What to Do When Things Are Spinning Out of Control

Much of what we call “stress” has to do with a feeling that things are “spinning out of control.”

So I thought it might help to offer you a few effective steps you can take that will begin to free you from the stress of “spinning out of control.”

  1. Stop, breathe, and gently stretch in a way that is safe for you. Intentionally yawn.
  2. Make a short list of what you can’t control (no more than 5 items!) then add one funny item at the end, for example: “I can’t control when earthworms mate.”
  3. Make a list of what you can control, then add a funny item at the end, for example: “I can control which finger I use to pick my nose.” 🙂

Consider that things can only spin out of control if you refuse to adjust your expectations. If you insist that things must be the way you want them to be, instead of the way they are revealing themselves to be, everything will spin!

  1. Make a list of the expectations that are causing your frustration (again, just a short list, no more than 5 items). Then add an absurd one at the end: “Those last few pieces of popcorn never seem to pop — why?!!”
  2. Make a list of new, adjusted expectations that make it easy to accept the situation that frustrated your old expectations. Then end by adding a funny one: “I expect the rest of my life is about to start. Right. Now.” 

When you do these steps, you will discover that you have the power and ability to change your inner state. Our inner state determines how we filter, and then interpret, our inner and outer perceptions in order to create the stories we live by. The way we respond to our stories creates our emotional life.

When we are feeling good and energized, it is easier to create encouraging stories that enable us to act with patience and generosity –– toward events, toward other people, and toward ourselves. 

We can even act with patience and respect toward our inner critics! 

It’s important to remember that everything operates according to the laws of cause and effect. That’s science –– looking for causes that create the effects we observe. This is how we gain a true understanding of how things work. When we understand causality clearly, we can take action to create what we want to create. . . with fewer unintended consequences.  

This means that when that Inner Critic says you are stupid” or unworthy, you can pause a moment instead of getting defensive, sad or afraid. And in that pause, you take a moment to remember that everything real has a cause and that, if something is real, you want to learn to relate to it accurately. Stay with me now.

Knowing that you have the right to explore the Inner Critic’s statements to check whether they’re accurate (e.g., “You are stupid and that’s the truth”) you respond to the Inner Critic with patience, respect, and kindness. You say, “Okay, I’m open minded. Maybe you are right. But before I get defensive, sad, or afraid in response to what you just said about my being stupid, it’s only fair that you show me the evidence. I challenge you to prove that I am stupid or unworthy. If you can show me some clear evidence, then I will consider accepting your claim.”

So far, I have never had an Inner Critic, my own or someone else’s, provide any real (i.e. scientifically valid) evidence. Inner Critics –– at least the ones I’ve met –– only seem to have opinions. . .  and beliefs based on opinions. When those opinions are challenged, the Inner Critic usually becomes silent quite quickly.

As you recognize more and more clearly that opinions and beliefs don’t make anything true about you, the inner critical voices disappear into silence.

Then, aha! You find yourself relaxing more and more in the world, and in your inner life. The spinning stops! 

Try challenging your Inner Critic and letting it fall silent. In that silence, enjoy relaxing more and more.

Good luck!


What if we recognized that we are in control of feeling out of control? 🙂

 ––Jack Elias & Ceci Miller

The Outrageous Guide to Being Fully Alive