Attending an industry webinar on mental health during the week I was reminded of Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence and the premise that there are two areas (circles) we can focus our thoughts and efforts on, those of concern and within that, a smaller circle of influence.

Many of us spend a lot of our time in the outer circle of concern (things we have no control or influence over) rather than concentrating on the inner areas of influence.  For example, we have no control over whether it will rain (concern) but we can keep an umbrella in the car (control).  We cannot control something that has happened in the past, for example spilling our coffee a moment ago (concern), but we can control how we react to it right now.

The webinar introduced me to a more nuanced approach; defining the circles into four; an outer circle of Zero Control, within that a circle of Minimal Influence, within that the circle of Direct Influence, and finally a smaller circle of Control.  Watch this video for a full explanation.

In the current environment, many of us are feeling uncertain and maybe even out of control.  Many of our thoughts are sitting in that Zero Control or Minimal Influence circle.  And even our circle of Direct Influence has reduced.  We can’t (unless you’re one of the scientists working on the vaccine) control the virus.  Many aspects of our lives have become out of our control, we can’t control when lock down will be lifted/reduced/increased.  When we don’t know how long the situation will last or if it will get worse, it’s hard to make decisions for the future.

And of course, many of us have lost jobs, been stood down (furloughed), had hours reduced or are worried we’re about to lose our job. There is a great deal of uncertainty and it is difficult to know what the next day might bring.  How do you plan, how do you make decisions?  There is so much we cannot control, and this can have a negative impact on our mental health.

Whilst our circle of Control is smaller right now, it’s important for us to try and focus our attention there.  Small things matter; controlling what and how much social media we absorb, creating routines, getting enough sleep, building in exercise, eating nutritious foods, drinking enough water, connecting virtually with people that make us feel positive and happy.

When we focus only on what we can control we feel less out-of-control.  If we focus more on what we can control and less on what we can’t, our circle of control naturally expands.  And that’s a good feeling.

If this has raised greater concerns for you speak with your GP or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

You can watch a recording of the helpful webinar I attended here, thanks to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA): “Mental Health Webinar: dealing with uncertainty & loss”

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash