Often stress can be exacerbated when we feel like everything is out of our control.

Stephen Covey has an exercise that he calls ‘Circles of influence and circles of control’ and it’s from his book ‘7 habits of highly effective people’. He states that successful people spend their energy on the things that they can influence, or the things that they can change, improve or problems they can solve.

It might seem a bit counterintuitive, but the idea is that you write down a list of the things that you worry about or find stressful at the moment. I realise you might be thinking “Whaaaatttt??? You want me to write down a list of all of the things that are bothering me, at the MOMENT?”

Stick with me though, the idea isn’t to make you feel even worse but to try and examine all of the things that are whirling around your head and sort them into categories of stuff you can can do something about, and those which you absolutely can’t do anything about.

For example – supermarket shopping had become unbearable to me and I’d resisted online shopping because of the 3 week waiting lists. But I sorted it. I found a place that delivers really quickly and have discovered click and collect that only has much shorter wait time. I can’t tell you how much it’s helped lower my anxiety levels.

An example of something that you can’t change might something that is external to you, such as a government policy like being on lockdown, Hopefully, with the things that you have no control over, you can start to let go a little of that worry or start to think of different ways of dealing with it.

Should anything look too big and make you think, ‘I can’t possibly change any of that’. Or ‘that’s out of my hands because I’m doing what the government mandates’. See if there are any aspects of it that you can change.

Whilst on lockdown, you could reflect on those days where it hasn’t been too bad or you’ve even enjoyed yourself. What was going on? What was different? Did you ring a friend? Did you go for your walk? Was there more routine to your day? Were you particularly patient with the kids? What helped that day?

Another example I sometimes talk about in my training courses is about my Mum. Mum has mixed dementia and obviously I can’t do anything about that but I can control what I do and how I react. So I can try to be as patient as possible (not the easiest) and make sure we have fun when we do things. I can make sure I’m as informed as possible and that I make sure that I go with her to medical appointments and that her doctors and I understand what is happening so we can discuss any tweaks they can make to her medications as soon as possible.

(Currently ‘fun’ stuff involves calling them every day and when I drop their shopping off, we stand and have a chat and wave and blow kisses through the window, also on the phone as mum can’t hear me otherwise.) 


Covey, S., 2013. The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. [United States]: Rosetta Stone LLC, p.89.