You don't have to live stressed out and exhausted.
I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the tragedy and trauma that has been in the news lately. I thought you might be too, so I wanted to share my thoughts on how we can navigate this time in a kind and productive way without getting caught up in fear and blame.
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Hi, and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks podcast, and I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor, and in this podcast, I share my stories, lessons, and hacks I’ve learned, and I continue to learn, on my quest to live happier. This is Episode 67, A Few Thoughts on the World Today.
Hey, everyone, I’m excited to be here chatting with you all. Today, how could we not, we’ve all been really thinking about how crazy the last few days have been. Honestly, I feel like I could have said that at any period in the past year about how crazy the past few days have been. With the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the hurricanes that have ravaged Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, it’s just like we keep having these traumas and tragedies and then we just keep moving on to the next one.
We’re all in Vegas with the individuals that have been shot and killed out there by a madman, and meanwhile, people in Houston are still recovering from a hurricane that hit what? Two months ago? I don’t even know the timeline anymore. It just feels like there’s just been one trauma after another, and the news just keeps hammering us down. That’s not even taking into account the events of the summer with Charlottesville and different activities with North Korea. Off the top of my head, I can just name all of these scary, traumatic things that have been happening in our news. Regardless of your political stance, or how you feel about our leaders, there has just been a lot of stuff happening. I wanted to touch base on that stuff. My job is helping people deal with stress and overwhelm, and this outside news is extremely stressful and overwhelming.
I have so many messages on my Facebook and Twitter, and even Instagram, of people telling me what I should be doing and how I should be feeling about these different events. It’s really easy to get caught up in this is where I should be, this is the side I should be landing on all this, this is how I should be feeling, and there is so much criticism in our culture today that even when people take a stand, and they go and do something, it’s immediately met with “Well, that’s not enough” or “You’re doing it wrong.” From where you decide to give your money, that you’re giving it to the wrong organization to that you’re keeping people in your thoughts and prayers, and you should be taking more action. You shouldn’t be just thinking and praying. You should be action. Then, if you take action, it’s the wrong action. It is monger-heaven out there, and I, myself, have been feeling very inundated by all the messages that are coming at me about how I should be feeling.
I just wanted to tap into that with all of you because I’m sure if I’m feeling it, I’m not the only one that’s getting a little overwhelmed. I wanted to slow this down, and just touch base that it’s really important to be turning off the 24-hour news coverage. I, for one, I watch a lot of news and I pride myself on staying up-to-date on what’s happening in the world. I have had to make a concerted effort to shut off the 24-hour news coverage, turn off text alerts on my phone. You can stay aware of what’s happening. You don’t have to be inundated with all the information. Monday morning when we woke up and found out about the Vegas shooting, my husband and I were just glued to the TV. I had a bunch of work I needed to get done that morning, but I just was watching the coverage until finally, he was like they aren’t telling us anything new. We’re not learning anything. We’re just becoming more and more anxious by watching this.
That is what happens. It just becomes this thing that we keep feeding to have more information and feel more outraged, or more upset. To turn off that 24-hour news cycle, and what I have started doing is limiting myself to print media. I do it online, but print media news that I have a certain amount of time that I can read news articles because I can go down the rabbit hole of going from this link to that link. I give myself a set period, and that’s the time that I’m paying attention to what’s going on. Between that and talking to my husband and hearing what he’s finding out, I learn information. I’m not without information, but I’m also not getting hopped up by everything I’m reading and everything I see because I’m so overwhelmed. We are not designed to have this much constant despair and trauma coming at us. It is okay to take breaks. I encourage you to take breaks.
Watch some cat videos, play a game, do something fun. Take care of yourself and those around you. A lot of times we get in this belief system, and our mongers contribute to this, that tell us wow, all these people are suffering. How dare you be having a good time? They can’t take a break in Puerto Rico from the trauma. How can you take a break? Well, you suffering alongside them here wherever you live isn’t helping the people in Puerto Rico. If you think about it in another way, if you were in Puerto Rico suffering, would you want someone else to be suffering as much as you were? Probably not. You would be very encouraging of them that they have the freedom to do something else. They aren’t stuck in that trauma. The idea that we can’t take a break because that somehow a way we’re showing our support is a warped thought process. Pay attention to how much that happens, that and I’m going to watch all this news because at least I’m doing something.
You’re not really doing anything. You’re just upsetting yourself to no end. Nothing positive can come out of that, so step away from the 24 hour news coverage. Step away from the Facebook. Step away from Twitter. Step away from all of it and get into your life, your real life. Which takes me to the next thing I want to talk about, which is really to acknowledge how you’re feeling. For those of us that practice this soldiering on belief and suck it up buttercup thought process, this can be a time when we lace up our bootstraps, and we just keep powering through. We don’t acknowledge that the pain that we’ve been consistently seeing here over the past few months affects us. We are affected. These are fellow human beings. Even all this trauma that I mentioned today took place in the United States; there have been things happening all around the world that have been traumatic, so if you’ve watched the news … It’s not just because these are “our fellow Americans,” it’s that these are human beings that are being inundated by things out of their control.
