Adapted with permission from the blog “Journey Bravely” by Stephanie Craig, LCSW
Even if you highly value optimism, the current state of the world is giving you a run for your money. We’ve seen historic hurricanes and wildfires. Racial tensions in our country have escalated—not to mention political divisions. At this point, we all probably know someone who was made very sick or worse by Covid, and we’ve certainly all endured the changes that come with a global pandemic. I continue to hear stories, both locally and nationally, of people being angry, irritable, depressed, and overwhelmed. Situations that used to be mildly irritating are now feeling off-the-charts infuriating and disappointing. We are worn down and struggling to manage emotions, to be kind to each other, and to find a continued sense of resilience.
And that’s just our collective state. Many of us have personal battles waging on top of the world’s woes. If your family is also walking through childhood cancer right now, you especially are susceptible to the anxiety and depression that is on the rise in our society.
So, what can we all do to remember who we are and to be the people we want to be in the current season of uncertainty? What are the tools that inspire us not to give ourselves permission to spiral downward and give up loving our neighbors, even while we walk an unknown path?
1. ENGAGE SELF-CARE PRACTICES | When you sleep well, eat well, move your body, take prescribed medicine, engage personal hygiene, and get out of bed at a consistent time, you communicate a sense of hope and motivation to your brain and body.
2. LOOK FOR THE POSITIVE IN THE MIDST OF THE NEGATIVE | While being honest with yourself about the real, current challenges, also daily look for and focus on the positive happening around you. Hurricanes are awful; people showing up lovingly for neighbors is beautiful.
3. ENGAGE YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE | Remember that God is present in the midst of suffering, and you are deeply loved. Even though it’s difficult, try embracing the reality that some of our deepest growth as humans is born in times of suffering 4. REMEMBER YOUR VALUES | Values such as honesty, family, love, and kindness can be consistent guides through both the wonderful and the awful moments of life. Try listing your top 10 values to remind yourself of the anchors that drive your life and decisions daily. 5. FOCUS ON OTHERS | Spend a few minutes each day thinking of someone you know and engaging in kindness toward them such as a thoughtful text, a phone call, praying for them, or helping them in a practical way. Remembering others gives perspective to our personal suffering and reminds us that love lives in the hard places.
6. LET GO OF WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL | Sort what you can control from what you can’t. As much as possible, let go of what is outside your control. Now, try spending your energy on taking meaningful action on the things within your control. I cannot control my child’s diagnosis; however, I can control my daily routines and self-care.
7. ENGAGE SOCIAL SUPPORT | Chat with neighbors outside. Call or Zoom friends. Return to activities that feel safe to you with social distancing precautions. We all need other people regularly.
8. BREATHE WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT TO LOSE IT | Don’t give yourself permission to take your frustrations out on others at home, at work, or on the road. Notice when you’re getting flustered, slow down, and take 10 slow, deep breaths. Check in with yourself and take 10 more breaths until you feel your brain calming back to the rational space.
9. GIVE GRACE | Assume the best of other’s intentions until they prove otherwise. Be kind to yourself and others as much as possible. We are all having a hard time at this point in history.
10. PRACTICE GRATITUDE | Write or say aloud five things you are grateful for daily. It’s okay to repeat some, but try to be creative and to notice new things that bring joy.
While many of these tools may seem simplistic, we often neglect practicing them regularly and wonder why we feel so negative and out of control. Take a few minutes to rate yourself on each tool using a scale of 1-10, 1 being “I’ve not been so great at this” and 10 being “I’m great at doing this daily.” Then choose two areas to begin focusing on consistently.
You are certainly not alone in the struggles you may be facing right now. Remember that seeking support is brave and wise, whether it’s from a friend or a professional.
Stephanie Craig is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in emotional/relational health. As a therapist with 18 years of experience providing counseling, coaching, and skill training to individuals, families, and couples, she offers holistic counseling tending to body, mind, and spirit to help you feel better, improve your relationships, and move through your current stress to a more emotionally balanced and healthy way of living. You can find more of Stephanie’s wisdom at journeybravely.com.