Grasping for Control Straws During Times of Uncertainty


I like to call myself a recovering perfectionist and functioning control-freak. It’s not the most glowing review of myself, but it’s accurate and authentic. I know I’m not alone as misery must love company. Can all my enneagram type one sisters raise a hand? As reformers, we are self-controlled and crave order and consistency. If you live with a type one, you’ve likely gotten the wrath during these recent, unsettling times.


When the stay-at-home order commenced, I, like many, felt a range of emotions. My most prominent one was trying to come to terms with ambiguity. Frozen II’s “Into the Unknown” felt like my new theme song. Managing a full-time job on top of a new one, called stay-at-home-mom, and not knowing how long I’d need to tread water to stay afloat kicked my anxiety into overdrive. Did I mention that my default coping mechanism is to think of worst-case scenarios? It’s a defense approach. If I think of the worst possible situation and sit in it for a while, I wouldn’t feel so off guard if it came true. Not super healthy, but I’m aware of it and am working on it. The problem in using this approach is thinking about hypotheticals during a global pandemic never ends, which meant my brain never really shut off.


In one of my weekly telehealth therapy sessions, my therapist said something that stuck with me. We were discussing how worked up I was getting over small things. “You’re grasping for straws of control,” she said. She was right. I needed some type of control to feel regulated and was trying to control situations that were beyond my power. Trying to control my husband and unpredictable tiny humans wasn’t a healthy choice. Instead, I brainstormed ways to balance the stability I needed with the obscurity I faced.


I found some ways to regulate myself during this time of uncertainty. I’m not an expert but offer these to other moms grasping for straws.


Re-watch a favorite series or reread a favorite book.

This is one that I was doing and wasn’t even aware that it was coming from a need for control. Every streaming service out there is releasing new content as more people are at home. It’s hard to keep up. Don’t get me wrong, Love is Blind, Tiger King and Defending Jacob were three of my favorite binges in the quarantine’s peak, but I was craving familiarity. My therapist helped me see that re-watching a series I’ve already watched many times was a coping skill. My husband may have rolled his eye when I turned on One Tree Hill AGAIN, but I don’t care. This technique also works for favorite books, podcasts, etc.


Make or order some comfort food.

It seems easy, but it wasn’t for me. My family has been trying to support local businesses affected by COVID-19, which meant we were trying new restaurants. Anyone who knows me knows that once I find something I like, I stick to it and order it repeatedly. Am I saying not to try anything new? Nope. But, if you’ve had one of those days, comfort food is probably a better option. Food can make or break my mood, so taste testing isn’t smart for me when feeling overwhelmed.


Turn to comforting activities or hobbies.

My daughter loves arts and crafts. We’ve done a lot of them while stuck at home. Turns out, I like coloring as well, and it’s therapeutic. When I pick up a colored pencil and am focused on staying in-between the lines on the page, I don’t focus on the ten other things currently bothering me. Whether it’s an adult coloring book with curse words like the one I have or borrowing a page from your kid’s book, try it out. I do recommend doing this after the tiny humans are asleep or not around. There is nothing more frustrating than coloring a beautiful picture to have it destroyed by a toddler. Type ones … I know you feel my pain.


Finally, it’s important to keep something in mind as we weather this storm. You cannot control what happens to you on a given day, and you cannot control people around you, but you can control how you react, which is the most essential aspect of control there is.

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Courtney is a tiny human tamer, spouse, advocate, ambassador, and storyteller. And, after years of therapy, she's also unapologetically herself. Courtney is a journalist-turned-marketer spending daytime hour as a Director of Marketing and Public Relations. When the clock strikes 5 pm, the caffeine turns to wine, and the supermom cape comes out. Courtney and her husband, Kyle, are parents to Ruby (born March 2016) and Miles (born April 2018). After a life-changing battle with Postpartum Depression, Courtney found her passion for advocacy work. As an official ambassador for 2020 Mom, she brings awareness and fights for change in the maternal mental health field. As a Kansas City native and University of Kansas alum living in enemy territory, Courtney can regularly be found in KU Jayhawks or Kansas City Chiefs or Royals gear. Her recent accomplishments include earning a master's degree in Strategic Communication from Maryville University in 2019, joining the St. Louis Mom's Blog contributing team, and using humor and self-deprecation to get through most of life's crap, especially, uncomfortable situations.