Staying Strong: Taking Control

Taking Control – Identifying the things you can control and influence

This is the third article in a series created to support front-line clinician’s wellbeing as they navigate the COVID 19 Crisis. The second element of the STRONG model of building resilience is T- Taking Control

There will be a lot of things that disrupt and go ‘wrong’ in the average clinician’s daily working life. At the best of times, healthcare organisations along with the patient cases that are presented are complex, ever-changing and unpredictable. As clinicians are now faced with an additional high pressure situation such as COVID-19 it could be easy to succumb to feelings of overwhelm and lack of control as it unfolds.

How we experience the world is shaped largely by our perceptions and interpretations of events and triggers. The most successful people, in work and in life, are those who have what psychologists call an ‘internal locus of control, the belief that their actions affect their outcomes. People with an external locus, on the other hand, are more likely to see circumstances and events as largely steered by external forces, which they perceive they have no or little control over.

Research has shown that these ‘internals’ who believe that they can work from their zone of influence, experience greater levels of success, and are much happier at work. This internal mindset also lowers job stress, lowers feeling of anxiety and leads to higher levels of motivation and commitment to your work.

At its simplest, what we focus our attention on matters. So concentrating on the things you influence and control will fuel a positive upward spiral and create a sense of agency and confidence, and you start to see the direct impact of your actions leading to these successful outcomes.

Here are some examples

What I cannot Control

The news and social media reporting on COVID – 19

What I can control

I can control what I view and how much I access it

I can control whether my notifications are switched off or on

I can control the boundaries I put in place for time I spend on news consumption

What I cannot Control

I cannot control how many patients are admitted or how severe their symptoms are

I can control

How I adhere to PPE, hygiene and distancing  protocols

How I encourage others to follow these guidelines as well

The attitude I bring to the situation

How I work and lead a team to ensure we are efficient, safe and productive

How we respond to the challenges and the choices we make to address them

How I exercise sound, clinical judgement as I would with any other patient

Controlling the controllables: Take a moment now and reflect: 

In order to increase your internal locus of control, you can ask yourself the following questions…

  1. What do I have direct control of at present?
  2. Where am I focusing my attention and energy?
  3. What are the prompts or triggers that take my focus on what is outside of my sphere of control? (e.g. friends talking in a catastrophising way about the virus).
  4. Identify an action that you can choose to respond to this that takes you back into a zone of control (e.g. asking friends or colleagues to dial down the heat in the conversation about COVID-19 around you or choosing to leave the conversation).

Feeling we are in control, or masters of our own destiny at work and at home, is one of the strongest drivers of our wellbeing and performance and our capacity to cope with life’s challenges and adversities. Being intentional about where we focus our attention is something clinicians can all engage in. Identifying the areas where your actions and behaviour will have a real impact, will, ultimately benefit you, your colleagues and the patients in your care.

Stay Strong | Kia Kaha



2 thoughts on “Staying Strong: Taking Control

  1. Jenny Laurence

    Hello Ruth, I have just discovered your work.
    I am a nurse and very excited about the STRONG model.
    It is the piece of the puzzle I was missing!
    Nga Mihi Nui

    1. Ruth Post author

      Hi Jenny, Im so pleased it resonated with you. It was made for people like you in mind! My clients are finding it particularly helpful during these post COVID times. Do stay connected as there will be more in this space.


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