Are you a control freak? Maybe it's time to loosen up
Life can be incredibly stressful, and sometimes maintaining a sense of control is the only way we can feel like we're coping with whatever new challenges are being thrown at us. But control can be dangerous and it can make you unhappy. In order to be happy and healthy, we all need to accept that there are always going to be some things that are out of our control. Life is what happens when you're making plans, and sometimes the unexpected things can be the most exciting.
Letting go of control can be scary, particularly if you're the kind of person who thrives on order and planning rather than disorganised chaos, and it can cause you stress, to begin with. But you'll quickly find that taking a more laid back approach to life has its benefits, both for your mood and your overall health. So, are you a control freak? Let's find out.
Spotting the tell-tale signs
It's rare to recognise that you're a control freak and rather than tackling your own irrational thoughts, you might find yourself attempting to control the situation. Unfortunately, this often means you try to control other people. Here are a few sure-fire signs you're a control freak.
- You openly offer 'constructive criticism' to anyone and everyone
- You're always trying to manage how others see you, changing your beliefs or who you are so you'll be accepted, rather just being yourself
- You firmly believe that you'd be happier if people in your life would change a few things about themselves. So you 'help them' by pointing out their flaws or behaviour repeatedly
- You're a fan of 'worst-case scenarios' which you use to influence other's behaviour
- You don't like ambiguity and need to know everything – secrets are not okay
- You plan EVERYTHING, but more importantly, you over-react and become upset, stressed or anxious when plans go awry
- You hate depending on others and don't trust anyone to get the job done, whether at work or at home
If you can see yourself in some (or all!) of the above behaviours, chances are you're a control freak, but you're not alone. Stressful situations and change may make you feel the need to control things, and in today's busy world, we're more at risk of stress and anxiety than ever before, with 54% of people in the UK complaining of rising anxiety and stress levels (1).
How to control your inner control freak
“Being right is highly overrated. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” Think about what this means – is it really important to be right and in control 24/7?
Failing to delegate tasks to others at work because you fear they won't do it right makes you a perfectionist and a control freak, but it also means you'll end up stressing yourself out more and alienating others. Some people find the need to control irritating; after all, everyone has their own 'best way' to do things.
Try to be open to other people's way of doing things – if somebody wants to work on a task, let them. Don't stress how efficiently it will be done; it's not your problem. Craving control actually means you're craving the feeling you get when you meet a challenge or do something well, the feeling of accomplishment. There are healthier ways to satisfy that craving though – take a fitness challenge such as Tough Mudder, sign up to run a marathon or take on a new project at work. Or simply tick a few things off your to-do list – it's YOUR list, which means you're in control or when and how things get done!
Tips to banish the control freak
These simple tips will help you to take a more relaxed approach to life, which can decrease your stress levels, lower your blood pressure and help you to be more mindful of others – all of which can make you happier!
- Take the time to listen to others and recognise their ideas are as important as yours
- Realise that things don't always have to run smoothly or be efficient
- Mix things up a little and plan to not plan. Just see what happens
- Stop expecting perfection from others and focus more on improving yourself
- Always be open to alternative ways of doing things
- Recognise you don't have to be in charge – encourage others to step up and take the lead
Most importantly, go with the flow! It's far easier to take control so you can manage the outcomes of various situations; harder to sit back and let others take the reins, but the result will be less stress in your life and more time to do the things that make you happy.
Exercise and control
Exercising and managing your health and fitness can be a great way of taking control without impacting anyone else. When you're in charge of your own well-being, you're managing a situation which is uniquely your own. Setting yourself fitness goals, joining a gym, starting a healthy eating plan or even signing up for dance classes are all positive steps you can take to regain control of your own life. Focusing your energy on changing yourself instead of trying to change others is the key to happiness – when we're more mindful and self-aware, we are happier.
Mindfulness can enhance your emotional well-being, and give you clarity (2). Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness, and combined with yoga, it can improve your fitness levels and improve your mental, physical and spiritual health – all three work together. Take control of your exercise regime today and ensure you're getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day; this doesn't have to be a workout at the gym or a pilates class, it can be something as simple as walking to the next bus stop and getting off the bus a stop early, doing some gardening or walking into town to go shopping.
By controlling the things you are able to manage and not worrying about the things that are outwith your control, you'll learn to harness your inner control freak.
READ THIS NEXT: Why getting angry is good for your health