5 Things You Can’t Control and How to Cope Anyway

5 Things You Can’t Control and How to Cope Anyway

No matter how hard you try, there are some things you just can’t control. But you can cope. Get expert advice on how to cope when you feel overwhelmed.

Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, says life isn’t fair or easy, but there are ways to cope.

I often think of “The Serenity Prayer” as my own “sanity prayer.” It takes sharpening acceptance skills for those things in life that can’t be controlled or changed; it takes great courage to feel the fear and make changes with the things that CAN be controlled or changed; and wisdom to recognize which is which.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


Sometimes, no matter how well we eat or otherwise take good care of ourselves, arthritis, cancer or other debilitating diseases may strike! Life isn’t fair and it isn’t easy; the more we embrace that truth the more doable life becomes. I was inspired by my sister who was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Once past the shock and the initial education about RA, she started a support group for others struggling with arthritis when she found there were few resources. This wasn’t a gripe-group; it was a quality-of-life group. Their meetings revolved around guest speakers, such as RA physicians and researchers providing updates in the field and new medications; and physical and occupational therapists came in to show how to perform daily tasks that were easier on joints, and demonstrated clever new tools on the market for opening jars or bottles. Podiatrists came in to share proper foot alignment and recommended certain orthotics and brand-names that individuals with RA could look to for comfortable and healthy foot support.


Just how early in life do we learn that not everyone is going to accept or like us? EARLY! Either our older sibling forbids us to play with their toys, or the neighbor across the street makes fun of our lisp or how we throw a ball, or we don’t get accepted onto the high school sports team or we don’t get invited into the sorority of our choice on the college campus, or someone doesn’t reciprocate our affection, or we don’t get the job, raise, home, etc.

Adopt a mantra that you can sink your teeth into, such as, “Every closed door points me in right direction.” Or, “This only means there’s something better around the corner!” It’s also insightful to ask, “What could I learn from this? Is there something I could do differently or is it more about finding a better match for me?”

Surround yourself with inspirational stories about Walt Disney, Einstein, Thomas Edison, Abe Lincoln, or Babe Ruth, to remind you that a “no” is a stepping stone, as well as a rite of passage to great things.


Have you ever tried to win a power-struggle with a 3-year-old; you simply can’t! However, what you can do is re-direct or re-focus their attention, i.e., “Look at that cute little kitty outside walking down the sidewalk; I wonder where he lives?” Or, you can let them be angry and disappointed, i.e., “I don’t blame you for preferring to play with a knife over a spoon; it looks much more interesting but it will hurt you and I love you too much to let that happen.” Sometimes, you’re simply soothing yourself with these words.

I was talking to a lovely mother of an adolescent boy recently. She was concerned over how much affirming her son needed from her. He would often ask, “Do I look O.K? Are you sure my hair looks good? What do you think about this outfit?” Much of this comes with adolescence; the insecurity, self-discovery, wanting acceptance from others….it’s a tough road for most.

What this mother could do, however, is say, “I will always be honest with you; I like it……how do you feel? What do you think? I see you as handsome young man with beautiful eyes…but what do you think?” We can feed into someone’s insecurities by reassuring them again and again or we can say, “Honey, I already answered that question. Now, it’s your turn.” We can offer, provide, educate, lead…but not force a child or anyone else for that matter.


My spouse may choose to stay addicted to alcohol; I can choose to stay married to an addict or make a new decision for my life, but I cannot change another’s decisions. Same with infidelity. I can remain with someone who has been unfaithful and work through it together, or I can make a new decision and leave the marriage.


Let’s say someone judges us as mistrusting. How much of that has to do with them and how much of it has to do with me? I don’t know. Usually, what you could accuse me of, I could find it if I look for it. For instance, I could find where I didn’t keep my word, or failed to remember a birthday or appointment. If someone mistrusts me, I can only do so much to control that. My heart goes out to them, however, because I know how uncomfortable and afraid I feel when I don’t trust. It’s a terrible feeling. What helps me remain free from being offended by another’s judgments is by letting them have their beliefs, feel empathy for those beliefs, and live my life in a way that I’m most proud of.

Someday, you and I won’t be here. When we face something outside our control or ability to change, just how important is it?

Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.

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