2020 was nothing if not a test of our mettle. From the fear of COVID-19 to the economic shuttering of the globe to the U.S. election, stress and frustration have been through the roof.

Amidst the many lessons we’ve learned during this time—how to manage distress, solitude, and uncertainty chief among them—one maxim seems particularly true today: The world doesn’t control you. You, and only you, control you.

Some might argue that there’s a great deal of terror in this; after all, it asks us to recognize that we must take complete, radical responsibility for our lives.

But within this also rests the fact that it gives us a great deal of freedom—and the chance to claim the life, and perspective, we desire.

Like most, I’ve found myself all too often consumed by doomsurfing in the last year—addicted to negative news and external events that ultimately took me decades away from the notion that I am at liberty to choose how I think, feel, and behave, while also upping my chances of future mental health issues and causing burnout. Allowing the outside world to sway the way I lived was, in short, giving away my own power. The news I was constantly fueling myself with was altering my thoughts—and, therefore, my life.

Think of it this way. Your thoughts create a flow. They directly impact your feelings and actions, and, when positive, are as smooth as a stream rushing down a mountain. You choose to be in or out of the flow by the thoughts you cultivate. If you’re in the flow, the more you’ll feel the energies of joy, bliss, benevolence, happiness, satisfaction, confidence, and love.

But streams, like life, contain rocks along the way. Some are pebble-small; others are boulder-large. Some of the rocks—of the metaphorical sort—may be financial or relationship issues (to say nothing of those newsfeeds on our phones). Others may be health and wellness. Frequently, they’re interrelated, forming a more formidable barrier against the vitality attempting to pass through. If you are mired in the energies of anxiety, anger, resentment, fear, depression, and jealousy, you are not in your flow, or using your capacity to control yourself to the best of your advantage.

That said, just as a stream finds a way around rocks, you can find ways around—and through—your problems.

The first step towards a solution is gathering your breath. It’s in the pause that you can take a step back and consider the big picture. Assess the situation as if you were reading the river. Acknowledge your feelings and aim to interpret them. What is your anger trying to tell you? (Chances are it has little to do with your car problems and more to do with a misalignment between your passion and your actions.) Is your resentment indicating that you’re giving too much of yourself? Is your anxiety rooted in people or things that are pulling you too far away from your ideal self? Is your jealousy due to the fact that you aren’t living up to your potential? Analyze, identify what you can control, and self-correct.

From there, you can work with the obstacle in front of you from a calmer, more balanced point of view; the waters, so to speak, will be less tumultuous, which will allow you to see the bottom more clearly. Are the rocks you’re bumping into the same kind of rocks, over and over again? Meaning, if that rock represents your financial freedom, and it keeps presenting itself, it’s due time to begin learning what you need to do.

Regroup from there. Oftentimes, our recurring problems stem from a deeper, underlying belief that is working against us. If you believe you are unworthy of genuine love, compassion, and respect, then you will likely find yourself in a relationship where such aspects seldom emerge. If you perpetually live paycheck to paycheck, then you probably hold misguided beliefs about money.

Challenge your beliefs until you find one that will enable you to find your way around the rock; that very thing holding you back. You, and you alone, are the secret to a smoother flow. Fluidity arrives when you see a rock and deem it not as a dam but as an opportunity for growth; nothing in life—neither pain nor pleasure, neither worry nor grief—is eternal. As the wonderful Dr. Rick Hanson once said, “if you try to hold onto pleasurable experiences, that is futile and painful as well. Any moment of experience is utterly impermanent—so trying to cling to any experience is both a frustrating and a doomed strategy for lasting happiness. Even most of physical reality is continually changing, from the quicksilver quivering of quantum foam to the slow waltzes of galaxies over billions of years. People come and people go, all the more precious for their inevitable passing. Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. In the metaphor of the “eight worldly winds” from Tibet, there will be gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and scandal, pleasure and pain. If you let them flow, you can ride the waves of life with gratitude and grace, and without drowning.”

A brighter, more optimistic outlook springs from this recognition, and asks you to be truthful, to live with integrity, to create—and fulfill—intentions, to take the fact that you control you with utter seriousness. Like the stream that flows with effortless momentum toward the ocean, with the water renewed, absorbed, and returned through droplets of rain to the stream, you also have a cycle. It is continuous. You change, becoming wiser, more compassionate, more authentic. A stream, an ocean, clouds and rain, are always water. Likewise, you are always you—and, in the end, the only way forward.

In the meantime, I’d highly suggest turning off the news.