Sometimes in life we are presented with an unfolding situation that is beyond our ability to influence, something that is out of our control. If this situation is very important to us, it can result in strong feelings of stress and anxiety. After all, anxiety arises as a result of caring about something so much that you care deeply about the outcome.

Maybe someone close to you is going through a difficult period and refuses help, or perhaps you have recently lost an important relationship. There could be an unfolding life change like a job loss, accident, or any other scenario where we do not have the ability to change the situation. The circumstances could even be larger in scope, related to global concerns or more generic in nature, like concerns about climate change, world conflicts, or the general stability of our future as a species or culture.

Setting Aside Time to Process the Situation

Whatever the situation may be, make time to sit with the given situation without distraction in order to fully evaluate and process it. This will help in two ways: it allows you to process how the situation is affecting you personally, and sometimes it can help to provide additional insight on positive actions you may be able to take.

Meditate on the Situation

In order to best work with any given situation, it is important to try and view it from a centered, calm, and compassionate state of mind. Our best outcomes always come from higher emotional states of peace, compassion, and kindness and not from negative states like fear, anger, anxiety, and stress. This is easier said than done, and it is very likely that you will have undercurrents of negative emotions that follow you throughout the day if the situation that is outside of your control is very important to you.

Bring the situation to mind, and allow your thoughts and emotions to arise. It is very likely that you will have strong thoughts and emotional responses about what is occurring because you care so much about the situation. Remember that you are not your thoughts, you are not your emotions. You are the awareness that is experiencing these thoughts and emotions. These thoughts and emotions are simply your initial reactivity, and ultimately, they are temporary. Sitting with these unpleasant emotions can be very difficult at first, but rather than acting on them, try to offer them loving kindness and compassion. Generate a sense of love and compassion within yourself. Then, send this love and compassion to the places you are struggling with.

Consider Perspective

Try to look at the situation from a place of non-reactivity.  Often we have a very personal and subjective view of something. This view may seem real, but may not be entirely true. Coming from a place of small perspective, we may try to force our help onto others or force our influence on a situation in unskillful ways. This can result in adding to the problem.

Instead, try to see the situation from a larger perspective. With non judgement, investigate the situation from other points of view. Each person involved is acting based on a personal truth they have. Seeing the situation from someone else's perspective may offer insight on others' behaviors. Be sure to practice acceptance here, not resistance. Remember that you are not responsible for the version of you that exists in other people's heads. You are responsible for who you choose to be in this moment.

See the Bigger Picture

Try to see the bigger picture and remind yourself that everything is temporary. This situation will ultimately resolve. Things will unfold as they will, and many times in ways that we cannot predict what actual outcomes will arise from a given set of circumstances. Recognize that the negativity bias in our brains always looks for the worst possible outcome, but this outcome is rarely what comes to pass.

Recognize Negative Stories

Remember that negative stories are just that, stories. Our minds are predisposed through evolution to come up with worst case scenarios so that we can protect ourselves from them. The stories we tell about a given situation may feel very real, but are they actually true? Certain facts may exists, but the stories we create to add meaning to those facts are nothing more than personal stories we create. Many stories we tell ourselves create limiting beliefs that hold us back from creating positive personal change. With practice, we can start to develop the ability to create positive stories instead of negative ones. Stories of transformation, positivity, and even using negative things in our life as a catalyst for positive change.

Focusing on What You Can Control

Focus on Intention over Outcome

Set your intention on something positive, but don't concern yourself as much with the outcome. You have already identified that your impact on the outcome in this situation is minimal at best. But you can control your reaction to the situation, and your personal responses can have positive results. You have the ability to allow the difficult situation to result in a course of action that helps move your life in a more positive direction. This could influence the given situation in unexpected ways. Ultimately, the outcome is out of your control, but by focusing on intention, you are planting positive seeds that will lead to an overall positive change in your life.

