AMK Counseling

Navigating an Overwhelming World  By Sami Schab, MSW, LSW

It’s April of 2022, and the world has only gotten more overwhelming. Many of us thought that by now, we would be returning to life as “normal.” If Covid-19 wasn’t enough, we have the war in Ukraine, talk of nuclear war, continued oppression of marginalized communities, crisis in healthcare and education systems, and let’s not forget the ever looming climate change. This feels daunting, especially since all of our lives continue on and we must also work through our daily stress of just being human. So, how do we go on? How do we live a life worth living when social media, the news, and maybe our own brains are constantly screaming the dangers of the world around us? It is more than possible, but we must be intentional; with our self-care, in how we focus our attention, and the connections we form to support our acceptance of what is out of our hands.

Our brains are not designed to be able to process and make sense of such complex issues easily. We are overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, sad, burnt out, tired and the list goes on; this gives us plenty of reasons to take pause and care for ourselves. Yet, there is a feeling of guilt that comes when we consider taking time to care for ourselves, when so many do not have the opportunity. Practicing self-care does not have an impact on the suffering of another individual, but it does impact the mental energy we have to be able to navigate our own distress and consider how we want to move forward. We have to find time to disconnect and grant ourselves that permission, because it is necessary. The more we focus and fill our time with news of the day’s tragedies, the more our mind attaches to it. Is it okay to be informed? Absolutely. Is it helpful to fill a majority of our free time with it? Probably not. It is important to focus our attention on what cultivates the life we envision for ourselves.

While we can be aware of the world around us, there are moments where being hyper-aware is robbing us of those opportunities and experiences that may be getting put off while we worry about the “what ifs.” Working to accept the realities of our world is hard and may feel uncomfortable at first, but ultimately we are surrounded by unknowns that will consume us if we let them. To live a life worth living in the unknown, we must evaluate what is truly important to us. By reflecting on our values, we bring deeper understanding and meaning to our lives. It is common to lose sight of purpose in times of high stress, especially if we haven’t taken a moment to consider what that purpose may look like on a smaller scale, in our day to day living. We will continue to face difficult situations throughout our lives, but having our values be a guiding light may just help us to be able to see more of what we want in the world.

Throughout the existence of humankind, life has always been difficult – but one constant is known, we are meant to lean on one another. The last several years have pushed us to become more isolated, but we cannot go the distance alone. We need our tribe, our community, our people – those who we can share in the sorrows and joys of life. Being vulnerable is difficult, but we all feel the pressure of the world and there is comfort in company. Find someone with whom you can speak your fears, while also encouraging you to see more than just your fears. It is so important to get out from behind the veil of social media and simple words of texting; use our voices, express our true emotion, really hear and be heard.

This is a lot of talk, so let’s consider how to actually practice cultivating the space we want to live in. See what may be realistic to incorporate into your own life:

  1. Intentional Self-care: Go for a mindful walk – focus on your surroundings, avoid multitasking, and try to remain judgment free. Start or end your day with a comforting tea and journaling. Make time for exercise you enjoy. Prioritize sleep and nutritious meals. Get creative. Do a 10-minute guided meditation – Youtube is great! Practice gratitude, especially when it feels hard.
  2. Reflect on your values: Set time for yourself to evaluate the beliefs that bring you purpose! Check out this fantastic podcast and exercise by Brene Brown that can help guide you through this process:
    https://brenebrown.com/resources/living-into-our-values/
    After considering your values, how does this impact the way you interact with the world around you? Are your actions lining up with what you want for yourself?
  3. Take action: Find a way to help that is meaningful to you. Focus on the impact you can make, and let that be enough. Donate to a cause that is on your mind. Raise awareness for an organization that shares your value. Volunteer to help clean up your community. Take to Google, the options are plentiful!
  4. Practice Acceptance: Acceptance does not mean approval or resignation. It does mean accepting our reality as it is, in order to refrain from turning our pain into deeper suffering. Check out this article for deeper understand and specific exercise to practice acceptance with body, heart, and mind:
    https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/coping-covid-19-turning-mind-towards acceptance
  5. Find meaningful connection: Make it a priority! Call or facetime a friend. Gather a group for an evening of comforting conversation. Talk with a therapist. Join a support group. Sit with a coworker over lunch. Set time for deeper
    communication with your partner. Reach out to family.

As a therapist myself, I use these and find them super helpful! As a human myself, I also find that I have times when my world feels heavy and I have fallen away from taking of wellness; that’s okay, we always have the opportunity to recognize this with grace and gently encourage ourselves to recommit to change.