Leaves falling in a beautifully colored sky representing releasing control.

How to Release Control and Let Things Go

Do you need to release control? Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of the advice ”Just let it go!” or “There’s nothing you can do about it, so why worry?” How difficult is that to hear!? This is especially true if you’re a proactive person who is good at thinking through different scenarios. Shouldn’t you do everything you can to avoid possible problems and have things go the way you want them to?

So when people tell you to back off, you might start to wonder, “Don’t they understand what I’m going through?” Maybe you even start to think, “There must be something more I can do.” You probably notice worry, anxiety, and stress start to build, as you rattle over your different options, accounting for all the unknown variables.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Control

As a therapist and life coach, who helps people with their personal growth, I commonly hear folks discuss intense worry and distress because of circumstances we can’t control, ranging from that friend who just won’t take your helpful advice to family members who don’t respect your boundaries. We are constantly being confronted with unpleasant situations that we often have little to no control over. This is especially true in relationships. What do we do with the anxiety this produces? How do we release control?

First, you might start to notice the paradox that takes place: we attempt to control circumstances to alleviate anxiety or stress, but holding onto control (especially when we try to control what we have no power over) it only serves to increase anxiety and stress. THEN to compound the situation, the circumstances we most deeply desire to control are usually the ones we can’t! What a mess!

Well, here’s some good news: 

  1. You’re not alone.
  2. There are some things you can do about it! 

I want to share with you three quick tips to release control (and how, in releasing control, you may start to feel more in control… I know, it sounds crazy).

How to Release Control of Things You Can’t Control

Identify Situations Where You Have Control… and Where You Don’t

An easy rule of thumb is: you are in control of yourself. It may also be helpful to create the distinction between what you can control and what you may be able to impact.

For example, you can’t control if your coworker is willing to be a team player, but you may be able to impact this behavior by voicing your needs (i.e. you are in control of how you want to respond and how you want to manage the stress your coworker’s behavior causes you).

You might try doing a check-in with yourself when you notice stress is on the rise. Ask yourself, “What am I in control of right now?”

I sometimes encourage folks to actually write out an exhaustive list of their concerns and go through each item and identify what they can control. Once you identify the “uncontrollables,” you can start to practice the next tip!

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Give Yourself Permission to Release Control

Sometimes we feel worrying is one way we can control the uncontrollable. (As in, “If I worry about it enough, I’ll be prepared,” or “Worrying is better than doing nothing.”) 

Instead of churning in worry, try giving yourself permission to release control. Let go of the need to hold on to the unknown. Remind yourself that you will know what to do if a crisis arises. Trust yourself. You’ve got this! Even in moments where that feels impossible.

Try reciting mantras such as:

“It’s okay for me to let this go.”

“I don’t need to hold onto this.”

“I have done everything I can do.”

You can also ask a loved one for support with this. Sometimes we might need reassurance, that we have indeed done everything we can do, until we’re able to provide this reassurance to ourselves.

Practice Radical Acceptance

When we are unable to reframe or change the experience, we may need to rely on radical acceptance. This concept tells us there may be times we need to accept circumstances that we don’t like. (I know, yuck!).

The key with this is knowing that acceptance does not mean approval or giving up. Simply put, it means we can see the circumstances for what they are. In doing this, we reduce the suffering we experience. (I get that this sounds counterintuitive).

Try slowing down (for example: deep breathing) and creating room for the reality of the situation to exist as well as the idea that accepting that situation is uncomfortable (there’s room for both of these things to exist).

Think of it this way: If you’re stuck in traffic maybe you start to feel angry, and you notice yourself questioning “Why isn’t that car moving!?” Or perhaps you try switching lanes or honking. You might notice your pulse is quickening and the frustration is surging through you.

BUT if you embrace radical acceptance, you could try saying to yourself, “I’m doing everything I can do, I can’t control the car in front of me, and I’m stuck in traffic right now and that stinks.”

Which experience results in less emotional stress? (Pssst…it’s the one where we accept what is, while simultaneously acknowledging it’s not enjoyable).

Managing Anxiety + Releasing Control = Inner Peace

The key with all of these tips is to practice, practice, practice and go slow. It can be incredibly challenging to let go, especially in situations that aren’t comfortable. Take your time, and give yourself credit for what you’re already doing. I hope through using these strategies you may find yourself regaining control by relinquishing it.

Remember- everyone is doing the best they can in the moment (this includes you!).

All the best,

Rachel H., MA, LPC, LMFT

Let’s Talk.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Let’s Talk.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Therapy Questions, Answered.

Our expert therapists have generously created an entire library of articles, activities, and podcasts to support you on your journey of growth. Please visit our “Happiness Collections” to browse our content collections, and take advantage of all the free resources we have for you. Or, if you’d like to educate yourself about the process and logistics of therapy, please help yourself to our “therapy questions” knowledge base below. It’s all for you!

Wondering if your issues going to work themselves out, or is it time to talk to a professional? Here’s how to tell when it’s time for therapy.

Great therapy can feel like magic, but it’s actually not. Learn how meaningful and effective therapy works.

What is therapy like? Learn what happens in therapy in order to feel empowered and confident.

There are many different kinds of therapists and many different types of therapy. What kind of therapist do you need? Find out!

Not sure what to talk about in therapy? Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your therapy sessions.

How to prepare for your first therapy appointment, and learn what to expect in therapy sessions.

What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? Find out which approach is right for you.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the “gold-standard” of effective, evidence-based therapy. Learn about CBT.

