Times of transition are often rocky, and it can feel as if the very ground we walk on is unstable. The current handover of power from one President of the United States to another feels more unstable than usual, and I know many people who are wondering how to get through this time of uncertainty without losing their sanity.
Here are 3 steps to maintain your sanity in these uncertain times.
1. A Social Media Fast
Yes, there are many people that are hurting, and new changes are happening every day and you want to stay informed. The thing to remember is that it doesn’t all need your attention right this second. If your heart is hurting and you can’t bear to read another sad story, don’t. Pull yourself away for however long you can stand it. An hour. A day. A weekend.
Many of my friends are either directly affected by the changes of the past week, or they work with communities who are affected. My Facebook feed is filled with fear, anger and uncertainty, along with heartbreaking stories and links. Last weekend, my desire to stay informed was directly at odds with my desire to maintain my mental health, so I took a break from FB.
It turned out to be a huge sanity saver. Not only did it give my nervous system a chance to reset from the constant bombardment of fear, but it also made me realize a few things.
The first is that I spend way more time scrolling through FB than I realized. The second was I didn’t know what to do with myself when I wasn’t scrolling. I was amazed how much more time I had in the day to do things I actually wanted to do (or hadn’t made the time to get around to), once I wasn’t constantly on my FB feed. It felt so good, I’ve vowed to make it a regular occurrence from now on.
2. Slow Down and Breathe
This is really important as a daily practice, but also especially useful if you are feeling overwhelmed. Yesterday I found myself with too much to do and not enough time, so the first thing I did was slow down. That’s right, the exact opposite of what you would think I should do, which is speed up to get everything done.
Taking the time to stop for a moment and take three deep breaths may seem like a small act that won’t do very much, but I assure you it has many benefits. If you can focus on your breath for a minute or longer, that’s even better than taking three breaths.
What does the simple act of breathing do? It allows us to focus on the only thing we have control over, the present moment, and not focus on the things we can’t change about the past, or the worries about the future. And it gives our bodies the chance to get out of fight or flight mode.
3. Do Something to Nurture Yourself
When surrounded by tales of suffering, it can feel wrong to laugh or find joy in your own life. However, nurturing yourself is the best thing you can do in those times.
You cannot alleviate the suffering of another by suffering along with them.
By taking the time to take care of yourself, you maintain the strength to “fight the good fight” another day. It also allows you to be the beacon of light for those that are struggling. If we all focus our attention on how bad things are, and no one is focused on the change we want to see and be in the world, then we are all doomed to stay stuck in the muck.
When I find myself feeling desperate about a situation, and hopeless and helpless about creating change, this is what I do. I ask, “Is there anything I can contribute to this situation?” I don’t go searching for an answer or try to do anything immediately (unless something immediately comes to mind), but rather wait to see if anything comes into my awareness over the next day or two that I didn’t know about or hadn’t thought about before. Once I ask the question and have done everything I can to help, I know it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to sit around and wallow in misery or pity. The best thing I can do at that point is something that nourishes myself, so that I don’t run out of steam or get lost in overwhelm.
In uncertain times, it can often be difficult to keep our wits about us and not get sucked into fear, anger, and overwhelm. By practicing the three tips above, you can maintain your own sanity, while keeping the light on for those who are hurting. Be the change you want to see in the world, and don’t forget to nurture yourself while you do it.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead