6 Tips to Deal When You Feel Out of Control: When Your World Gets All Shook Up

Out of Control

“Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?” ~Unknown

I celebrated an anniversary recently. It was the night I experienced my first, and hopefully last, earthquake.

My husband and I had retired for the evening as usual—said our goodnights and went to sleep. I was jarred awake at 2:30 AM by him trying to pull me from our bed. At the same moment I heard the most deafening roar. Could a freight train be barrelling through our loft?

Our attempts to escape the upper level were hampered by the violent shaking. As we stepped forward we were propelled side-to-side. We were being tossed like rag-dolls as we scrambled down the stairs, only to be greeted by the sound of glass objects smashing from below.

Skirting around the shards of broken stemware, we fumbled with the house keys and made our escape to the front porch. The same instant that we arrived outside, the 7.3 earthquake stopped as abruptly as it had started.

We were fortunate that our home did not collapse on top of us, that in our community there was no loss of life, and the tsunami that we were warned about never materialized.

Although we were lucky and it only lasted sixty seconds, I put earthquakes at the top of my list of things I never want to experience again.

So why celebrate the anniversary of such an event?

One minute your life is normal. You carry on not giving a thought to what may be. You are the master of your destiny. Then something beyond your control happens—your world gets all shook up.

You have no control over the event specific to you, but you do have the power to decide how to deal with it. The following six things you can control when dealing with an earthshaking event.

1. Offer help to others.

When you focus on someone else’s emotional or physical needs instead of dwelling on what has happened to you, you’re too busy to think about what happened, and you feel a sense of accomplishment instead of hopelessness.

Perhaps your earthshaking event is your company closing, leaving all its employees jobless. You are rightfully devastated by the news but you know you’re capable of updating your resume to pursue a new job.

What about the person who works beside you and has never written a resume before? Why not suggest you work together to prepare both resumes? Arrange to do mock interviews for each other. A trial run can help alleviate the nervousness, fine tune your own skills, and could just outright make you laugh when you are at a time in your life when you need it most.

2. Look at the event as a not so gentle reminder.

It is so easy to take your life and people you love for granted. When something shakes up your world, it might just be the reminder you need to appreciate everyone, including yourself.

It is easy to perceive there are more important things to do rather than spend time with your loved ones. You don’t have time to go for a walk or sit together and talk. You have to get the kids somewhere, or perhaps finish that report.

And what about for yourself, when is the last time you took even a few minutes just for you. There’s always tomorrow, right?

When an earthshaking event happens, be grateful for the reminder that you can’t count on there being a tomorrow. Find the time for the people that matter to you, including yourself right now!

Looking for the silver lining like this goes a long way toward helping you deal with it and returns a sense of control in a situation that you didn’t initiate.

3. Respect and accept the strength of forces larger than yourself.

The smartest people in the world with the best resources could never stop an earthquake from happening. Sometimes you need to accept that there are forces larger than you at play. Accepting that you simply cannot control everything is an integral part of dealing with difficulties.

4. Appreciate twists in the adventure.

Limiting yourself in fear of what you can’t control will do you no good. Appreciate the adventure of not knowing what might happen next.

Roller-coasters, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, and many other man-made attractions are put in place to give people an adrenaline rush—a sensation that while it is happening, you are out of control and terrified. The pay-off is when it is over. Your heart is racing, your palms are sweating, and perhaps you are even feeling nauseous—but you did it!

During the earthquake and after, I felt all those emotions and physical sensations. For days I was paralyzed with the fear of it happening again. The more I gave in to that, the more out of control I felt.

My ability to carry out normal daily tasks was being hindered. With every aftershock I would become instantly sick to my stomach. I would tense every muscle in my body and experience a headache that would further limit my ability to function.

I’d been told the aftershocks could continue for a month or more. I needed to find a way to deal with them to gain back a sense of control.

When the next aftershock hit, I envisioned that I was on a roller-coaster. I relaxed into the motion instead of trying to fight it. While not 100 percent effective the first time, at least I avoided a headache and losing hours of my day. By using this technique I got to the point that I could make it through an aftershock without any problem. It became an adventure, a game.

By considering your earth-shattering event an adventure, you become a contender, no longer a victim holding yourself back. You regain control and are better prepared to find ways to get through it.