Practice Metta Meditation

Even if there is no action you can (or should) take to immediately affect the given situation, you can still practice generating positive emotions and sending them toward the situation and people involved. This can be difficult at times, because you may feel strong negative emotions towards the very people you are trying to send positivity to.

If this is the case, try to remember that these people are every bit as human as you. They struggle with their own problems, situations, personal histories, beliefs, and stories about the future. Perhaps they have acted out of ignorance, or have accepted a certain story that is not in alignment with the way things are. Remember that everyone was once a child too, and is doing their best to live their life well based on the beliefs and circumstances they find themselves in.

Practicing Metta involves a meditation in which you visualize the person or people that are involved in the situation, sending positive emotions their way. Sitting in mindfulness, visualize the person, people, or situation in your mind. With each in-breath, and out-breath, say the following:

  • May you be free.
  • May you be happy.
  • May you be at peace.
  • May you be safe.
  • May you make wise decisions.
  • May you awaken to the true nature of all things.

This will generate positive energy that can go a long way to healing the divide.

Practicing Healthy Habits

Try to Limit Rumination

Mentally distance yourself from the situation. When you become aware that you have started to ruminate on the situation, possible outcomes, stories, and things that are outside of your control, there are a few positive steps you can take. First, accept and thank your mind and ego for bringing up the situation. It is simply doing its job: trying to solve a problem that is important to you. Remind yourself that you have already dedicated time to sit and processed the situation, and have already identified the best intentions and actions you can take now.

If you feel you need to sit and evaluate the situation again, plan to set aside additional time to do so, and gently refocus on the present moment for now. Take a moment to become aware of, accept, and offer love to any unpleasant emotions that may have arisen when you started ruminating.

Mindfulness Meditation

Having a regular meditation practice can make a huge impact on your overall well-being. Meditation can serve to generate a sense of peace and a place of refuge in difficult times. It can help with letting go of the past, worries about the future, and helps to focus on the present moment with clarity. Practicing meditation without distraction for even a few minutes every day can provide lasting positive benefits. Recent studies have shown that meditation masters are able to directly modulate their brainwaves through meditation alone. The myriad ways of practicing and meditation techniques are beyond the scope of this post, but there are many resources on how to cultivate a regular meditation practice. I encourage everyone to begin a meditation practice.

Take Good Care of Your Body

The body is the vessel in which we experience life. It is directly connected to our states of mind and wellbeing. Practice healthy habits to support a healthy body. This includes a healthy diet, mindful eating, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep. Taking small steps to improve the overall health of your body will result in positive changes. This includes how you feel about your body. Often we are the most critical of ourselves, and have a very negative self-image as it relates to the body. Practice transforming this negativity into love and compassion for your body. Your unique human form is truly beautiful and precious.

Self-Care and Seeking Support

Take time out for yourself. Practice healthy habits that will help lower your overall stress like reading, taking a warm bath, or pursuing a healthy hobby.

Seek support from your personal community. Explain the situation and your concerns to someone who's opinion you value. They may be able to offer additional perspective or suggestions that may help in processing the situation.

Always consider seeking professional help if the situation feels like it is too overwhelming to deal with alone.

Accepting and Letting Go

Ultimately, recognizing and accepting that there are things in life you care about that are out of your control is accepting the nature of life. Acceptance doesn't mean giving up. Instead, it means understanding the limits of your influence so you can focus on what is within your control. Practice letting go of the outcome in situations where your influence is limited. Trust that, whatever the outcome, it is within your ability to handle the situation. Remember that fears about possible outcomes are just fears, and often the present moment you find yourself in is manageable.

Using this process can help to manage the anxiety that can arise when something we deeply care about is outside of our ability to control. I'll emphasize that it is a process. Each of these components should be repeated and cultivated over time. This will help to create positive transformation in your life, regardless of the outcome ore circumstances in a certain situation.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I wish you peace, happiness, freedom, safety, true awakening, and wisdom.