Ask a Social Worker: I Feel Like I Have No Control

Get coping advice when life presents you with unexpected changes.
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“Ask a Social Worker” is a regular column featuring questions from the community and answers from members of NBDF’s Social Work Working Group. If you have questions for our social workers, send them to [email protected].

 

Dear Kara,

I recently experienced a big change in my life. Lately, I’ve been struggling and feeling like I have no control. Any suggestions for dealing with unexpected changes?

 

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling after a significant change. But you’re not alone! Often, change can be difficult and even scary, especially when it’s unexpected. One reason for this is that when our routines are disrupted, it can leave us feeling vulnerable, unsure about what to expect, and with fearful thoughts like, “What’s next?” When this happens, it’s common to feel like we have no control, as you mentioned, and we spend our time worrying.

While we can’t stop changes from happening, there are things we can do to help us cope when they occur. Here are some suggestions that can help you enjoy your days amid uncertainty and change.

Create a Routine with a Focus on Self-Care

You can help restore a sense of control by focusing on things that you can do, such as creating a self-care routine. Practice making a routine, especially for when you wake up and before bedtime, incorporating things that bring you joy and a sense of calm. This looks different for everyone: enjoying a cup of tea or coffee while admiring the sunrise, listening to music or reading a book before bed, taking a quick daily walk, or journaling your thoughts while making a list of practical things you can do. Focus on activities you enjoy that also bring peace. You can start small by taking five minutes for yourself, then increasing that by five minutes once that has become a habit.

Stay Present and Practice Positive Self-Talk

It’s easy for change to trigger an internal alarm, leaving us imagining worst-case scenarios. Despite knowing that worrying about future changes does not prevent them from happening, our brains can jump into a negative self-talk loop. By keeping your focus on the here and now, you allow yourself more time and energy to tackle each day. Add in positive self-talk by reminding yourself of past challenges that you’ve tackled or difficult changes that you’ve successfully navigated. This may feel awkward at first, but you have gotten through tough times before. You can practice saying to yourself, “I’ve had challenges and changes in my life before that I’ve conquered, and I can get through this, too.”

Find Support

Connecting with others who have experienced similar changes can help remind us that we are not alone in our experiences, even when it feels like we are. It’s OK to ask for help. Someday, someone may come to you for the same thing. Seek support from a trusted person in your life, a like-minded community, a local or virtual support group, or a trained therapist.

You can also contact your hemophilia treatment center social worker and psychologist as well as your local National Bleeding Disorders Foundation chapter. To find a therapist, search Psychology Today’s online database. Mental Health America also has good information and resources.

I’m confident that with time, these practices and resources can help you get through this hard season.

— Kara Burge, LCSW

Burge works at the Arkansas Center for Bleeding Disorders at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and is a member of the Social Work Working Group.

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