When I sat down to write another blog for Safe & Sound, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by all that is happening now.
We are still in the throes of a pandemic and all that has come with it. News reports with the latest COVID 19 death count, varying guidelines to remain safe, stories about financial woes. Then on top of that, there was the murder of George Floyd which brought protests throughout the nation and in some places, violence, and riots. What could I possibly offer that would be comforting or helpful?
Problems like pandemics and systemic racism, unemployment, and financial difficulties on a scale not seen in decades can all feel so overwhelming. Recent blogs on our website have addressed things like anxiety and how to manage relationships under stress (particularly parenting). The fact is we are living in a time of great stress. I do not know of a single mental health professional who would say that a certain amount of upset, anxiety or distress is unexpected right now. Given that it is likely we are going to continue to live with a degree of stress for some time, I thought it might be helpful to offer some suggestions about ways you can “right size” what can seem like very big, overwhelming issues. These are ways you can experience some personal power instead of seeing the massive problems and feeling like you have no control at all.
The fact is, we each have a tremendous amount of influence in our own small circles. That influence matters a great deal to the people with whom you are connected. While you do not have power over a pandemic or the ability to end nationwide tension and distress, you do have power over the ways you interact with those closest to you. Noticing the ways you can cultivate love, peace, harmony, and joy in your own little sphere of influence can help decrease feelings of despair and powerlessness. Here are some tips to bring that about:
BREATHE. Find some time (5 or 10 minutes a day) to sit and breathe. Turn off your phone, sit somewhere comfortable and just breathe. Breathing in a relaxed way helps to shut off the stress hormones that keep you feeling “amped up” and in a state of anxiety.
Pray. No matter your beliefs, prayer helps decrease stress and increases feelings of well being. Prayer can take all kinds of forms. Prayer can be spontaneous or you can pray structured prayers provided by your particular faith practice. Prayer can be admiring the beauty of a sunset or being grateful for a child’s smile. It does not have to be formal or tied to a particular religion. Most often, prayer serves the purpose of allowing us to unburden ourselves and trust that there is a Blessed Benevolence that ensures we do not walk through difficult times alone.
Be generous. Generosity feels good and it increases your feeling of personal power. You can be generous by giving to a cause you support that is directly tied to the recent difficulties we are seeing around us. You can be generous in kindness as well. For example you might choose to be generous by being gracious to people around you who may be upset or whose anxiety comes out in the form of rudeness or hostility.
Turn off the news. No, really turn it OFF. If you feel like you just have to know what is happening, then limit your reading/watching the news to once per day. The news media’s job is to keep you watching and they do that by keeping you afraid that you will miss something important by not watching. This adds to your feelings of anxiety and stress. Watching the news is not going to increase your sense of control or personal power.
Nourish yourself well. Exercise your personal power by creating meals that keep you feeling energized and feeling good. If you have children, see if they want to help you in the kitchen. Making meals a family affair can help create a sense of closeness. It can feel good to see ingredients you prepared yourself come together into something that nourishes you.
Choose peace as much as you can. Let the little things go. Don’t “sweat the small stuff”. Make things as easy for yourself and your loved ones as you can. This will help to decrease the feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness that are so pervasive right now.
Get a “C”. Release perfectionism. Allow yourself to do things- all things- imperfectly. This is not the time to be striving for excellence. This is the time to be exercising your power to offer yourself and those around you a break.
I am under no illusions that this list is going to magically transform what is obviously a stressful and difficult time into one that is peaceful and easy. I am confident, though that if you are able to implement a few of these suggestions, you will increase your sense of personal power and might find a little more ease coming into your day.
If you are finding it difficult to do your day-to-day work and having trouble functioning in your relationships, it might be beneficial for you to talk with a Professional Counselor. Counselors are trained to help guide you to a greater sense of empowerment and peace, even when the world seems to be an overwhelming and troubling place.
I have over 15 years of experience of working with individuals and families, first in child welfare, and then in mental health counseling. I have a Ph. D in Counseling, and am an Interfaith Minister. I work with clients desiring to include all of the aspects of the self in therapy-emotional and spiritual.