Is Sanity Possible During Insane Times?

Four things we can do to stay well and do well.

Posted Sep 30, 2020

Nailia Schwarz/Shutterstock
Source: Nailia Schwarz/Shutterstock

It’s 24 hours post first presidential debate, and most of us are still stuck in SMH mode, cringing, horrified, and bracing ourselves for what’s next as The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” song dances through our heads while we’re Google searching “EMDR therapists” to figure out how to undo the trauma, or at least wake up from this nightmare.

There aren’t enough Sarah Coopers, Trevor Noahs, and Onion articles in the world right now to help us find the comedic relief we need during this unfolding tragedy of “leadership."

Even if we shout out the “Serenity Now!” mantra of George Costanza, invoke the spirit of the great George Carlin, or have Glennon Doyle give us unlimited 1:1 life coaching, it still feels like sanity is out of reach.

Even if we channeled all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom, absorbed all of Deepak’s teachings, binge-watched every last one of Brene Brown’s talks, and left Enya on autoplay for days on end, we would still feel a mess.

If we meditated for hours in a lavender-infused salt bath with sage burning and Yo Yo Ma playing in the background, the anxiety will not melt away a'la Calgon commercial style. 

The debate was like an accident scene that's hard to turn away from. Not unlike the daily headlines that are pumping through our feeds, sending us into a state of fear, polarization, and unrest on the daily, for what feels like forever.

And yes, humor and salt baths, spiritual guides and thought leaders can help. 

We can also draw upon behavioral science, positive psychology, and social consciousness to help us stay well and do well even when it feels like the prospect of survival was so 2016.

Here are some things to harness:

1. Embrace your identity as a leader. You do not need a fancy title or position of power to help be the change this word yearns for. Leadership needs to be redefined and redistributed to the people who are invested in making society better for the sake of one another. Be a person who influences and inspires — not one that disparages, uses power-over, and dirty tricks. Use your resources to contribute positively. 

2. Engage in a relentless process of unlearning and relearning. We are capable of deep thinking as a species. Take a cue from Social Dilemma (Netflix) and consider how we are being manipulated and increasingly radicalized. Work to unlearn biases and remove distractions that consume us. We need full bandwidth and hands on deck to do the hard work of thinking about ways to improve social conditions and to advance them forward.

3. Commit to intensive self-care. During such intense times, we must nurture ourselves through deliberate acts that contribute towards well-being and sustainability. Our brains need breaks from the brouhaha and grind of daily life. Rest, exercise, nutrition, fun, leisure, creative and expressive activities can all serve as sources of recalibration and reprieve.

4. Form kindness pods. We are wired for community. During times of polarization, distancing, and overwhelm, loneliness and isolation can send us into deeper despair. Relationships are amongst the most protective factors that contribute to resilience. Spend time with people who are committed to spreading love, peace, and kindness and who show solidarity with and accountability towards those who are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against. 

When we invest in positive activities and relationships, it doesn’t erase the horror show we are watching, but it can help us remain well enough to do well in this world. 

Sanity feels elusive during such times. Hope is hard to muster, but we must.

References

Lee, K (2018). Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking. Learn What it Takes to Be More Agile, Mindful and Connected in Today's World. Deerfield, FL: HCI Books.