioned. And that's enough.
    For myself, I am powerless over my growing disabilities, DD19's possible pregnancy and job loss, etc.
    I know God is in charge, and I'm daily leaving it in His capable hands.
    I am applying for Medicaid Monday, so hopefully I can get surgery soon, though there's a 3 moth recovery time PER SURGERY. I miss working out so much. . .
    "God will perfect that which concerneth [us]"
    3896 days ago
  • KERRYANN67
    Wow, you have a LOT going on, don't you? No wonder you're a bundle of nerves. No one likes to lose control of aspects of their lives, especially ones so important as whether or not you will get PAID. I wish I could help in some way. My only comment is that I am not one to wait quietly on something so important. I would be contacting all the parties involved and constantly shooing them along until it was done, and done right. But that is just "in theory," because in real life, that is not always feasible.

    My thoughts and comforting prayers are with you, beautiful girl.
    3900 days ago
  • JUDITH1654
    First of all CONGRATULATIONS on finishing your dissertation!

    Secondly - good for you for recognizing the difference on what you can and can't control. How does that saying go? "God, grant me courage to change what I can, accept what I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference." Or something like that.

    But you bring up excellent points (and I love your pics, by the way) - there is so much self-induced stress we put upon ourselves that is needless. It's human nature, of course, but kudos to you for recognizing the difference.

    Prayers are going your way to give you the wisdom to make the correct decisions.
    3900 days ago
  • GABY1948
    Keep your eye on the prize. And on all the things you just listed that you CAN control. You are doing great. The other things will work out without you stressing over them.
    3902 days ago
  • NANCYCA555
    Good for you for navigating the ocean of fear and giving yourself ways to float above it. It's hard to stay "good," especially amid financial anxieties. You are a good person, and I'm proud of you for doing the best that you can. Definitely keep following your passion, and the path will open up for you. I firmly believe that. How wonderful it would be if you could move to California, marry your sweetheart... and be my neighbor!
    3902 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/24/2010 2:11:54 PM
  • ROYALETBONE
    Great outline... plus, putting it all down in one spot, you can look at it all and say- YES! I AM STRESSED!
    Uff da. So much that is convoluted at the same time. Breathe.
    Good on you for looking at the positives.
    Dang.
    3902 days ago
  • JAUDON
    First, I think you need one of the remote control headband/ski masks. It would be a great look for you, with your red hair hanging out the back :)

    I completely understand where you are coming from! Sometimes you just have to have faith that these things will work out, somehow, in the end. You are putting your best effort into your PhD and research, and it will all, eventually, be worth it. Are there any things you can do to help move the situation along? Maybe set a time with your advisor to review your thesis? Or make a few calls to Payroll to ensure that your paycheck/tuition paperwork is being processed as needed?

    And, I love how you outline all the things you CAN control! Sometimes, just knowing that you do, indeed, have power over your own life is all you need.
    3902 days ago
  • EDGEOFSANITY
    Thanks for the reminder =) Love the pictures!
    3903 days ago
  • GRADXY
    Thanks for this. All of this was good stuff for me to remember too right now. I'm right there with you!
    3903 days ago
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