Picture this: You just bombed a big test, your friends are arguing, your phone won’t stop buzzing, and you've got three assignments due by the end of the week. Yikes!

Tina Fey, a star of Saturday Night Live, is stress-eating an entire cake.

Instead of stress-eating a whole cake, sit down and do a Circle of Control activity to figure out what you can actually control, ground yourself in that, and let go of the rest. By focusing on what you control, you'll slowly chip away at your worries and feel less anxious at the same time!

Elsa from Frozen sings,

Wanna learn how it's done? You'll need:

  • A large sheet of paper or a digital canvas

  • Colored markers or pens

  • A calm mind (or some chocolate to help you get there!)

Lets get started!

Write it down

Here is what you do:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and draw a circle.

  2. Inside the circle, write all the things you worry about that you can control (for example: studying more, organizing your schedule better, talking to a friend about what you need, etc.). This is your Circle of Control.

  3. Outside the circle, write all the things you worry about but can't control (for example: something that happened in the past, assignment deadlines, your teacher's grading policy, etc.).

Left hand draws a circle while the right hand manipulates the paper.

Notice how some of these things are related?

Now, grab a marker and connect the inner and outer circle items to show the ripple effects of your decisions.

David Rose from Schitt's Creek says,

Write down everything you can do (in other words, what you can control) that could make your worries outside the circle easier to handle.

Let's practice

An anime character wearing a crown looks determined and says,

It can be hard to figure out what you can do in response to things you can't control — but practice makes better, so let's look at a few examples together.

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Concern (outer circle)

  1. My teacher thinks I'm not smart.

  2. My friends will abandon me because I told them I needed space.

  3. It's too late to improve my grade in this class. I'll probably fail.

  4. I've got major fear of missing out (FOMO).

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Control (inner circle)

  1. Talk to the teacher & let them get to know you.

  2. Talk to your friends honestly and tell them that you value them.

  3. Talk to your teacher and your counselor to see what you can do about grades.

  4. Limit your social media presence and practice mindfulness instead.

Do something about it

Now that you've taken the time to complete the activity, look at the things you can control and make a plan.

A young man says,

In our scenario, you bombed a big test, your friends are arguing, your phone keeps buzzing, and you have several assignments due in a few days. What can you do?

  1. Study more: Stick to a schedule.

  2. Organize your time: Break down assignments into manageable chunks and do them little by little. Use your phone calendar app to track deadlines.

  3. Talk to friends: Ask for some space to focus on your studies.

  4. Turn off notifications: This way you won't get distracted with the buzzing.

Finally, put this paper on the bathroom mirror so you can see it every day.

Flaticon Icon Have you made your plan yet? Now go put it into action and see how focusing on what you can control makes your problems smaller and helps you feel less anxious.


Kate doesn't like her job. She is often bored and doesn't like her coworkers. What actions are in Kate's control? Select all that apply:


Give yourself a week to try to follow your plan.

How did it go? Did you follow your plan?

Life is full of surprises, but by focusing on what you can control, you’ll feel more empowered and less stressed.

Fran Drescher accepts an award. She says,

Remember, some things may be too big to handle by yourself, but asking for help is an action you control.

An hand emoji makes the

Take Action

An actress from The Next Step says,

Keep calm and circle on!

You control what you do. Choose to be proactive and calm when facing any issue in life. What can you do?


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