The world has been a particularly harsh place lately. I don’t know about you, but when horrific tragedies take place, even though I may not have any direct connection to them, they feel personal. I’m an empathizer big time, so when I hear or read about pain and suffering and tragedy, it drains me and I walk around sad and exhausted and a little hopeless. I think a lot of creative people are this way. Connection is our drug, and like any drug, it can makes us feel great but it can also make the world come crashing down on top of us.
The thing is, I don’t have time to walk around feeling sad and drained and hopeless. That’s not what this world needs. I need to find the energy and strength to infuse the world with more love and kindness and empathy because while it might not be everything the world needs to heal itself, it’s a good place to start.
So in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando and all the tragedies, big and small, we are constantly bombarded with, if you too are feeling overwhelmed, and sad and tired and want to get yourself back into the game, here are some things I do to heal those parts of me.
- Turn off the news. Seriously. Turn it off. In my household, I realized that the nightly news did nothing but bring negative energy, fear and anxiety into my home. So for the past 15 years there has been a “no television news rule.” As a kid, I remember my parents watching All. Of. The. News. And I would get anxious as my mother picked me up wondering what horrible things I was going to see on the tv as she made dinner. While you are at it, severely limit your online news. No need to read all the articles. No need to know every little detail. Seriously. You can let it go- plenty of other people are reading it all; you don’t have to. If you want to be supportive of people involved in tragedy, action, not reading is the way to go.
- Get outside. Walk, jog, bike, geocache, drive with your windows down and the radio up. We all need some time to be away from all the electronics and just breathe.
- Do something. Anything. At these times, what I want to do is curl up n the couch under a blanket binging on Gilmore Girls. Instead, I try to accomplish anything at all no matter how small. I usually go for the easiest and mind numbing things I can think of. I fold laundry. I weed the garden. I clean out the car. Easy things, but they make me feel productive and centered. Think of them as active meditations. Then move into bigger actions if the situation warrants it. Donate blood, call your political leaders, collect tangible donations for the needy. Action doesn’t need to be huge to be powerful. Do what you can, your action will inspire others.
- Be unusually and radically kind. Again, these don’t have to be huge initiatives or gaudy displays. Wave to a child in a car at the light next to you. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them you’re thinking of them. Write a letter to someone who has changed your life. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Kindness matters and changes the world in tiny and profound ways. We can never be too kind.
This last one is the most powerful for me. Sometimes it feels like there’s very little kindness left in the world. But then I remember, I can be kind. I can be loving and accepting. And quite frankly, I am powerful when I wield all those things. So that’s what I do. I tap into those qualities often and excessively when I am feeling despondent about the world. Does it take away all my sadness? No. I’m still a weeping mess much of the time. But slowly my heart fills up again, and I am able to see all the other kindness and love and hope that’s out there in the world and that further empowers me.
Am I naïve enough to think that folding the laundry is going to change the world? Nope. Heck, it might not even change my world…directly. But all world-changers start small and their impact increases over time. And you can’t change the world if it constantly leaves you hopeless and depleted.
So my friends, take care of yourselves. Take care of others. In times of darkness, put out more kindness right where you are. Changing the world starts right in front of you.