5. Consider how it helps you grow.

Every experience is a life lesson. You will be wiser, emotionally stronger, and perhaps have some newfound knowledge or skill in an area you knew nothing about before.

You and your family used to eat out all the time. But now, loss of a job means you no longer can afford to do that. At times you’re not sure how you can even afford to make a meal at home. Out of necessity you get creative. You seek out recipes that are most economical, invent a few of your own. You discover a passion for cooking.

You were considering going back to school for retraining but had no idea what you would study. Maybe now you do. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs achieved their status from having to deal with a situation they had no control over.

6. Be proud of yourself.

As you work through an earthshaking event, give yourself credit for every step forward. By acknowledging your achievements, no matter how small, you regain trust in your ability to fix what you didn’t break. You empower yourself to take the next step. Besides, the situation is beating you up enough—don’t help it!

Earthshaking events will continue to happen in our lives; we have no control over that. But we do have the ability to control how we respond. While in the midst of such an event it may seem hopeless and unbeatable but you can do it.

Photos here and here.

About Genny Ross-Barons

Genny Ross-Barons lives on the tropical Island of Roatan, Honduras. Originally from Canada, she spends her days in this idyllic setting on the Caribbean Sea, writing about day-to-day life on Roatan – When not Independently Wealthy or Old Enough to Retire, at and as DJ Genevieve, on sharing Roatan with the world.

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  • Your world turns upside down or throws you a curve ball out of left field – been there, lived through it, done it – Whew!!! My daughter suffered a medical crisis and ended up being hospitalized for one year – 3 months on a ventilator in a drug-induced paralyzed coma and 9 months in a rehab hospital relearning all body functions.
    Here are 2 tips (out of many):
    Find an outlet to help maintain your physical and psychological health. I am a walker/hiker. When the doctor offered me anti-anxiety medication, I made a decision to resume my walking regime so as to keep myself strong and help maintain my stress level without the use of meds. (I'm the antithesis of a pill popper.)

    Hold onto even the smallest semblance of normalcy. In a world that's turned upside down, maintaining some familiar routines helps keep you grounded. And if not for your sake, then for the sake of the other family members. Upon the advice of a doctor (this one I listened to), I took my other daughter shopping at the mall, to the movies and other outings. As hard and abnormal as that felt to do (while my ill daughter lay on a respirator), those brief times of engaging in the ordinary aspects of life did provide momentary respite from a world that reeked of death.
    (My daughter miraculously survived and today is healthy and living life as Before. And I'm living life even better than before.)

  • Beautifully shared and wonderful tips Genevieve! Reading things like this feels great to me and adds something awesome to my day. I'll add an extra (advanced?) tip c/o Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len:

    We all create our own experiences. Anything that enters our experience, we created. We have 100% responsibility, not just for ourselves and our actions, but for EVERYTHING.

    Think about it 😉

  • i love this article and the comparison with the earthquake. it's true, so many things are out of our control. these are great tips. thanks!

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  • I am so pleased to hear your daughter and your family came through such a traumatic experience. Your so right, holding on to even a shred of normalcy goes along way toward dealing with an earthshaking situation.

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  • Pam

    Great article Gen!!! I really enjoy reading your stories!!! Cant wait to see you guys in 2 weeks. Hope you have some fun planned for us…cause we are ready!!!

  • Vivian

    I was feeling like an earthquake had shook for a second in my life waking up this morning. A dear friend send this to me as a way to life my spirit. Sometime we get so wrapped around our problems that we forget how are actions effect others.

    When life seems to be going so well for me, something extreme will hit hard. I learn to self talk myself out of a lot situations and it really helped. However, reading this blog made me realize to put the pressure off of myself and understand that everything can be control. In order to change the environment around me, I first need to change myself.

    Thank you Harry for sharing and I will take in consideration when I get knock down again. =)

  • Hi Vivian,

    You can over come anything and everything…just have faith in yourself. Really glad this story helped you see that.

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  • This is exactly what happened in my life this year. I had a 12-year relationship (that I’d thought was rock solid) end and suddenly every aspect of my life changed. The 6 tips here are right on… once I got out of “crisis” mode and knew I was going to be okay (which, admittedly, took a long time), I found that helping others was the best thing I could do. It gave me a focus outside of myself, a sense of worth and a positive outlet.

