The overwhelm started slowly. I would find myself disturbed by a news story or a social media thread here and there. Then an election news cycle took over my digital feed. Social justice issues bombarded my channels. A pandemic dragged on. I woke every day inundated with more news, more updates, more shocks. Anger and distress became my norm. It didn’t matter what my current circumstances were; I felt trapped in a mire of heartbreak and defeat.
My phone blew up all the time with friends and family messaging, “Did you see this?” “Did you read the report?” “OMG, can you believe what is happening?” It seemed that everyone I knew was fearful, alarmed, despondent.
Take a moment each day to focus on what is right. Even if waking up is the only thing you can count that day, count it.
I didn’t know what to do, and that made it worse. I just knew I was supposed to be doing something. I had no instruction booklet, and the world offered no clarity. Divisiveness seemed to take over, and no consensus was available. Some days it was hard to breathe.
I berated myself for feeling bad. My family was healthy; we were able to keep working; our day-to-day reality had not changed much. But I lost sleep thinking about the people whose worlds were turned upside down by events I only read about. In 24/7 angst, I spiraled.
Find What’s Yours to Do
Then I read an article that said not everyone needs to march in protest. Or run for office. So what is mine to do? First, I need to take care of myself. On an airplane, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first and then help someone else. So here are a few, simple ways to put on your mask first, to find the emotional and mental peace to move forward.
- Set boundaries. Put yourself on a digital diet. Be discerning in what news/content you really need. And think about the people in your life. Some relationships need boundaries too. If you don’t want to talk about a subject, be firm with those who want to talk through everything. Set times for when you are available to be the shoulder to lean on or the sounding board for someone’s outrage.
- Find the off switch for the questions/hand-wringing. Learn to live in the unknown for a bit. It is okay not to have answers. Push the questions aside. When the time is right, you can ponder them.
- Breathe. It sounds ridiculously simple, but it matters. Take time to focus on your breath. Nothing else. Just focus on the inhale/exhale. This can be a daily meditation for 10 or 20 minutes, a prayer time, or just sitting for a moment and quieting the mind. Breathe deeply.
- Be grateful. Yes, there is so much that seems wrong. But take a moment each day to focus on what is right. Even if waking up is the only thing you can count that day, count it.
- Trust. The world always rights itself. Every generation has a moment of feeling, This is the end. But here we are, still plugging away. Change takes time; shifts are often long-term and subtle. But love always wins.
One of my favorite expressions that I first heard at Unity is, “Put feet under your prayers.” A call to action. I am still trying to figure out the actions to take, what is mine to do. I create boundaries where needed and focus on breathing deeply a few minutes each day, and I feel how that nurtures my mind and body. I say prayers of thanks when I wake up and when I go to bed. And I open myself up to opportunities to serve, whatever that may look like over time.
Much is still unknown. But I trust the universe.