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Getting Your Life Back Under Control

So this one is close to my heart. I just realized I hadn’t posted a new blog since the end of December, which is indicative of my sense that my life had taken on–well, a life of its own. I’ve been in survival mode, just trying to keep my head above water.

If you’re in the same boat, this one’s for you!1) Take time out to assess, even if you think you have no time.

What that assessment entails is simple. Ask yourself the question: Am I living in line with my priorities?

If you’ve been on overdrive, just getting one thing done after another as if they’re all of equal importance, no wonder things feel out of control. You’re not the one driving the car.

Here’s the follow-up: Is this a temporary state, in which case you just need to persevere and get through it, or has it become your normal way of functioning? If that’s the case, please proceed to #2. Which is…

2) Make lists.

You can do this the old-fashioned way, with pen-and-paper. Whiteboards are good. Your computer or phone, of course. And there are lots of organizational apps that can help, too, though you might not want to spend the time finding the app.

The lists should be: what’s essential, what’s preferable (but still optional), and what’s so insignificant that you need to just decline. You’ll probably want to reference your calendar when you do this.

3) Practice saying no.

Assertiveness is a skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. If you’re overloaded, it’s often a sign that you’re not flexing your “no” muscle enough.

Remind yourself of why it’s important that you say no. Remind yourself that you have the right to say no. Remind yourself of the personal consequences of saying yes to everything (that ¬†you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and perpetually behind the eightball, unable to give yourself fully to what matters most.)

All no’s are not created equal. Some have more consequences than others, and so you need to proceed with caution. There are plenty of ways to say no (different wording you can use, different mediums by which to convey the no, including by email, text, phone, in person, etc.) You might want to practice your phrasing in front of a mirror. Or if it’s by email or text, write it a few different ways and see which is best.

But being willing to prioritize your own needs is crucial for this step, and it’s not always easy. You might want a pep talk from someone else in your life who recognizes your worth and value, and who can do the reminding I mentioned above.

Sometimes it’s good to have someone else tell you what you need to internalize, until you can tell yourself. So until that time:

You have worth and value, and you deserve to live in accordance with what truly matters to you. How you spend your time should adequately reflect that.

Photo by Rob Swystun

Getting Your Life Back Under Control

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2017). Getting Your Life Back Under Control. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jan 2017
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