Today’s article is all about taking care of yourself in the face of the almost constant bombardment of information about the extraordinarily upsetting violence that occurred in the last week in Egypt, Paris, Nigeria and Mali.
It’s hard to avoid news, especially when it’s 24/7 providing details about tragic events such as the downing of the Russian passenger jet, the horrible attacks in Paris, the terrible blasts in the Nigerian markets, and (just now starting up in earnest), the hotel siege in Mali..
Often we don’t want to avoid it, since we are empathetic human beings who care about others’ pain and suffering. We feel as though paying attention to what they are going through, and having knowledge about the specifics, not only provides a way to “be with” them but also gives us some sense of how possibly we might be able to protect ourselves and our loved ones from similar dangers.
The problem is that as human beings we can’t pay attention to such things without our emotions being stirred up, with the result that we may very well feel immense fear, anger, sadness and grief.
One emotion that people have been expressing a great deal here in the United States is anger. This is especially true as various public figures talk about possible retaliation against the people who committed the awful crime in Paris. There has been so much anger and aggression expressed that I feel moved to encourage you to protect your peace of mind by backing off from listening to the kinds of communications that stir up anxiety and anger in yourself.
So here are my suggestions for maintaining your peace of mind as much as possible:
- Limit your exposure to upsetting news. Unless your job requires you to keep up with every new development, TURN OFF THE TV! Turn off news alerts on your phone and other electronic devices. Stop checking for updates every time you have a pause in your daily activities. NOT because you don’t care, but because you DO.
Know that It’s specifically because you feel immense compassion for the people directly affected by these events that you need to take periodic breaks from being a witness to, and thinking about, the aftermath of the crisis they’ve just been through.
- Take long, slow deep breaths. A good rule of thumb for how often to do this is “Whenever you think of it!”
- Find a version of quiet meditation that works for you. Whether you literally sit on a cushion and practice traditional meditation, or take a quiet walk in which you focus on the beauty of nature, practice putting aside thoughts about the crisis for a while. Focus on something without having a detailed “conversation” in your head about it – just appreciate its intrinsic beauty or value. This is an excellent antidote to too much prolonged focus on stressful and upsetting matters.
- Allow yourself permission to set real emotional boundaries. You can ___ the victims and their families, and honor the courageous first responders, without feeling like you should be doing more – staying on social media longer when you need to be taking care of your own needs, or donating more money than you can really afford, for example.
- If you’re feeling the need to do SOMETHING to help, do something uplifting. There are things you can do to satisfy that need without diving even deeper into the emotional pain. If you are in regular communication via social media with a community of people you care about, take the time to write a few thoughtful and encouraging posts. Focus on the love and caring you’re seeing in the community, and the inspiring actions people have taken to nurture each other. Help spread that loving support.
- And when you feel overwhelmed and powerless, like nothing will help you feel more hopeful, take heart and shift your focus by repeating to yourself what the beloved teacher Mr. Rogers expressed so beautifully in decades past on his television show: “Look for the helpers – there are always helpers.”
So seek out people who can provide care and support for you, and activities that are restorative, relaxing and have a quieting effect on your thoughts. Understand that while others may be in a distressed state, the best thing you can do is not join them there. Wish for them that they may become peaceful as well – not as an expectation, but as a wish – almost like a prayer or a mantra. Bring yourself back to that as often as possible when you feel yourself getting upset again.
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Sometimes talking to another person who can help you sort out your thoughts and process your feelings is the best way to shift your state of mind and emotions. If you feel that would help, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a complimentary consultation by emailing me at Loren@BeingWellWithin.com or calling me at (201) 489-6720.