When I was a kid, I often found myself laying on my bed, listening to music and staring at the ceiling. It was my way of processing my emotions.
I found myself doing the same thing today.
I’ve been very overwhelmed lately. I have felt so many emotions, mostly fear and sadness. First it was the Church’s new policy about same sex marriage and children, then it was Paris (yes, I know about the other recent violent attacks as well). Also, the refugee crisis and the GOPs reaction to a real, human tragedy and death has left me scared and hopeless for the state of my home country. On top of this is continued gun violence in the States. The news media (and social media) has used fear and war mongering to work society into a tizzy and it’s working.
I was blessed/cursed with a very intense heart. I feel a lot. I feel too much. I take on the pain of others. I am a cisgender, heterosexual, white, American woman, I’ve always felt fairly safe. These recent events have not directly affected me but my heart has ached and tears have rolled down my cheeks. I have had restless nights and been physically sick.
What do we do when things gets scary and overwhelming? My natural reaction is a desire to pack up, move into an RV in the mountains, completely cutting myself off from society and living a solitary life with my cat and my books. However, that’s not only impractical, it’s utterly unhelpful.
What I have found to be helpful is the following:
- Facebook detox. I recently deleted the Facebook app from my phone and have declared a vacation with an undetermined return date. I found Facebook to be a swirling void of negativity and argument. I was heartbroken by the way people, sometimes strangers, reacted to those who are genuinely struggling or scared. The lack of love was sucking me dry and I had to leave. My account still exists, I’m just not logging in. I must admit, I don’t miss it.
- Keeping a gratitude journal. It sounds so trite, but it’s true. I found that simply writing down a handful of things I was blessed with really put things into perceptive. I believe that acknowledging my own blessings is incredibly helpful when the world seems hopeless and helpless.
- Find ways you can actually help. I am not one to shame or mock people for using photo filters and hashtags as a way of expressing support. I believe that can actually be very powerful. However, there are ways to help in physical or monetary ways. I understand that many of us don’t have money to throw around, but even just a dollar or two can make a difference. If that’s truly not an option, reaching out to your local government is a great option as well. I wrote my first letter to my government when I was 15 and continue the practice today. Never underestimate the power of one voice.
- Express love whenever possible. With friends, family, and complete strangers. We are truly one human family and we seem to have forgotten that. It’s as simple as being kind. Kindness is good for the soul, especially if you lean toward the dark and twisty like I do.
While the world may seem to be falling down around us and things are scary, we can find the small glimmers of light and extend that light to the rest of the world. It’s very possible, hard as it may seem. Take a deep breath, get offline, go look at something pretty, and find someone to help.