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Are You Running the Show or is the Show Running You?
By: Beth McHugh 2007
There are all sorts of formal definitions for what stress is, but one of the basic criteria that characterize stress is: do you feel in control of your life, or do you want the world to just stop while you catch your breath?
When we feel a sense of control in our lives, we experience much less stress. It is when we feel that events are spiraling out of our control that those familiar symptoms start creeping into our lives. Stress headaches, indigestion, palpitations, a sense of dread, endless worrying, an inability to sleep well, loss of appetite and plain outright panic. Sound frightening familiar? Then you probably have an external locus of control.
The terms internal and external locus of control are used by psychologists and other mental health workers to accurately express how much control over their lives a particular person feels. When a person expresses that things are getting on top of them, that there are too many stresses in their lives and that their health, both physical and mental, is suffering, then it is time to take action.
It is well known that persons who report having a strong internal locus of control, i.e. they feel in control of their own destiny and are not being blown around by the winds of fate, lead happier, healthier lives. The opposite is true when a person reports that they feel they have little control over what happens to them.
So how can we exchange an external locus of control for an internal one? First, we must remember that no-one is in complete control of their lives. We cannot control the behaviors of others, nor can we control events such as natural catastrophes. We must accept that we can’t control everything. Yet there are people who, because they can’t control everything, become so distressed that they create more stress, anxiety and ultimately depression for themselves.
But we don’t have to remain caught in a trap of choicelessness and stress.
Tips to increase your sense of personal control:
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