Maybe you can relate to the weary feeling many of us have grown familiar with over the last year and a half. It has felt like a constant barrage of tragedy, trauma, injustice, and loss since the beginning of 2020, and most people have suffered in more than one way because of it. We have all experienced compounded losses throughout this time, and though many of the losses are different, the emotional and physical consequences are extremely similar. Stress and anxiety have increased across the board; physical health has decreased; relational health has taken a hit. Nearly every part of our lives has been affected by the global trauma we’ve collectively experienced, and that lowers our window of tolerance for another suffering. Our resilience is mostly spoken for due to our need to use it for basic survival needs, which significantly lowers the amount we have left to offer for others who are suffering.
Because of this, we have a decreased capacity for empathy for those suffering outside of ourselves. But thanks to current technology, we have access to a never-ending feed of human tragedy and suffering in the palm of our hands and on every screen. Our human capacity has not evolved at the same rate as our technology, and while this sometimes solves our problems, it has equal potential to create more. Nadia Bolz-Weber said in a recent blog, “I just do not think our psyches were developed to hold, feel and respond to everything coming at them right now; every tragedy, injustice, sorrow and natural disaster happening to every human across the entire planet, in real-time every minute of every day. The human heart and spirit were developed to be able to hold, feel and respond to any tragedy, injustice, sorrow, or natural disaster that was happening IN OUR VILLAGE. So my emotional circuit breaker keeps overloading because the hardware was built for an older time.”
With this understanding in mind, how can we protect our energy? What boundaries must we set to preserve our resiliency for things within our control and maintain empathy for those close to us? Here are some ideas. Consider which ones make sense for you in particular. They may not all apply to every individual.
Turn off the news. You don’t have to be able to pass a test on every global issue in order to care.
Clean up your social media. If the accounts you follow bring your anxiety up with their content, even if you support their positions, it is healthy to take breaks from it.
Take time to read a book for pleasure or watch a funny movie. Sometimes distractions can be healthy.
Invest in your community or social circle. Find practical ways to support your friends and neighbors who are likely struggling in some way as well. For example, dropping off meals to a friend who had a baby, or a neighbor whose family is sick; mow the lawn of the house with the overgrown grass in your neighborhood; take a walk in your neighborhood, and wave/say hi to people you see; clean out your closets or pantry and donate items in good condition to your local women’s shelter or food pantry. These things can feel insignificant in the context of global trauma, but the world is not your community, and your community is where you can make the greatest impact. In so many small ways you can love your neighbors/friends, AND give yourself an empowering oxytocin boost, which improves your mood and counteracts the stress hormone, cortisol.
And if you’re overwhelmed and feeling paralyzed, give yourself a break. We are all overloaded and less likely to be functioning at our normal levels. We can get back to that one day, but not if we burn out before that time comes. So allow yourself to increase your self care, and don’t let shame tell you it’s not ok to do so.
If you're struggling, seek help. Sharp Wellness offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy to help support you and help you live your best life. Contact us now.