    The event was a forceful reminder of how temporary everything is, even when it seems absolutely unshakable. I wish I’d had a less painful wake-up call, but in the end it certainly served its purpose in that regard. I will never be that complacent again. I started out trying to fight all of the changes and turns my life took, and quickly realized that they were happening wether I tried to stop them or not, and that I should save my energy and health by just accepting I had no control over most of them. I was surprised at how much stress I prevented by giving in and being flexible instead of trying to brace myself and refuse to bend.

    With some perspective, I definitely have to say that I am much stronger than I’d ever thought I was and that I have more confidence and self-worth than I’ve had in a decade or so. It’s amazing that some good can come out of something that seems so tragic but I have had more growth and learned more life lessons in the past year than I have in the last 10 or more. It doesn’t make going through all of that “worth it”, but at least I can say that I am not the same person I was before all this happened and that I have learned lessons that will help me for the rest of my life because of this experience.

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  • Mmmm

    It’s only easy for 60 seconds. But what about if you’re out of control for 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years, or 60 years? It requires another layer of zen living under constant mental earthquakes. And I don’t know what it would be.

    Thanks for the article regardless.

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  • realiat

    Terrible write up

  • David Iranpour

    I didnt read more than that first quote by “unknown” and I was cured.

  • Kv

    Hi there

    Great article. But how do you deal with grief and pain of seeing innocent people – women and especially children being killed in a war (gaza conflict) This is something that can be stopped but the world turns a blind eye.

    The human greed for power and money has time and time again led to wars. How does one person deal with this when all they feel is utter hopelessness of the situation

    Any practical suggestions would be most welcome

    A saddened soul.

  • Anon

    This is….
    Useless… Seriously, everyone goes through these things, and if they don’t work it’s digging a hole for yourself

  • L0wC

    7. Make Chocolate pudding at 4 in the morning.

  • Pat

    I am 60 years old. 12 years ago, I moved from a major metropolitan area where I had a really good job to a smaller area because my husband was offered a good job there. Since moving there, I have had several jobs that didn’t pan out. Now I’m 60 years old and I feel like life has passed me by. There are no other job opportunities here like there was in the major metro area so I feel like I’ve wasted the last 12 years of my life. And now I’m 60 so I don’t have much time left and frankly, people don’t want to hire 60 year olds. We don’t have a lot of money and we rely on my husband’s job so moving is not really an option. We also need my income to survive. But I’m dying inside because I’m so unhappy. What can I do???

  • AGNB

    What was your metro city job? What do you enjoy doing? How small of a town do you live in now?

  • shaniki see

    Im in relationship that’s one side I knoe I should leave hum but I love him .I know he dont love me he just keeps me around because im young he sto having sex he won’t touch me nor will he let me touch him im so sad

  • Jimthetruth28

    you guys have no control even if you had control, your a speck in this massive universe, everything is a lie, life has no meaning, lets just sit here and watch some tv

  • muad’dib

    think of it as just a movie.

  • Missy

    Sorry didn’t read it all but it certainly didn’t help me what I did read… Lost my mum Cancer aged 18. Lost my father 7 years later through emphysema and cirrhosis and full basic body shut down …. Then my brother basically had a fit in a club/ pub and died there and then … my partner has survived cancer /hodgkins lymphoma but still not out of the woods as of yet !!so how do your feel strong and happy?oh I forgot to mention had a ectopic pregnancy 21 years old and I’m now 38 never to hav children … So how can u really be a happy happy person ????? Someone please enlighten me ,XX

  • Dana Fitzgerald

    Without sounding trite, it’s often a choice; focus on a nasty past, or embrace an unknown and hopefully wonderful future…but the important thing is to let go of the bad, and make room for that unknowable future. With the right attitude, hope springs eternal, a welcome change from hard times to a positive life that needs to accepted as a difference that will help you overcome the worst and live for the best. It’s hard, but life is never easy…there’s always something, and that needs to be accepted with welcoming arms and not past anger.

  • Dana Fitzgerald

    You know war is unavoidable, given our passionate views on personal religion and race. Peace is the solution, but it’s not easy to step between extreme hatred and anger. As individuals, we can’t stop extreme attitudes, we can only embrace peace, hold out forgiveness, and distance yourself…as much is possible, from acts of violence. To forgive is to put yourself beyond their hatred and anger, for you can only be responsible for yourself…don’t hate the haters…there’s too much hate around already…try and use as much love as you can.