NOTE: If you look at the date, you’ll see this post was written before President Biden was elected and before Russia’s invasion happened, and at a season when more wildfires were happening. But its advice is still starkly relevant here in March 5, 2022 when I’m adding in this note.
Okay, so the world is scary and overwhelming. The Hopi, as a friend shared with me, have a word for this situation: kayaanisquatsi. It means “Nature that is out of balance or a way of life that is so crazy it cannot continue long term.” (The definition’s from What a Wonderful Word by Kane Miller.) This is certainly the case with our current situation in the world, especially in the US. Between the pandemic and wild fires and the current election, we are in a constant state of overload–and we all need some coping strategies to keep going in as healthy a way as possible.
This kind of situation shows us loud and clear we can’t fix everything, and that can make us deeply uncomfortable. But even here we can apply some strategies to do what we can where we are with what we’ve got. In this blog post I’ll be applying the findings of stress research (since I study, teach and write about stress, trauma, and conflict communication) to help us determine what some of those strategies are to help things get better and avoid making them worse, both for ourselves and for vulnerable populations.
Some Strategies, As Promised
So here we go: some strategies to keep doing what we can where we are with what we can to keep ourselves and others safe as best we can even in the midst of overwhelming situations:
- Stop the counterproductive negative self-talk in its tracks. An example: “There’s no point in trying if you can’t fix everything.” Or rather, should I say, accept your tendency toward negative self-talk, and acknowledge that your brain is trying to keep you safe through it, but that doesn’t mean it’s helpful to listen without critique. Accept yourself, offer self-compassion for thinking such things, but keep agency over your choices to do things differently.
- Along similar lines, but a little different, refuse to give in to all or nothing messages from external sources. Remember that the human part of this overwhelm—authoritarian fascism—thrives on keeping people in freeze mode. Don’t buy the messaging, and keep doing what you can.
- Don’t forget self-care! Remember that you can’t keep pouring out to others if you don’t take care of yourself. If you can, take some time in nature as much away from people as you can—or get a bath, or read a book, or whatever most genuinely well fuels you. My biggest secret to a reasonable pandemic has been outdoors exercise 1-3 hours most days during the last 6 months. It helps me stay sane. (I know I’m privileged in this—not everyone lives in a living situation where this is possible, or in an area where it is. Do what you can wherever you are!)
- Ask for help and support others as you’re able. There’s no shame in receiving help any more than there is giving it. We all genuinely need each other, and can do more together. That’s just fine.
- Contribute to making things better in the broader world however you can. These things may not look like much on their own, but if enough people do them, it will help everything.
Worried about the election? Vote for reasonable and empathetic leaders, and keep working to encourage others to do the same.
Worried about the pandemic? Keep working to do what you can to reasonably make things better for the greater good in light of the factors wherever you are. Encourage others to do the same as you’re same.
No time or energy to keep speaking up or acting yourself? Donate a few dollars to help reasonable organizations that are, if you can spare them.
No financial resources? Offer moral support to others who do have energy.
Heeding My Own Advice as I’m Able
These are only a few ideas to keep making things better where we are with what we have to make a better world for us all. I could go on, but I am personally out of time and energy today, so I’m going to heed my own advice and go exercise outdoors while it’s still light out on one of the last nice days of fall.
A Final Charge
Go team #AssertiveSpirituality! Let’s keep doing what we can where we are with what we’ve got to make a healthier world for us all. We can do this thing.
Looking for more resources toward speaking up for what’s right and dealing with the conflict that results?
Boy, do we have got a free “Assertive Spirituality Guide to Online Trolls” for you (it actually helps you with conflict both online and off). To get it, sign up for our email newsletter (either in the top bar or by checking the appropriate box when commenting on this article). Once you’ve confirmed your email address, we’ll send you the link to the guide in your final welcome email. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we hope you’ll stick around for our weekly email updates. This summer we’re hoping to offer more online courses and other support resources for those advocating for the common good, and if you stay subscribed, you’ll be the first to know about these types of things when they pop up.