Recently, 15 000 scientist signed a warning to humanity about the state of our planet. Various media agencies chastised them for ‘fearmongering’ but really, if 15 000 people agree on something, maybe it’s worth paying attention.
Reports about terrorist attacks, mass shootings and international conflict, and displaced humans, combined with natural disasters, and nuclear threats come through my radio on a daily basis.
For those of us paying attention, it feels like a good time to panic. For those who have spent significant amounts of time and energy working to prevent some of these things, these daily updates are disheartening at best, devastating at worst.
So, what can we do?
Sometimes it makes sense to panic. (See A Good Time to Panic). Sometimes, it is worth taking a break when what you’re doing does not seem to be working.when what you’re doing does not seem to be working. Sometimes it’s okay to plug your ears and hum a happy tune. Sometime you need to grieve (See Giving Grief the Time of Day). Sometimes you need to stop and take stock of what you need. See (What do You Really Need? – A 6 Step Complete Self-Care Assessment Guide). Staying in panic or immobilizing grief, however, is not sustainable, if you need to function on a day-to-day basis.
Take the time to honour what is happening but don’t stay there forever.
On the other hand, ignoring all the bad stuff and hoping it will go away or sitting in outright denial is also not recommended, from a mental health perspective.
So here’s 9 suggestions for surviving these dark times without losing your mind. These approaches may need to be re-evaluated on a regular basis, depending on future situations, but for now, I hope they might be helpful:
1. Make Sure you Have the Facts
- Start by checking the facts, as best as you can. This can be tricky, but do your best.
- Be media savvy, know your sources. Teach your kids to be media savvy. (Check out CommonSense Media for “Ways to Spot Fake News” ).
For example, did you know that poverty rates around the world have been getting lower every year since the 1970’s?? Me neither. They are not great, we have a long way to go, they vary from place to place, but generally, globally, they are getting better.
Also, did you know that crime rates are the lowest in Canada that they have ever been? (See Stats Can for details). That one I did know. Not many people believe that. A couple of years ago, I noticed that the local weekend news reports on CBC radio were primarily made up of newscasters simply reading the police reports. I noticed this because I use to receive e-mail police reports (not sure if this is still available to anyone) and noted that on weekends, news anchors were reading them verbatim, with no other stories included and no other information added. This is a VERY narrow and misleading view of what is actually happening in our city on any given weekend.
Upon closer examination, some issues are definitely in a worse state that you might first imagine. The global refugee crisis, as of June 2017, is at 65.6 million, according to the United Nation Refugee Agency. This is staggering and overwhelming, to say the least.
2. Consider your values
- Consider your values. See What’s Worth Digging For?
- Consider what will be important to you at the end of your life. What fits your sense of integrity? What would you regret not doing?
- What do you want to see change?
3. Reduce/focus your information intake
Once you have the facts…
- Reduce the amount of information you take in, on a daily basis, to the areas you are most concerned about or interested in.
- Look specifically for what others are doing about this issue, not only what others are reporting about.
- Look for innovation, proactivity and hopefulness in your media intake.
4. Consider Your location & skills
- Next, think about where you stand/sit/live/work/play.
- Consider what tools/skills/knowledge/interests/connections you have.
- Learn about advocacy.
- Think Strategically. Is there a way to connect to one part of one issue that you care about?
5. Connect to others working in your area of interest
- Find out what people who are working on the issue or belong to the group you are concerned about have been asking for. Learn from them. See previous inquests, reports, writings, new stories, etc.
- Reach out to others online if there is no one in your immediate geographical area. Don’t go it alone.
CAUTION: Do not start your own project/agency/event/program until you’ve done your research to see who’s already doing something. Where possible, support other endeavors with time, money, skills, etc. If the project, organization, event or program is serving a group of people whom you are not a member of (for example if you’re a woman wanting to support a men’s resource centre, or vice versa, or a heterosexual person wanting to work with the LGBTQ+ community or a person of European decent wanting to work with Indigenous youth, ask if they would like your support and how you can best support without intruding.
6. Make a Smart goal
- Make goal. Make it a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. If your goal is too broad (i.e. world peace), you may be very disappointed.
- Be willing to re-evaluate or revise your goal(s) as you obtain more information and more experience.
7. Pace yourself
At the beginning of a project things can feel exciting, particularly if you’ve not been proactive in any kind of big way, in the past.
- Pace yourself.
- Consider the long game.
- Plan for ways to rejuvenate, to occasionally focus on other things.
- Don’t lose sight of the other goals and values you have, particularly family and friends. You will always need them.
- Be cautious in your evangelism over your new cause. Your actions will speak louder than words. People are more open to information when they ask for it (I’m stilling learning this one)
8. If burning out, shift focus
If you have been engaged with an issue for a long time and are burning out, particularly if your focus has been to change something in existence that you think is harmful…
- focusing instead on what you want in place of what’s there. Think about what you want to build, not only what you don’t want. Do that. Do it in our own life, in your own backyard (depending on what it is…)
- Build a model, be an example. Motivate others, inspire.
Criticism and deconstruction have their place, and are often necessary aspects of change, but so does inspiration, vision and construction.
9. Practice positive rumination & breathe
As often as possible, throughout the course of the day…
- Take a deep breathe.
- Look for things that inspire.
- Look for things that surprise you.
- Take note of what you are grateful for.
You cannot know the future. No one can. We could all die in a freak, unforeseen meteor collision, or we could discover some instant solution to global warming. We don’t need to live in denial or paralysis. We can act. We can make a difference.
Check out Becoming an Ally by Anne Bishop* for further reading.
*Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee. I only recommend books I have read and believe to be worth recommending.