What to Do When Life Feels Out of Control

Although we can make life plans, things don’t always go the way we expect. Our relationship doesn’t last, our position at work is cut, or some other obstacle is unexpectedly placed in our way. When these unexpected situations add up, it’s easy to become anxious and feel as if life is out of control.

Learning why you may feel like your life is out of control helps you understand the underlying issues that may be causing these feelings. We also discuss several actions you can take if life feels a little haywire, helping you feel better about your circumstances—even if you can’t control them.

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Reasons Life Can Feel Out of Control

Feeling like life is out of control comes from the anxiety of not always having access to the driver’s seat of life. People have no idea when disaster may strike and for how long, so it produces fear that triggers other emotions like sadness, frustration, and anger.

That said, there are plenty of situations in which life may feel out of control. The following are a few to consider.

Excessive Stress

A lot of overwhelming feelings can be caused by stress coming in at every corner. A person can feel overloaded with the pressures of having to keep everything together for their family, job, finances, and more. It all starts to pile up, creating the feeling that you’re not in control of your life around you.

Health Concerns

People tend to worry about their physical and mental health, especially when they have a chronic health condition or are susceptible to illness. Add this to the chance of disease suddenly making an appearance and it’s no wonder a person may feel a loss of control over their health and wellness.

Health issues can be caused by nonmodifiable risk factors such as genetics, age, and environment. Since these cannot be changed, it can make you feel like your health is out of your control.

Relationship Issues

Whether you’re busy being a parent, spouse, friend, caretaker, or some other role, every relationship has something in common. Two people are involved. While you may have control over your own actions or feelings, you cannot control how another person acts or feels.

Additionally, if you find yourself in a toxic relationship (with a partner, friend, or even family member), this could cause you to feel like your life is spinning out of control. This feeling can be especially prominent when attempts to mend the relationship have failed.

Large-Scale Crises

Highly contagious viruses, natural disasters, and social injustices are all large-scale challenges. Since they affect so many people, it’s easy to feel a loss of control. Situations such as these can also produce feelings of defenselessness, anxiety, fear, and even anger.

Work Challenges

There are times when a person’s job consumes all of their time and seems as if it’s taking over their life. People can also become overwhelmed by what they need to get done inside and outside of the workplace, creating a sense that they have no control.

Personal Tragedy

Experiencing a tragic life event such as a death in the family, job loss, or being a victim of crime can produce a lot of overwhelming emotions. Since these kinds of situations are out of your control, you may feel helpless and lost.

In uncontrollable circumstances, you may also feel like you have no control over your feelings or response to the tragedy.

What to Do When Life Feels Out of Control

When life starts to feel out of control, taking these actions can help.

Engage in Self-Care

It is perfectly okay to take some time for yourself. In fact, doing so offers many benefits. For instance, a study involving medical students found that when they engaged in self-care, they were better at managing stress and had an improved quality of life.

Effective self-care strategies include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating healthy meals
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Engaging in relaxing activities
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Staying positive
  • Staying connected with family and friends

Change Your Perspective

Rather than viewing your life as out of control, it may help to develop an “it is what it is” perspective. This does not mean accepting poor treatment. Instead, it involves letting go of control and not fixating on achieving specific outcomes, which can life lead to greater life satisfaction.

Control Things You Can Change

Even though we may not have control of everything in our lives, we do still have control of some things. Work on changing the things in life that you do have control over, like going to the gym more often, eating fewer sweets, or removing a toxic person from your life.

Be Confident in Your Decisions

Life can feel out of control when you are constantly worrying and wondering if you are making the right choices. We tend to want to make sure we get it just right, almost perfect—but nothing will ever be perfect.

Take pride in what you created for your life and, if you made a few bad decisions, learn from them and move forward. Use your mistakes to foster personal growth and wisdom. Be appreciative of challenging situations that push you to keep going and bring you to better times.

Talk it Out

If you feel overwhelmed and stressed, it can be beneficial to talk about what may be making you feel this way. Whether you speak with a loved one or find a qualified therapist, it’s helpful to have someone with whom you can voice your concerns and worries. They can help you deconstruct your feelings and sort them out accordingly.

Pick Up a Hobby

Hobbies are a great way to take your mind off of things you can’t change. Whether you start going for a daily walk, get into woodworking, or begin keeping a journal, picking up a hobby may help you to feel a bit of an escape from life’s challenges.

Hobbies, in a way, act as a simple reminder that you do hold the steering wheel to your life since it’s you who gets to choose how to spend your free time.

Think Positively

Strive to think positively. Life won’t always feel this way. So, practice focusing on what is going well in your life and aim to be thankful for the things you do have.

It’s also important to remember that sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. Do your best to be appreciative of challenging situations in your life because they can be a catalyst for massive personal growth.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Salzberg L. Risk factors and lifestyle interventions. Prim Care. 2022;49(2):201-212. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2021.11.001

  3. Makwana N. Disaster and its impact on mental health: A narrative review. J Family Med Prim Care. 2019;8(10):3090-3095. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_893_19

  4. Ayala EE, Winseman JS, Johnsen RD, et al. U.S. medical students who engage in self-care report less stress and higher quality of life. BMC Med Educ. 2018;18. doi:10.1186/s12909-018-1296-x

  5. National Institute of Mental Health. Caring for your mental health.

  6. Whitehead R, Bates G, Elphinstone B, Yang Y, Murray G. Letting go of self: The creation of the nonattachment to self scale. Front Psychol. 2018;9:2544. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02544

By Tiara Blain, MA

Tiara Blain, MA, is a freelance writer for Verywell Mind. She is a health writer and researcher passionate about the mind-body connection, and holds a Master’s degree in psychology.


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