I was going to title this blog post “staying positive when the world seems awful” but I realised that positivity may not actually be possible for many people, particularly at the moment, and I think that toxic positivity can be a real problem. So instead this is more about survival…taking care of our emotional wellbeing as well as we can when it feels like we’re being bombarded on all sides by horrendous news. Because even when everything seems topsy turvy, we still need to find ways to function.
This post isn’t going to tell you to go to a spa or meditate for hours (although those are both legitimate choices), rather it’s going to look at some practical ways we can stop feeling so helpless as the world inches closer to the next instalment of A Handmaid’s Tale.
Consume news intentionally. Whether this means including breaks to look at the news in your schedule for the day, taking note of how it affects you (do you need to discuss it afterwards?) or simply being selective with your sources, we need to find ways to avoid doomscrolling. Sometimes it can feel like the more we know, the better we can respond to the situation, but often all it does is leave us feeling miserable and powerless. And that brings me to my next point…
Do something to make the world a better place. No you can’t overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. No you can’t end the war in Ukraine. Yes, you can do things to make the world a better place. At the start of the pandemic I was feeling incredibly anxious and helpless, as many of us were. For the first couple of weeks I read obsessively, thinking I could somehow protect my loved ones if I knew everything there was to know about Covid. Then I realised that I needed to actually DO something. So I took a step back and thought about all the issues that I feel passionate about and which ones I could help with, beyond just donating money. Thanks to over a decade of austerity, homelessness has increased by 94%, something I really noticed when we moved back from New York. So I found a brilliant charity called NightStop and now (after a lengthy vetting process) we host a young person about once every couple of months for a few nights while they get help sorting out a long-term option. Obviously, I still often feel distraught by the terrible things happening in the world, but helping in a tiny way takes away some of that feeling of powerlessness. So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, raising money for a cause or hosting a refugee (if the government get their act together with visas), find something you can do to help. I guarantee it’ll help you feel better.
Find time to disengage. I know I said this post wasn’t going to be about going to the spa or meditating for hours, but it is vital for our emotional wellbeing to be ok with taking space from the news and social media, even if it’s just for half an hour. Watch a silly TV program (I can highly recommend ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, go out with a friend and try not to discuss dismal world affairs the whole time, or do something that takes you out of your head and into your body like yoga.
Avoid the temptation to numb. Honestly, when I first saw the news about Roe v. Wade, my first reaction was “I need a glass of wine.” And whilst I have had some wine since then, it was to celebrate my wedding anniversary on Monday, not to stop myself from feeling all the sadness and anger that came with finding out that women’s rights were being attacked. I’ve learnt the hard way that if I don’t let myself experience my emotions at the time, I either get a migraine or my immune system takes a dip and I get tonsillitis. This is the same for a lot of people (if you’re interested in why, read ‘When the Body Says No’ by Gabor Mate. So let yourself have a cry if you need to, find a space you can shout and stomp, or do some free writing. And then, if you still fancy it, by all means have a glass of wine.
Right now the world feels pretty hopeless, so be gentle with yourself, be gentle with others and don’t make the mistake I did of reading Fox News to “get another perspective”.