The environment is in crisis, the bees are dying, viruses are spreading, immigrant children are being detained, women are speaking out against abusers, smart homes are hacking away at our privacy, school shootings are more frequent, our beauty products are bad for our health, fast fashion is hurting workers in sweatshops, and no one is getting enough probiotics.
Phew. It’s a lot, right? Sorry to do that to you all at once. It’s completely understandable if that entire paragraph has just inflamed the undercurrent of anxiety that seems to be a feature of our everyday life.
But sometimes, we have to name the monster to overcome it, and taking a deep breath and facing the mountain of stuff we’re constantly told to care about is a beautiful way to realize how it’s making us feel.
Or even, maybe, indifferent?
Fear not, embattled soldier of the new decade. You are absolutely not alone.
We always encourage venting negative emotions, but once that’s done, we’re about finding ways to make you feel better. We can’t solve all the problems the world faces (well, not right now), but we can offer you coping strategies to strengthen your spirit.
Curate your feed: YOU are the doorman at the exclusive “club of your attention.”
First things first, let’s tackle the constant stream of negative news comin’ atcha. This is not about becoming a hermit and ignoring the news all the time, but you need to wrestle back control. If what’s happening in world news is important to you, then check a balanced, reliable news source once a day. CBC and BBC have good, impartial reporting on their world news pages and you can set them to open when you launch your browser in the morning.
For the sites we tend to spend a lot of time on throughout the day (thanks for nothing infinite scroll), it’s time to mute – even if it’s just temporarily – accounts that are feeding your anxiety.
Yes, it’s great to follow that feminist group on insta, but if most of the posts focus on bad things happening to women, or getting mad at a variety of straight white men, it’s ok to let it go.
We all care about the environment, but if that page on your feed keeps showing pictures of sea animals tangled up in plastic, we permit you to silence it.
We all know these problems exist, and that they are serious, but for your mental health, you need to focus on positive or solution-based content right now.
If you need to stay informed, ask around for positive social action accounts to follow or those that publish all the good news happening in the world. It will help balance things out. Here are a few we recommend:
And if you’re ok with not being fully up to date on global issues right now, that’s also fine; you have our permission to search #teacuppuppies before you get out of bed in the morning.
Pick one thing: You are just one human.
It’s tempting to say “it’s too overwhelming, why care about any of it?” but we’re willing to bet you’d have to work harder on not caring about anything, and you’d end up unfulfilled anyway.
Why not choose just one thing. You’re going to stand up for girl’s education. Or the rainforest. Or the next election. Whatever it is, start with small steps that feel like little wins.
Maybe you make a donation. Perhaps you find a group in your area who meet up to tackle the problem. Maybe you tweet at one politician asking for help. Perhaps you start a blog. Whatever those steps are, they are going to make you feel empowered, and when other causes come along, you can say to yourself, “it’s ok, that can be someone else’s thing. I’m already working on my cause.”
Feel free to change your “thing” when you feel the need. Maybe you do one small action, for one issue, each month. Or maybe you decide that each year on your birthday, you’re going to ask for people to buy goats for families in a developing country instead of wine for you.
Don’t worry about doing too little by choosing to care about one cause. The fact that you focus your limited energy and empathy on one issue gives you purpose.
Get together: Use the state of the world to bond with your tribe.
Sure, we could all call emergency “wine and bitch” evenings to lament the way the world feels like it’s falling apart, but why not channel that energy into something positive… together?
Once you’ve chosen your “one thing” and made a little step in that direction, others will be inspired and want to join. YOU are leading the way out of the dark tunnel of overwhelm — many drops make an ocean! (Insert your own motivational rallying cry, we won’t judge.)
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Into helping out the environment? Find a local ‘cleanup’ group (they’re popping up all over now) and spend a day with friends helping clean up a beach or a green space.
- Worried about the bees? Get together with friends and create ‘flower bombs‘ you can use to sow wildflowers in abandoned places.
- Use your talent to raise money for a cause: You’ve picked “your thing,” now rope others into helping you fundraise while having fun. Could you teach a yoga/stretch class, host a little bake sale at home, have a one-off accounting clinic, or teach an hour of tennis? Whatever it is, you can charge people a small fee, do something you love, and donate the proceeds.
- Start a book club with a theme (“people who changed the world,” “Books to calm us,” “Women making a difference”) and start empowering each other with knowledge.
- Want to empower the next generation? Organizations like Big Brother Big Sister are always looking for volunteers to spend an hour a week with at-risk kids and teens.
- Concerned about fast fashion? Look up three stores in your city that make quality, conscious clothing and give them a shout out on your stories tagging fashionista friends (see, you don’t even have to get out of bed or spend money if you don’t have it, spreading the word helps too).
Create your own ceremony: Sometimes, you gotta leave it up to the gods.
Many of us have left formal religion behind, but it has been shown that having some kind of ceremony or prayer practice leaves people feeling calmer and more hopeful. If you’re not the kind to kneel and ask a higher power for help (and hey, that power can come in many forms), why not make your own ceremony?
Who’s to say you can’t light a circle of candles at the start of each week, lie in the middle of it, and just offer up your thoughts and fears to the universe?
Or turn all the lights off for 3 minutes, play a song that’s special to you, and hold yourself in a tight hug, while imagining a beautiful white light lifting your worries away.
You can even elevate daily routines into something comforting. Make a mental note always to smell the coffee grounds, take ten deep breaths, and gently stretch your neck while waiting for the kettle to boil; or hum a silly song from your childhood and think of three things you’re grateful for every time you brush your teeth.
Make it your own. You may be surprised by how a little silence, ceremony and space can help when a “just stop worrying” won’t.
Exercise perspective: Take three steps back and see the big picture.
Finally, it’s important to take a big step back. And yes, this may be the hardest of all the strategies to undertake. For anyone who has felt swept up in a deluge of anxiety, depression, and empathy exhaustion, “change your perspective” can seem like one more ‘to do’ on an impossibly long list of mental tasks.
To break it down, here are three questions to ask yourself when it all feels too much:
- Is this true or is it the fear talking? If you’re anything like us, you’ll hear something innocuous like “there are more storms these days,” and it will spin out in your mind to “ohmygod the climate is in freefall and now we have to get used to crazy weather patterns, and soon all the water will be polluted, and our grandchildren are never going to see real oak trees and dolphins in the wild!!” That’s a lot to process. Let’s stick with what’s true and let go of the disaster scenarios your anxiety monster has painted, shall we?
- Can I do anything? If the answer is yes, great, take a small, manageable step in that direction, and you’ll feel better. If the answer is no, then it’s ok to let it go (there are already brilliant people working on antibiotic resistance, you can take a step back on that one).
- What’s the balance? It can be helpful to remind ourselves there’s usually much more to the story than meets the eye. And more often than not, positive things are happening that we forget to notice.
More people than ever are going to therapy. You could see this as a signal that we are all mentally unhealthy, neurotic, and self-obsessed these days, or that lots of people are now getting the professional help they need to be happy, healthy humans!
Women are speaking out about bad things that have happened to them, but because of it, society is going through an upheaval, and changing for the better.
We don’t ever want to trivialize global problems, but if you can find a positive buoy to hang onto in the sea of uncertainty – grab it!
Stop the flow of bad news, pick one thing, find your tribe, harness the power of ceremony, then take a step back. That’s your prescription for the next few weeks.
Now go forth into this crazy world and start to feel a little bit better about it all – it’s the best thing for you… and the world.