How to Cope When the World Seems to Be Falling Apart.
It doesn’t take a negative personality to wonder about the state of our world.
Mass killings, natural disasters, war, political upheavals and closer to home—divorce rates, illness and financial devastation shake up even the most balanced individual.
The constant headlines of murders and job loss, wars and global warming, natural disasters and economic crisis only intensify the feeling of being out of control. Predictions of more, along with masses of people forecasting doom and gloom, creates added fear and anxiety to our already traumatized world.
Like most of us, you’re probably questioning both: How do I cope? and What can I do?
Well, let’s first start with what not to do.
While it’s tempting to have repeated water cooler conversations about the gory snippets of “did you hear what happened?” and spread fears of “what’s next for this world?”, actually doing so contributes to the overall negativity and stress of your inner world.
Psychology Today reports the brain takes a mere 90 seconds to fully process a traumatic event we hear about (not personally experience) from beginning to end.
Only a minute and a half are required to experience an event we hear about second hand and process it to complete cognitive absorption. Any concentration on the event beyond those 90 seconds re-ingrains the trauma by creating new neuro-pathways and accelerating the stress response in the body.
Our consistent talking about, watching, and listening to a global tragedy re-traumatizes the brain versus allowing for integration and balance to return.
If you’ve ever watched a wild animal escape an attack, the animal will shake, run and eventually lay on the earth to absorb the traumatic experience fully.
Humans, on the other hand, don’t allow the full range of emotions the event inspired to be experienced in the body- we don’t fully feel our feelings. Instead, we stuff most of them and re-traumatize ourselves by talking about the event over and over again while only feeling surface emotions.
So what CAN we do?
We can send the help we’re able to send when disaster strikes and then turn off our televisions.
Those fear monger reporters love to spin every detail into a new angle of terror and sensationalism for our already traumatized nervous systems to absorb. Adding to our adrenal stress by watching something over and over again feeds the stress response loop and does nothing to change our world’s state of affairs.
When we feed our brain receptor sites with fear and drama, those receptors naturally look for more stimulus to feed themselves. Watching multiple avenues of news reporting the same disaster with the addition of new gory details only continues to feed the limbic system with more stimulus while perpetuating our newly traumatized and negative outlook of the world.
This vicious cycle trumps our normal response patterns as our usual tools for coping fall by the wayside.
When we spin out in fear and sadness, we do zip to effectively help our planet or the people we love in actual trauma.
Attempting to control the world around us is futile, but we can control our inner world.
When I read of a particularly horrible and murderous news story at breakfast this morning, a cold shimmer of fear ran through my body. I panicked and worried what might happen next in this out of control world.
Then, a realization struck me: if things are as dire as they seem, do I really want to waste this moment in front of me by worrying of things to come?
As I looked outside, the sky was a crystal clear blue. In my small world, things were tranquil. I closed my eyes and prayed those in pain find relief and those of us lucky enough to be safe and secure realize our many blessings.
- We can do what we can to send help.
- We can volunteer for change and try to make a difference in what we believe needs to change.
- We can meditate, do yoga, eat healthy, practice kindness, and remember compassion.
- We can love the ones we love with more intensity and look forward to a brighter future while visualizing peace and practicing what we wish for in the small microcosm of our own world.
These actions can make a difference. Obsessively watching, listening and repeating does not.
It may sound naïve, but after we do what we can to help a terrible situation—appreciating the life we have and walking in balance with love in our hearts—can change the world.
If you want to make a difference in this world, turn off your television and do what you can to help, meditate and pray, love your life and those around you, teach future generations to love and respect not only the planet but also the people around them, and most importantly, visualize our world as healed and perfect.
Gratitude and love are truly the most powerful forces on the planet, and as Gandhi said: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Main Photo via Flickr Sodanie Chea