Photo of Randy Legaspi
By Liz Scala
I used to want to control everything. I wanted smooth work days, timely appointments, and conversations that ended with my opinions as outcomes. I would get frustrated with co-workers who didn’t see things my way. I’d get angry when people were late or meetings delayed. I’d feel uncomfortable and unhappy when things didn’t turn out as I had planned; especially at work.
Have you ever had an experience like this?
You arrive to your nursing unit on time and ready for report. Since yesterday you worked a 12 hour shift you admitted the afternoon transfer. Not only that, but you took care of 5 patients, so you figured you have the same patient assignment. However, right off the bat things are not stacked up in your favor. You have a completely different assignment; in fact you are rounding with a different physician team altogether. You look further and see that after 8 hours you are sent to cover another are your unit staffs; finishing up your last 4 hours of your 12 hour shift in the psychiatric emergency department. To top it all off, your manager comes in and tells you that the Patient Safety meeting has been changed to next week, which is when you have off to study for finals. She says you need to come in for the meeting anyway as she will be out of town visiting grandchildren.
What comes up for you after reading this?
In the past when this would happen to me I would feel angry. I would get hot flashes starting in my chest which rose to my head. My blood would feel as if it was boiling and my face would turn red. My head would ache and my stomach would twist into knots. I would almost feel like I was on the verge of tears; I was that mad. My thoughts would race; “This is so unfair! I don’t know these patients! I cannot do this. Why does this always happen to me? This stinks!!” I would complain to the charge nurse. I would attempt to change my assignment and arrange my schedule so I didn’t have to split my shift. I would be furious at my nurse manager for the meeting change, even though it had nothing to do with her. I would feel out of control!
Notice I said this is how I felt in the past. After a lot of inner healing, reflective reading, and educating myself I have a different outlook on the need to control. I have learned the art of “letting go”. A line from the serenity prayer states “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Realizing certain experiences are outside of our control can be freeing. Circumstances in our lives are beyond our reach. We cannot control time. We do not have power over another’s behavior. We are unable to change the past or rearrange what the future. Letting go can remind us to live in the present moment.
So how do we do this?
Here are 7 simple steps I take to let go and release myself from the need to control:
• Observe thoughts as they come into consciousness- If you catch yourself making a judgment or feeling uncomfortable sensations such as anger, unhappiness, or frustration observe these thoughts and realize you are having them.
• Take a slow deep breath in and out through your nose- The physical exhale is symbolic of releasing nasty feelings and controlling thoughts out of your body.
• Focus on the present moment– Choose consciously to pay attention to what is currently happening. Become in touch with your senses; what do you see, hear, and feel in this moment?
• State a positive affirmation– “I am exactly where I need to be right now”.
• Turn it over to a Higher Power– the Universe has a path for each of us. What is supposed to happen will happen. The timing of experiences will occur in a natural way. If something does not take place as expected then maybe it wasn’t supposed to be that way in the first place.
• Be grateful for blessings– Instead of being upset with things not turning out the way you planned take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for.
• Congratulate yourself– Review your experience and celebrate that you have not let feelings control you. Enjoy the feeling of “letting go” the need to control. Relish this freedom.