Do you feel like you’re wasting your precious energy? You’re living with a serious health issue or a loved one is so you have that to deal with. And life continues to happen, throwing curve balls your way. You’re trying to deal with it all and feeling pretty stressed out about it.

Stress can be exhausting. You have to manage your energy levels as it is and there isn’t a lot of spare energy. You may be wondering how you can make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy.

Picture of a person sitting down and catching the curve balls that life throws at them. They are holding three balls in one arm and on them is written, shit happens, stress and no time for you. They have another bigger ball in their other hand and on it is written bigger curve ball. Life is throwing them an even bigger curve ball and the person is saying, "I can't hold that! I don't have the energy!' The caption reads: How do you ensure you're not wasting your precious energy? If you're not sure, get in touch with Return to Wellness and we can help make sure you don't.

That’s a valid and important wondering. And I have a very handy model to share with you to help you make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy. I’ve been sharing it with carers lately and they have found it really useful. I reckon you will too.

How to make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy

#stress can be exhausting. When you live with a #health issue, managing your energy levels is really important. You don’t have spare to waste. Read here about how not to waste your precious energy #fatigue #spoonie #chronicillness Click To Tweet

When you are dealing with a situation that feels stressful, there are three things you need to consider about the situation to ensure you’re not wasting your precious energy.

  • What is in your direct control?
  • What are those things or people you can influence? You can’t directly control them, but you may be able to influence it in some way.
  • What is it about the situation that you cannot control or influence? You just cannot make any sort of change?

It’s all about what you can control and influence and what you can’t

When you have identified what you can control or influence, then you can plan what to do next.

For those items, situations or people you cannot control or influence, you may be concerned about it, and you have to find a way of not wasting your precious energy on it.

This is a picture of a model by Stephen Covey from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). It has three cocentric circles. The middle circle says Direct Control and this is about focusing your energies on what is in your direct control. The next circle says Influence. This is about focusing your energies on what you can influence. The outer circle says Concern. These are situations, people and concepts we cannot control or influence. We may be concerned about it, but focusing our energies on these things won't get us anywhere. So we have to let go of them. The point of this model is to focus on what is in your direct control and influence and to let go of what you cannot. This will help you ensure you're not wasting your precious energy.

This model is from the work of Stephen Covey and he describes it in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I highly recommend the book. It describes what are life skills that we all need.

This model encourages to focus on what you can control and influence and to let go of what you cannot. Covey talks about increasing your sphere of direct control and influence and minimising your sphere of concern. The sphere of concern are those things in your life you cannot change so you don’t want to expend your energy on them.

So how do you know what you can control and influence and what you can’t?

I’ll demonstrate this by giving you some examples.

Example 1 – Your financial wellbeing

Let’s start with the economy. The economy feels like some vast abstract concept but we know its importance to the financial wellbeing of our nation and even our own personal financial wellbeing. But we can’t control it. We may wonder if we can even influence it.

One way we can influence the economy is through our vote for public officials and politicians. We can vote for those whom we feel may make the best choices for our nation’s economy and our financial wellbeing.

The direct control we have is of our personal finances. So we cannot control the economy directly, but we can control creating a budget, choosing what to spend our money on, savings, investing, applying for benefits, etc.

Example 2 – The doctor with zero bedside manner

This is a scenario many of us will have dealt with. The doctor with a zero bedside manner who speaks to you as if you were a child and they, they are the great god of medicine.

Where you place yourself in relation to doctors can impact whether or not you are wasting your precious energy. There is a doctor standing on a pedestal saying, 'I am THE expert! Listen to me! Do as I say!' On the pedestal is written 'Great God of Medicine.' A woman is standing looking up at the doctor, frowning an thinking, 'Am I meant to bow? I don't like how this doctor speaks to me.'

You cannot control how the doctor will speak to you. That is in your sphere of concern. That may feel disappointing, but don’t go wasting your precious energy on trying to control a person. Because you can’t.

You can influence the doctor by how you speak to him/her. That is in your sphere of influence. What you say and how you say it may influence them, it may cause them to change their approach in communicating with you. But it also may not. Definitely have a go at influencing, just be aware that it isn’t a 100% guarantee to get you what you want.

What you can directly control is

  • what you tell the doctor
  • the tone of voice you choose to use, and, very importantly,
  • how you choose to respond to what the doctor says and how they say it

When interacting with doctors and #healthcare professionals, what you can directly control is what you tell them, the tone of voice you choose to use and, very importantly, how you choose to respond to what they say and how they… Click To Tweet

Here’s a hint regarding the doctor with zero bedside manner

Check your mental image and thoughts of such doctors. Do you see them on a pedestal, greater than you because of their education and profession? Do you have the expectation that they will sort you out and maybe even cure you? God-like?

Remember, they have to go to the toilet too. They are human, like you. They have mental health, like you.

So make that mental image of two equals meeting to resolve the same issue, which is getting the best for you and your health. Two equals who each have a different role and each bring a different set of skills to the table. Both roles are valid. And both sets of skills are necessary for getting the best for you and your health.

Example 3 – Controlling your health

It’s a frustrating, scary and a very real realisation that we cannot control 100% whether we got cancer, an auto-immune condition, a neurological illness or something else. We got it. We have to deal with it. The fact that we got it is in our area of concern from a control perspective.

This is a picture of a model by Stephen Covey from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). It has three cocentric circles. The middle circle says Direct Control and this is about focusing your energies on what is in your direct control. The next circle says Influence. This is about focusing your energies on what you can influence. The outer circle says Concern. These are situations, people and concepts we cannot control or influence. We may be concerned about it, but focusing our energies on these things won't get us anywhere. So we have to let go of them. The point of this model is to focus on what is in your direct control and influence and to let go of what you cannot. In this picture there is also a line going from the centre of the middle circle to the outer circle. Where the line starts in the very middle circle it says 'you have control'. Where the line ends at the end of the circle of concern, it says 'you don't have control or influence'. You can think of this model as a scale. As you move further away from the centre of the circle of direct control, you have less control and influence. This will help you ensure you're not wasting your precious energy.

What we can do is influence our health through our lifestyle choices in what we eat, drink, exercise we take, and how we deal with the impact of the health issue.

Our choices and the responsibility we take for our choices are in our direct control. 

Your energy is precious

You or a loved one are probably in a place where you have to pace your energy due to physical and/or cognitive fatigue. As you pace your physical and mental energy, you have to pace your heart and soul energy too. You can’t keep wasting your heart and soul energy on people and things where it won’t make any difference. This model by Stephen Covey helps you to make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy.

The woman is standing and smiling saying, 'I now know what I can control and influence. I feel so much better!' There are three circles in front of her. One has concern written on it, another has influence written on it and the third has direct control written on it. In the circle of concern she has placed 'an even bigger curve ball' that life has thrown at her and a ball with 'shit happens' written on it. She learned that she cannot control or influence these two items so she is no longer focusing her energy on them. In the circle of influence, she has placed the ball 'bigger curve ball' in it. She knows she cannot directly control this situation, but she recognises how she can influence it. In the circle of direct control she has placed two balls. One says 'I can manage stress' and the other says 'time for me'. These are two things she learned she can directly control.

What’s it like for you?

In which areas do you spend a lot of your energy? In your sphere of concern, influence or direct control? Which situations do you find it easy to stand in your sphere of direct control? And which situations do you default to expending energy in your sphere of concern? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar). 

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to take control and positively influence that you typically find stressful, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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