How You Doing? You Okay?

Feeling apprehensive lately? Join the club.

Posted Jun 28, 2017

Ned Simonds
Source: Ned Simonds

An inordinate number of people have mentioned to us lately that they’ve been feeling a little “off,” “weird,” “strange,” or “not normal,” and have a hard time pinpointing the cause. Sure, we all have personal problems we deal with on a day to day basis, and some situations are far more serious, such as failing health or severe financial crises, than others, like who’s going to pick up the kids from camp or what to eat for dinner. In any given situation, we see the problem, blame it on our down mood, and then deal with it as best we can.

But what we’ve noticed of late is different because these people can’t put their finger on why they feel “off.” And this has us wondering: Are many parts of our nation living under a cloud of—for lack of a better term—free-floating anxiety?

A new level of stress

At some point in human development, it’s not unusual for an individual to undergo an identity crisis. Generally, it happens during a period of time when a person is confused or uncertain about themselves, usually because of an unexpected change that affects their place in society, or a sudden awareness of looking older, or a romantic breakup. Mid-life crises are a good example; youth is a thing of the past and it can feel like death is right around the corner. But if we expand our view to include the world, then we see that nations are similar to people—they are born, grow through developmental stages, mature (if they’re lucky), some become great, and eventually die slowly to become insignificant. Think about the former grandeur of Portugal, Greece, Egypt, and even Belgium.

With this in mind, it’s conceivable that our American nation is undergoing an identity crisis: Do we want to maintain and expand on the beliefs and traditions our founding fathers established 226 years ago in the Constitution? Or do we want to adopt the new, “America First” motto of our current president, which in some ways is diametrically opposed to those former ideals? Either way, millions of us are experiencing a new set of problems that bring new levels of stress into our everyday lives. These overarching circumstances that envelope our nation can feel like a low hanging thundercloud that may or may not burst at any moment. When we add this additional stress to our already personally stressful lives, we can feel “off,” “strange,” “weird,” and “not normal.” 

While we don’t have a solution for the nation’s free-floating anxiety (besides awaiting for a regime change that is more compassionate in promoting the best American values for everyone, poor as well as the rich) we do have a mantra that we have passed on before to the distressed people mentioned above:

This too shall pass

Time is continuous and whatever is happening in the present moment will soon become the past. It might help to remember that each of us has suffered and made it through trying times, and so has our nation. We survived, and we thrived, and we will again, and again. Right now, in this moment, there is a world of possibility, which can be harnessed to create our brighter future. The following are some ways to stay hopeful right here, right now.

Three Ways to Stay Hopeful

1. Be kind to yourself and others.

This can take many forms. Here are a few:

• Curtail your intake of media—we are constantly bombarded by media with “breaking news” and may feel it’s necessary to be up on everything all the time. Although it might be a feather in our cap to be the first person to hear about and then share some exciting new tidbit, the time it takes to be so informed can take away from living life now. Go easy on yourself. Consider watching/reading a couple of news shows/articles a couple of times a day (once a day is better). Although news reported later in the day is more current, it's not particularly healthy to go to sleep with disturbing thoughts fresh in your mind. So make sure you read, watch or do something that will replace unwanted thoughts before entering a sleep cycle. Maybe check only a favorite trusted morning news source.

• Take mini-breaks—these can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, two or three times a day. Shift your focus from whatever you are doing to something that brings you the feeling of happiness. For instance, visually look at the flowers in the office or the clouds floating by or photos of loved ones, or close your eyes and go to your happy place; you'll feel refreshed. 

• Practice random acts of kindness—every day! Go ahead and help the elder person across the street, or get the item off the top shelf at the grocery store for the person in the wheelchair, or give a sincere compliment to your coworker, or hold the elevator door open for all to enter or exit freely. These random acts will bring a smile to your face as well as the person on the receiving end. Remember: Kindness begets hopeful feelings. Also by being a constructive, active up-stander instead of a passive inactive bystander, you are on you way to becoming what Phil calls an Everyday Hero in Training.

2. Treat each day like a precious gift.

• Express love tangibly—be generous with hugs for loved ones, encouraging words for coworkers, and those acts of kindness mentioned above. The more we express our love, the more deeply we feel it and the more hopeful we’ll be. Practice giving compliments to friends, coworkers, teachers, and service people who deserve the praise. 

• Revel in the beauty around you—there is beauty everywhere; sometimes we just have to shift our focus. Notice the color of the sky, the grain in the wood, the water dripping off an icicle, the sound of children laughing, or bird song. Beauty is plentiful, and always there. Realizing there is beauty brings with it a feeling of hope.

• Be gratefulfor everything! Say thanks for the roof over your head, food in the refrigerator, the bees pollinating flowers, and for the people in our lives, especially our family and friends. Even in the bleakest of times, we have much to be grateful for.

Ned Simonds
Source: Ned Simonds

3. Make a difference.

Perhaps the most important way we can stay hopeful is by making a difference in the lives of others. Here are a few suggestions:

• Volunteer—if you have a special skill, consider sharing it; be a reader at your local school or a helper at a soup kitchen. And if you have a special interest, consider getting involved in an organization that improves the life of others less fortunate. Volunteering puts not only our lives, but the lives of others into perspective. (See link below for info about Phil’s Heroic Imagination Project.)

• Make calls, write post cards—if being social isn’t your strong suit, consider making phone calls or sending post cards to government officials to express your concerns. Millions of people feel the same way you do but most won’t take action. And consider breaking the mold by being pro-social—go on a mass march to openly protest injustices to women and minorities and/or to support science, climate change initiatives, etc. Being pro-active is being hopeful.

• Be kind—it’s worth repeating: By being kind to yourself and others, you automatically make the world a better, more hopeful place and pave the way for a brighter future. The Dalai Lama reminds us often that shared Compassion makes our world more lovable and live able, but should begin with self-compassion. YOU are the key.

References

Hope: How to find it, Craig Ing, The Huffington Post, 2/8/2013. 

Eight ways to increase hope, Naomi Drew, Beliefnet.com.