It is difficult, if not impossible, to ignore the violence and destruction we see on an almost daily basis. Clients and friends share that they are frightened for their children and for themselves. This makes perfect sense, considering all the shootings, road rage, and truly tragic occurrences that take place both locally and in all parts of the world.
We worry about sending our kids to school, going to a shopping mall, or attending sporting events. Even our clothing choices or bumper stickers can make us a target of violence or abuse. Our emotional responses to these tragedies can affect us deeply. How do we maintain our compassion while taking care of our emotional needs?
Because we are compassionate and caring people, it is difficult to witness these tragedies and not be concerned or deeply affected. How do we keep ourselves from becoming over-reactive in light of what we are seeing? Everyone handles stress and fear differently. Some of us manage to completely tune it out, while others can’t stop thinking about it.
First and foremost, it helps to make a conscious choice regarding your level of involvement. If you are upset and feel a calling to get involved, explore ways to do so in a healthy manner. Sometimes, people feel outraged and become part of the problem by their actions or behaviors. Ask yourself if what you are planning to do is helping or just adding fuel to the fire.
If you feel that you are having difficulty controlling your thoughts and feelings around the news, you might want to take an inventory of how much you are exposing yourself to it. Are you doing nothing but watching inciting programs or reading online stories that fuel fear and anxiety? Who are you following on Twitter? What news programs are you watching? It’s no secret that many “news” programs are nothing short of biased commentary full of panelists yelling over each other. How can this not affect you? It does.
At the same time, how many of your conversations with friends result in discussions that lead everyone to feel depressed and helpless? Of course, it can be useful to vent and talk about our concerns; in fact, in the 1960s, women practiced “consciousness-raising” as a means to identify and combat societal discrimination. However, it’s important to keep discussions as positive and directly productive as possible, avoiding the bottomless abyss of negativity. Don’t be afraid to verbalize your observations and re-direct the conversation. Your friends may thank you.
It is not shocking that engaging with family members with opposing views leads to strife and division. If you find yourself wanting to make a point, stop and ask yourself why you feel the need to bring up this topic. How will it serve you or your family? How will it make the time together more loving and peaceful?
Obviously, it is not difficult to find social media posts that are written solely to divide and enrage. Do you really want to spend your time in a social media argument? It’s safe to say that virtually no one’s political or religious opinion has ever been swayed by reading a Facebook post!
In spite of the news stories that we hear and we see, we are also surrounded by beauty and wonder. Take some time to focus on what is beautiful in your life and what brings you peace. Spending time in gratitude and grateful silence can bring about a new perspective. Wouldn’t that be a welcome relief?