Dealing with the overwhelm of the times
It’s been another difficult week, and this week people have had to contend with hearing about more negative interactions in the government, and the possibility of long-lasting terrible implications related to our justice system. Anonymous op-eds, the continued separation between parents and children, deaths of the good ones…the stress from these news events is enough to make anyone anxious.
You might notice you are carrying an underlying current of agitation or feeling hopeless and frustrated (or horrified), even more often than not. You dread hearing about, yet another ludicrous decision made by those in government. You cringe in the face of everything happening, you have heartache in response to the bad leadership we have, you might rather stick your head in the sand, or barely be able to put one foot in front of the other, you feel so overwhelmed. You might feel powerless or enraged. Or afraid for the future.
And you really care – about the impact of this troubled time on your children, your family, your community, yourself. You care deeply about all those people who are struggling so. And often don’t know how to respond or what to do next.
While there is no easy answer, and no one thing that will resolve everything, there are many things that can ease the overwhelm, and continue to bring light into your life. Even with so much suffering going on, it is possible to live a life filled with compassion, courage, and meaning. And even joy.
At this anniversary time of 9-11 and in honor of all the lives lost and devastation that impacted so many, physically, socially and psychologically, I offer these suggestions for living a whole life, even amidst the heartache and wretchedness that surrounds us. This is not meant to ignore all that’s going on and the precarious state of our world; but to provide support and a buoy, if you will, toward strength and well being, especially during difficult times.
Here’s a list of some things I do to help clients who are struggling with the political/ racial anxiety of the times:
- As a bilingual woman of color therapist, I offer a safe place where clients of all backgrounds can share deeply about their real experiences, sometimes in the comfort of their mother tongue, and have the experience of being heard, understood and not judged. My warm down-to-earth presence lets them know I get them.
- Sometimes it helps to simply let my clients grieve their deepest feelings, hold those feelings, and even grieve with them about the world’s sufferings or their own. I invite the depth of the emotion of their woundedness, and often shed tears with them, in my heart or on my face.
- I honor whatever acts or actions of courage my clients have demonstrated.
- I encourage putting into the universe small acts of kindness, or sending goodwill to self, to loved ones, to difficult people, to acquaintances, to strangers, and then to enemies, if possible.
- I advocate self-compassion as a key to empowerment.
- I encourage listening deeply to each other.
- I encourage my clients to speak with their wise voice.
- I support honest reflection and soul searching into oneself, and the welcoming of all emotions, even the difficult or hard to admit ones. I help them to unpack their own biases, and to recognize the damages of internalized oppression.
- I suggest, teach and practice mindfulness skills as a way of calming the soul.
- I advocate dance, journaling, walks in nature, yoga, a variety of breathing techniques – and various ways of freeing the body from the bondage of hatred or discrimination.
- I help couples, and parents and their kids to have calm caring discussions especially about sensitive issues, with the intention of doing no harm, especially when they themselves are triggered.
- I offer that those of us who are resisting must take great care to not get stuck in the bitter rage and divisiveness and negative thinking of the times, or we become part of the problem and no better than those we are angry with. We must care well for ourselves, so we can continue in the struggle.
- I remind people that often the turbulence comes just before the true transformation that occurs. I offer hope that things will change for the better.
- I offer guided meditations, mindfulness apps, body scans, sleep practices and ways of bringing mindfulness into everyday life, in order to build resilience so they can continue on in the struggle without being completely overwhelmed.
- I listen. And listen. And listen some more.
- I share a RAIN practice to use when dealing with difficult experiences: R for Recognize (Notice and name what’s happening in the moment); A for Allow (Can I be with what’s happening right now?); I for Investigate (How am I relating to what is happening? Can I do it without judgement or avoidance or resistance?); N for Nurture (How do I care for this distress?).
These are but a few of the ways I help clients to manage the distress and overwhelm of the current negative political and racist society we are surrounded by.
I am also proud to acknowledge that I was quoted in a colleague’s blog, who talked with several therapists to get best ideas for helping clients who are dealing with anxiety related to the difficult and stressful political and racist times we are living in. He is the creator of the progressive mental health directory, Therapy Den. To read the blog of Jeff Guenther, and to get more ideas about how to take care of yourself during these very upsetting times, click here (I’m honored to be mentioned three times): how to cope with political and racial distress.
I hope these suggestions are helpful and thoughtful to you and others. I’d love to hear from you…How are these times affecting you? How do you tend to what’s really important in your life?
Take good care.
If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed and is struggling to find peace amidst all the negative political and racist injustice swarming around, please call me for a therapy appointment.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist