These feel like chaotic times, with racism and greed living in the White House, and disasters filling the news, whether it’s the mudslides devastating Montecito, California, or the erroneous nuclear-missile-incoming warning that terrified Hawaii. I’m not sure these times really are any more chaotic than any other time in history, but with the instant access to the news, and social media amplifying every crisis, small or large, and affording every idiot a soap-box and virtual microphone, it certainly seems that way.
So how can we keep from going crazy? Retain our equilibrium personally and as a nation? How can we all keep calm and chive on, as the saying goes?
Everyone is different, so what works for me might not for you. Still, here are some ideas:
Watch less news. Or at the very least, be choosy about what you watch. Look for news shows that are in-depth analyses and less likely to veer into sensationalism and hysteria. Don’t watch the news right before going to bed–it’s bad for your sleep, and sleep helps keep our bodies healthy and our minds in good shape.
I read the news online (not on social media, on actual news sites like National Public Radio, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times). That way I avoid being deluged with drama, and can chose to focus on the news that interests me most.
Limit social media time so that you don’t get sucked in and depressed. Use a timer if necessary!
I give myself half an hour in the morning, half an hour at midday, and half an hour in the evening (but again, not right before I go to bed). I spend time connecting to friends, family, and readers. And reading posts from people whose take on the world I find interesting. I ignore rants of any kind or flavor.
Get moving regularly, and get outside. Every day. Preferably in a natural setting, the wilder the better. Research shows that time in nature, or Vitamin N, as author Rich Louv calls it, is calming emotionally and physiologically, and it helps us make better decisions, focus more easily, and increases our ability to be empathetic and forgiving (even to ourselves).
I take a brisk half-hour or longer walk every day, no matter the weather. Because I come from a Calvinist activity-must-be-useful background, I do some of my errands along the way.
Take a positive action every day. Write your members of Congress, do volunteer work, be kind to someone not from your tribe, speak up at a hearing, contribute to a good cause, support a candidate, smile at everyone you meet… Do something small or large that counters the climate of negativity and division in this country. Exercise your right to free speech, your expectations of civility and honesty and respect, your part in our democracy.
I’m much better at quiet participation and spreading kindness than at actively speaking out. But these are times that require increased participation from all of us. So I have challenged myself to speak up regularly in letters to the editor, and in emails to members of congress and local leaders. I also support others who are more active than I am in whatever way I can.
Feed your spirit daily. Whether you spend five minutes in morning prayers or half an hour meditating, whether you do yoga in a spiritual way, light candles, or simply gaze at a beautiful flower in mindful awe, practice some kind of daily ritual that gets you out of yourself and taps into the universal sense of awe, wonder, connectedness–the sacredness that gives this world and each of us that ineffable numinousness.
I start each day with mindful yoga and prayer (even if I have to talk myself into taking the time!). Yoga to strengthen both body and spirit, and prayer (the intentional kind, not the pleading with God or gods kind), to send my love and goodwill out into the world.
Find joy. Do something every day that brings you joy, whether quiet satisfaction or exuberant delight. Whatever it is, relish in the experience and make immersive. Don’t short-change joy. Ever.
I have a daily haiku practice that reminds me to look for beauty and wonder every day. I shoot a photo and write a haiku, and then post both on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to share my bit of gratitude for being alive. (To follow me on any of those platforms, go to the main page of this site, scroll down and click on one of the social media icons on the lower right-hand side of the page.) Today’s example:
shining bubbles float down sidewalk
then pop! into air
Keeping our balance personally and as a nation takes practice and sustained effort. It takes each of us working at it in a small or large way every day. We won’t always succeed, but that’s okay. We just keep working on it. Together.