Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch in my favourite part of London … Southbank.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, London’s Southbank is a colourful, vibrant area, nestled on the bank of the Thames. It’s crammed full of theatres and restaurants and a skate park and second-hand book stalls. It looks out on many of London’s most famous landmarks – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye.
But yesterday it was dank and grey – all of the landmarks obscured by a cold, grey mist.
Normally, when I have lunch with this particular friend, we’re full of sparkle.
But yesterday our moods perfectly matched the weather.
And this was in large part down to recent news events.
In the past week I’ve seen numerous posts on my social media feeds from other friends feeling equally down-hearted.
Although the internet can be a great source of up to the minute news, when the news goes crazy and we’re bombarded with stories we find upsetting / disturbing / annoying / WTF-ing it’s easy to feel trapped beneath an avalanche of gloom.
So, here’s my take on how we can maintain our sanity and inner peace in the heart of the current crap storm.
Ration your time on social media
I’m not saying come off it altogether and stop being informed. Now, more than ever, we need to be informed. But be informed in small doses. Don’t get sucked down a Facebook hell-hole, clicking on depressing link after link for hours. Get your news and go, in bite-sized sittings.
Unfollow or unfriend the people who make you feel bad
Don’t become an online rubber-necker; stalking the profiles of people you know will make you feel bad. This way insanity lies. Yes, it’s shocking and disappointing to discover that people you know (or thought you knew) and love turn out to be closet racists / misogynists / xenophobes … but don’t keep picking at the wound. Let go with love. There are far more important things that need you energy right now. Which brings me neatly to my next point…
It can be so easy to feel completely powerless in the light of global events but never forget that the power of the people is far greater than the people in power. Find out what you can do to try and bring about the changes you desire. It doesn’t matter how small it is – signing a petition, going on a march, phoning your representative, donating to a cause you believe in – all can help you feel engaged and proactive … always a way better option than disengaged and reactive.
Let your feelings out
When we’re bombarded with news stories that cause us to feel anger or fear there’s a danger of those feelings building inside of us like a pressure cooker … unless we let them out. Let them out in a way that’s constructive and won’t bring others down. So by that, I mean, no more ‘Oh great, here comes armageddon!’ posts, that are just going to spread the fear. Let your negative feelings out by writing them down in private, in a journal. Or literally shake them out of your body through some kind of physical exercise like running or dancing or going for a hike. Let your anger move through you, don’t let it corrode inside of you.
Turn your fear into fuel
Another great way of dealing with destructive feelings is to turn them into something positive. Turn your anger and fear into fuel. Create something great with it … a powerful poem, a striking piece of art, a rousing song, a funny protest banner. Think of all the great art that gets made in times of strife. Take inspiration from it and create art that will uplift and empower.
Seek out the positive
When my friend and I were chatting about this yesterday I told her that I could see real positives coming from the current situation. ‘People aren’t apathetic anymore,’ I said. ‘Events like the Muslim ban force people to look deep inside of themselves and decide which side of history they want to be on.’ I find it heartening to see just how many people are coming down on the side of love and tolerance over fear and hate. For every bad news story there’s a heartening tale of lawyers rushing to airports in the dead of night in their pyjamas to help an immigrant in need, or protesters creating a safe space in an airport for Muslims to pray. Seek out stories of hope and unity … and share them widely. Let love go viral, not hate.
Top up your inspiration tank
Another way to counter the negativity is to regularly read, watch or listen to the things that inspire you. A motivational podcast, the biography of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the quotes of Gandhi. Seek out your positive friends … the people who lift you up rather than suck you down. Keep laughing as well as crying. Laugh out the stress so that you’re able to then double down and get things done.
Trust in Love
Put your faith in something bigger than you and political systems. If you believe in Love, have faith that Love is always stronger than fear in the end; that love – not hate – is always the answer. Take inspiration from Anne Frank, who was able to find hope in the most terrifying of circumstances…
“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
When it all gets too much, go outside, look up at the sky and, like Anne Frank, know that tranquility will return once more.