That makes all us feel scared and vulnerable and fearful. That’s a hard place to live when we have kids and elderly parents and people we want to be protecting. Here, they’re so much out of our control. Nothing brings that home like the number of traumas that have been happening. Nothing brings that home like someone firing down on concertgoers. I think of all the time my husband and I have gone to these concerts. You’re hanging out. You’re drinking beers. You’re dancing with your fellow concertgoers, and then poof, your whole life is shattered. That is something all of us can relate to and put ourselves in that exact spot of being at that concert. Then, the thought of the gunfire raining down on you. I mean, it just brings tears to my eyes as I’m describing it right here. Yes, we are all feeling that very deeply, so allow yourself to feel that. Allow yourself to be sad. Allow yourself to acknowledge that this is scary and unknown and there’s a lot of fear out there right now.
It’s even scarier because as human beings, we want to find a motive. Why did this happen? What was he thinking? We don’t have a motive, and that makes us even more scared because we can’t stop it in the future. We try to convince ourselves well, if we know the motive then we know it won’t happen again. Eh, we don’t know that even if we know the motive, but not knowing the motive creates even more fear. Give yourself a lot of room to be kind to yourself and to understand that there’s stuff coming at us that is scary, and to acknowledge those emotions. Don’t just suck it up and go on. Don’t just be grateful that you have a wonderful family or it didn’t touch your life. It did touch your life in an abstract way, so to be aware of that. When we don’t acknowledge what’s going on with us, it turns into overwhelm. It turns into stress because what happens is we soldier on, we suck it up, we push down those feelings, we push down that doubt, and we try to maintain a greater sense of control.
It’s futile. That doesn’t happen. We can’t keep a greater sense of control, so our anxiety goes up and our stress goes up. It’s this whole big compiling mess, so give yourself some room to acknowledge how you’re feeling.
Then, the last thing I want to say is to take action. Figure out, after you’ve stepped away from the news coverage after you’ve acknowledged how you’re feeling, after you’re giving yourself a lot of room and you’ve talked with friends and family, and you’re feeling a little more grounded in yourself, take some action. That could be volunteering wherever you live. That could mean giving to charity. That could mean fighting for gun control or fighting for different laws to help, so this doesn’t happen again. Fighting against those boosters that made the semiautomatic into an automatic. Helping to figure out what you can do that feels like you’re contributing to the problem, and that might just be having some honest conversations with your kids about what’s going on, and figuring out as a family what are you going to do? How are you going to help?
I encourage you to take some action but make sure it is an action that feels right to you. It’s not what you should be doing. It’s not what someone else says you should do. It doesn’t make you a good person if you take action. It’s something that you decide as an individual, as a family, “Hey, this is something I want to do that will contribute to this out-of-control feeling I have and lessen it.” If I know I can take action, I know that I can help. Then I won’t be feeling as vulnerable and out-of-control. The one positive that has come from all of this news coverage is hearing these heroic stories of strangers helping strangers, from Houston, in Vegas, in Puerto Rico and Florida. How the human heart is just so full of kindness, and that’s what we need to be tapping into right now is remembering we can make changes. We’re not these vast red states and blue states, and this huge stereotype. We are just people helping other people, and when we get down to that basic, we are very generous and kind and good souls.
As I said, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed. I’ve been feeling scared and unable to know what to do, so I just thought I would gather my thoughts and I wrote a letter to you all, and I just kind of read from that as I was recording this to get out everything that I wanted to say. Just writing down all my thoughts, and acknowledging all my different emotions made me feel better, and I hope it has provided some ease, as well as some concrete strategies for how to handle all this stuff coming at us as we move forward.
Weekly Ritual Segment:
One thing that has helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it.
Feel your Feet
Now, the Weekly Ritual Challenge, and this is the last thing that I had on my list but I thought I would just talk about it here in the Weekly Ritual Challenge space, is when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed this weekly ritual to get in your body is so important to get us out of our heads that are spinning on our fear and our vulnerability and how scared we are.
When we can slow down and get into our bodies, we can change the status. We can change what’s happening in our brains, and we can readjust some things and make some room for new thoughts and quieter messages. This week’s Weekly Ritual Challenge is an awesome one, considering everything that’s going on this week, and it is feel your feet. When I say feel your feet, I don’t mean the barefoot, which is one we had a couple weeks ago. This is feel your feet. In your shoes, feel your feet on the ground, take a moment to just stand there. I did this after a workout. I’ve done it in the grocery store. Just standing there, feeling your feet. Feel your toes, feel your heels, feel your arches. Feel them getting grounded on the earth, the floor, whatever. This is a great way to remind you that you are human. You are kind. This terror and trauma is not the standard, so to really ground in that will be helpful as we’re moving our way through all this trauma and craziness that is happening in the world today.
Check out my Instagram where I share my daily check in with the weekly ritual practice. It is a helpful way for both of us to stay accountable to the practice.
I’ll be back next week for another Happiness Hacks podcast, and I hope to see you then If you have questions or thoughts or anything, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow me on Instagram, @nancyjane_livehappier. Until next time here’s to living happier.
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