Do you have a cup of tea? This is a long one...

As young children we adopt the attitudes of those around us and we are instructed how to respond to people; we are taught by example or constant directives to “say please”, “sit nicely”, “be patient” and slowly but surely, we change from feral animals to members of society with set constructs and norms that we adhere to, because we are told to do so. 

As we get slightly older, we begin to feel that we know the way of the world, what it expects of us and we crave the responsibility of demonstrating this by asking for more leniency from our parents – pushing bedtime back, going out unattended, having a key etc and we go through a cycle of showing we are responsible to needing to learn a bit more to succeeding to the next stage. At this stage, we are still open to instruction for our elders, but we are also susceptible to the opinions of our peers – who are also in the formative years of their development.

The thing is we aren’t just learning about us though. We’re learning about the people around us – those we love, those we like and those that we are either indifferent to or dislike. I would love to tell you that there is a simple answer to this, that once you learn the tool you have it as a skill you adopt in all situations but this is not the case! We are always learning and growing – we make mistakes, ‘put our foot in it’, unintentionally upset people and respond to situations, in ways that we find ourselves ruminating over at the most mundane of moments. Everyone does this. We are naturally sociable creatures but sometimes we feel anti-social, we want to be alone and that is ok. 

Being a ‘Grown Up’

As adults, we reflect on our behaviour and change it to improve our responses in the future but sometimes it can take a while to understand what we are doing wrong or even why we are responding the way that we are. I could be very wrong, but one of the largest factors that determine our response to things seems to be control. 

To feel calm and ‘in control’ of a situation, it is reasonable to want all the facts or information about it and to want to be as organised as possible. Being methodical, professional and able to manage a situation is not a problem – if it is your situation in the first place. When we become embroiled or stressed about things that we care about but are actually not our responsibility, we feel out of control and that is when the problems really begin. 

Perhaps you’re a young person dealing with matters that should not be your concern.

This can be because of family circumstances or because you have interfered. It is down to you, to be honest with yourself about this. Sadly, sometimes there are situations where we are forced to grow up and deal with things far quicker than is fair. This means that your response to things is often far deeper than is necessary and you may find being around your peers quite difficult because the situations they are responding to are ‘trivial’ in comparison to yours but are still difficult for them. 

Regardless of your personal situation feeling out of control is difficult. For example, perhaps a group of friends have agreed to go to an event. You are attending but you did not purchase the tickets and want to know the arrangements quite a way in advance. Your other friends are happy to wait a while before sorting the arrangements. Because you do not know what is happening and are reliant on others you feel out of control and therefore stressed and anxious. Feeling like this is removing your joy and excitement for the event.

Ask yourself the following questions (and be really honest with yourself):

  • Is anybody going to die because you do not have this information, right now?
  • Are there more important things that deserve your attention?
  • Do you know the overall plan?
  • Is it personal to you?
  • Is it your business?
  • If the overall plan did not take place would your life be ruined, or would you just be disappointed?
  • Can someone else take the worry – ie: is it down to someone else to take care of the tickets?
  • Can you research some of the information privately to put your mind at ease and sort the finer details later?
  • Are you causing drama for no reason?
  • Is anybody else really bothered?
  • Do you know all the facts of the situation or are you interfering?
  • Have you responded on impulse?
  • If you put on the news would you feel that this issue doesn’t matter anymore?
  • Do your friends/loved ones have a point?
  • If this was someone else could you laugh about it?


At times you’ll answer these questions and be so ‘in’ the situation that you won’t be able to be subjective.

Yep, you’ll be so stressed you’ll lie to yourself! That’s when a close friend or relative may ‘tell you about yourself!’ That’s ok – sometimes we need the perspective.

Sometimes it’s ok to dwell and ruminate but sometimes we need a fresh perspective to help us overcome a problem (and sometimes see we’ve been a bit daft…yes it does happen!)

Equally, there will be situations that you are absolutely within your right to feel stressed, anxious and upset about. For those, I am sad on your behalf. Those situations will help you grow to be more reasonable, empathic and understanding of other people. They will make you stronger but they will change your perception of the world for better or for worse. This is a part of life, growing and maturing and sadly, those around you will be there to rely on and support you through it but you may feel entirely alone because only you can work through them. First heartbreak, first fall out with your best friend or loved one…

When we feel threatened or out of control, often the response can come across as anger, short/clipped responses, negativity, sarcasm, outbursts of crying or rudeness. These responses can alienate you from those around you, but it actually does not make you feel good either. It affects your perspective and outlook towards everyday situations – you may find yourself muttering about the weather or grumbling about things that you would never normally moan about. If you ever find yourself responding like this and feeling frustrated it may be because you’re frustrated about something out of your control. Maybe you’re trying hard not to say anything and it’s coming out in inappropriate ways?

Now, this may seem utterly contradictory…

but actually not having control over a situation can be freeing. Worrying about the world and its problems is exhausting, right?! By not having control, it means you DON’T have to worry about it. The stress isn’t yours – it belongs to someone else and guess what… That’s ok! Why put yourself in the situation where you’re more stressed than you need to be? It would be madness to do that, wouldn’t it?!

You’ll hear parents of toddlers going through the Terrible Twos and Threes say, “Pick your battles” and this can be applied to all situations. Another common phrase is, “Not my circus, not my monkies” this is not to say that you dodge responsibility for things you feel passionately about, but it is a way to manage your feelings and emotions.

Is the situation out of your control?

“Pick your battles…Not my circus, not my monkies!”

**Please be advised that this blog is a matter of opinion and is based on the author’s experience and not based on any formal research. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not of Educational Life CIC.