How does talking about something help you make changes? Or… does it? Learn the pros and cons of traditional talk therapy.

Effective therapy is life-changing, but some therapy is a waste of time and money. Evidence-based therapy makes the difference.

Not all therapists are the same. Learn how to find a good therapist (and spot the warning signs of a bad one).

Therapy For Healthy Relationships

Working with a true relationship expert helps you learn, grow, love, and be loved.
Learn about our approach to helping you build healthy relationships.

Online therapy is just as effective but even easier than in person therapy. Here’s what to expect from good online therapy.

Explore your options for a Denver therapist who specializes in personal growth and healthy relationships.

Ready to try therapy? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to get a therapist who is competent to help you.

Curious to know more about what working with us is really like? Browse Growing Self reviews / “best online therapy reviews” from our clients.

Good therapy is priceless, but not all therapy is valuable. Learn the cost of therapy that’s affordable and effective.

Yes, insurance covers therapy… but only sometimes. Learn when (and how) health insurance covers therapy, and when it doesn’t.

If you have a loved one who is struggling in their relationship, you can help them get help by “gifting” therapy. Here’s how…

Losing a relationship is uniquely painful and challenging. With the right support, you can heal, grow, and move forward. Learn about our divorce and breakup recovery services.

We’re available by phone, email and chat, and happy to answer any of your questions personally. Get in touch, anytime.

Start your journey of growth today. Get personalized recommendations, and have a free consultation meeting with the therapist of your choice.

Therapy Questions, Answered.

Our expert therapists have generously created an entire library of articles, activities, and podcasts to support you on your journey of growth. Please visit our “Happiness Collections” to browse our content collections, and take advantage of all the free resources we have for you. Or, if you’d like to educate yourself about the process and logistics of therapy, please help yourself to our “therapy questions” knowledge base below. It’s all for you!

Wondering if your issues going to work themselves out, or is it time to talk to a professional? Here’s how to tell when it’s time for therapy.

Great therapy can feel like magic, but it’s actually not. Learn how meaningful and effective therapy works.

What is therapy like? Learn what happens in therapy in order to feel empowered and confident.

There are many different kinds of therapists and many different types of therapy. What kind of therapist do you need? Find out!

Not sure what to talk about in therapy? Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your therapy sessions.

How to prepare for your first therapy appointment, and learn what to expect in therapy sessions.

What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? Find out which approach is right for you.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the “gold-standard” of effective, evidence-based therapy. Learn about CBT.

How does talking about something help you make changes? Or… does it? Learn the pros and cons of traditional talk therapy.

Effective therapy is life-changing, but some therapy is a waste of time and money. Evidence-based therapy makes the difference.

Not all therapists are the same. Learn how to find a good therapist (and spot the warning signs of a bad one).

Therapy For Healthy Relationships

Working with a true relationship expert helps you learn, grow, love, and be loved.
Learn about our approach to helping you build healthy relationships.

Online therapy is just as effective but even easier than in person therapy. Here’s what to expect from good online therapy.

Explore your options for a Denver therapist who specializes in personal growth and healthy relationships.

Ready to try therapy? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to get a therapist who is competent to help you.

Curious to know more about what working with us is really like? Browse Growing Self reviews / “best online therapy reviews” from our clients.

Good therapy is priceless, but not all therapy is valuable. Learn the cost of therapy that’s affordable and effective.

Yes, insurance covers therapy… but only sometimes. Learn when (and how) health insurance covers therapy, and when it doesn’t.

If you have a loved one who is struggling in their relationship, you can help them get help by “gifting” therapy. Here’s how…

Losing a relationship is uniquely painful and challenging. With the right support, you can heal, grow, and move forward. Learn about our divorce and breakup recovery services.

We’re available by phone, email and chat, and happy to answer any of your questions personally. Get in touch, anytime.

Start your journey of growth today. Get personalized recommendations, and have a free consultation meeting with the therapist of your choice.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks Rachel… I struwith this sooo much at work… not just with co workers… but patients as well. I needed to be remuof the process to work through again. If I don’t do these things… I get anxious and act out in frustration or by being very short with people. I may also use food to help soothe myself. Both reactions only make me feel worse about myself.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I have been dealing with so much anxiety and stress over my marriage and worrying about her being unfaithful and unloving. I have been blessed to have found solace in accepting that I cannot control other people or how they feel towards me or anyone for that matter. Last night, after months of letting go and feeling as though we were finally connecting over the past few months, I had a set back where she said she feels nothing has changed and that we are basically good ‘teammates’ (again). It really hurt and feel it set me back on months of growth and greater inner peace. I needed this blog and reminder and even additional thought process. Than you again.

  3. Thanks Rachel… I struwith this sooo much at work… not just with co workers… but patients as well. I needed to be remuof the process to work through again. If I don’t do these things… I get anxious and act out in frustration or by being very short with people. I may also use food to help soothe myself. Both reactions only make me feel worse about myself.

  4. Thank you so much for this! I have been dealing with so much anxiety and stress over my marriage and worrying about her being unfaithful and unloving. I have been blessed to have found solace in accepting that I cannot control other people or how they feel towards me or anyone for that matter. Last night, after months of letting go and feeling as though we were finally connecting over the past few months, I had a set back where she said she feels nothing has changed and that we are basically good ‘teammates’ (again). It really hurt and feel it set me back on months of growth and greater inner peace. I needed this blog and reminder and even additional thought process. Than you again.

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