Some of us are feeling a heavy loss these days. Whether it’s loss of hope, loss of security, loss of the expectations you had for your life; there may be a deep sorrow present in your day-to-day life, or in the life of someone close to you. I want to acknowledge that and offer some tools to stay grounded and hopeful in an aberrant world (and please ‘pay it forward’ by giving this to anyone you think it might help).
It’s hard not to be totally disgusted with those who are supposed to be ‘leading’ our country, right? Are you baffled at the way ‘experts’ change their minds on a whim? You might have anxiety over being threatened or forced by your own government/employer/even family? Maybe you feel societal pressure to go against your core truth? Or you’re distressed about the volatility of the economy? Perhaps outraged at the radical retraction of our basic liberties and freedoms over the last two years (when it started as "flatten the curve in 2 weeks!)? You may even feel like the majority of the world is sleepwalking?
First of all, please know, you are not alone!
Secondly, while it may not feel like it, you do have options. Never let anyone else take the wheel of your life — YOU are the driver!
It’s time we took back control of our minds, our health, our choices.
The best thing we can do for ourselves in times such as these is to strengthen our character. This begins by remembering that the internal landscape is the one thing we actually have control over. Diligently protect your heart and mind from the intrusions of the world, be in integrity, and practice self-discipline and moral courage. This is what it means to have good character. And this is work that will help us reclaim our personal power and resilience in a world that seems to be crumbling around us.
With that in mind, here are 9 ideas for staying grounded and hopeful in chaotic times.
Allow yourself to grieve
There are many types of loss we’re experiencing these days and it’s necessary to give ourselves time to mourn and process. Many people think serious mourning is only justified with the death of a loved one, but there are actually tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling in any loss. It may help to familiarize yourself with the Five Stages of Grief framework, but most importantly, give yourself grace and know that your feelings are valid. The more you can surrender to the process and allow yourself to move through grief — however that looks for you — the better you’ll be able to heal and move forward.
Stay away from fear-based media and people
Be careful what you consume. It may come as a surprise to you, but mainstream media is a money-making business with an agenda. You will not get a fair representation of the whole story if you are only tuning in to the profit-hungry ‘news’ channels. Matter of fact, you will likely only be bombarded with horror story after horror story. The best thing we can do is turn off our tell-lie-vision. But if that’s not going to happen, at least seek out alternative news sources and independent journalists who are disclosing “the rest of the story.” Same goes for people who thrive on drama and fear-based propaganda. Stay away from them. You will know who they are by the way you feel around them. You do not have to engage with negativity, gossip, and hearsay. Educate yourself. Use discernment and common sense. And always ask yourself this question: Is this serving the highest good for myself? If not, remove it from your life.
Shift and readjust expectations
Being adaptable to change is an undeniable asset. What were your hopes and dreams? Can they still be achieved in a different way? Can they be modified? What can you do instead that will still be valuable, joyful, and fulfilling? You may have to come to terms with certain doors closing, but universal law tells us that new doors will open. When you’re done mourning the closed doors, start creating other experiences that lead to fulfillment of your dreams. And remember these keen words from Marilyn Monroe, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
Set up routines
You might feel more secure and less anxious by establishing predictable routines and positive habits on a daily basis, especially if you’re now working from home. This could mean regular exercise, weekly appointments, consistent coffee dates, daily meditation, journalling, making supper each night — whatever it is that will provide peace of mind and a feeling of control. If you’re not sure where to start, just begin by getting up at the same time each morning, then build from there. Routine can help you feel more focused and productive.
We need to look after ourselves in the most loving way. This will be completely up to you to figure out what comforts you. Whether this means making hot cocoa and watching old movies, curling into a fuzzy blanket after a rough day, turning your face to the sun, walking barefoot on a beach, taking a nap, looking up at the night sky, treating yourself to your favorite meal, taking a hot bath, or asking for help. The reality is that there isn’t anyone or anything outside yourself that can bring relief to you from your own thoughts and fears but you. While it does help to talk with a trusted friend or partner, you still have to make that choice. Say no to things that don’t serve or support you and say yes to feeling good.
Get outdoors and move
If you’re stuck, stagnant, or stewing, change your environment. Get up and go outside. Take a brisk, short walk, do some yoga sequences in the park, ride a bike, sit and listen to nature sounds. Be still and breathe the fresh air deeply in, letting out limiting thoughts on exhale. Nature offers some powerful therapy; it can shift your mood in minutes. Research shows that Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) also has positive physiological effects such as reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) and lowering blood pressure.
While it’s necessary to do the quiet, internal work of fortifying your character and core truths in preparation for challenging times, it’s also important to align with others who share your interests. Join email lists and chat groups where you can meet up with like-minded people, talk over the issues, share information, and be heard. You truly are not alone in how you feel, so with a little bit of online searching you can surely locate and connect with your tribe. And if you just can’t seem to find them, build it yourself and others will come. We need each other. Humans thrive on social interaction and intellectual stimulation, so don’t isolate.
Find something to celebrate every day
The media will have you believing that the world is solely filled with doom, gloom, danger, and evil-doers. And, more often than not these days, that seems to be true. Believe it or not, good things are happening every day. The more you look for it, the more you will find it. Focus on your self-improvement while aligning with love-based choices and people and you’ll begin to notice the beauty of life all around. Good people are making a difference and even making us laugh. There’s still a lot of warm fuzzy left in the world, I promise. Bravely open your heart and you’ll feel it too. You can accelerate this awareness by starting a gratitude practice. Make a list each night before bed of all the good things you observed that day. There is always something to celebrate.
Do something selfless
We get so caught up in our own misery sometimes that we forget that someone else is worse off. Someone else needs encouragement. Someone else is feeling lost and hopeless too. You have an opportunity—today—to touch them with your kindness. So when all else fails and you feel powerless and purposeless, go do something selfless. Anything. This does not mean donating a large sum of money to an organization, though if that’s what calls to you, great. This can be as simple as shoveling your neighbor’s driveway or bringing a hot coffee to the homeless man on the corner or just extending a compliment to the person standing in the grocery line next to you. Will these small acts change the world? Not immediately. But this is how big change happens, one small ripple at a time. Nothing changes outwardly anyway until our internal landscape is weeded and watered and given some sunshine. So do what you can to restore hope in others and I’m pretty sure you’ll start to feel more hopeful yourself.
We will always lose some of the battles. But we’ll win some too. I fervently believe that life is worth living and the battles are worth fighting. But you have to know who you are and what you stand for.
There are a lot of distractions vying for our attention. Be your own compass. Give yourself grace. Focus on the good. Fuel your dreams. Be a blessing to others.
I’ll end with this:
“Character is a powerful defense in a world that would love to be able to seduce you, buy you, tempt you, and change you. If you know what you believe and why you believe it, you’ll avoid poisonous relationships, toxic jobs, fair-weather friends, and any number of ills that afflict people who haven’t thought through their deepest concerns. That’s your education. That’s why you do this work.”
(Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic)
You've got this!