Today, I feel deeply connected with the sadness of the world.
What an awful couple of days it has been in the news. Locally, we in Edmonton experienced what may be our first terrorist attack, while reports are streaming in from south of the border that the US just experienced its most deadly mass shooting yet. The comments sections on news articles online are full of hatred, vitriol, anger, and fear. There are so many reasons your heart may feel heavy with all this, and to feel as though all the pain and suffering in the world is all too real – all too close – for you.
You’re not alone. I feel it, too. The air seems thick with sadness and fear. The emotional part of me understands that this deep empathy we feel for others, near and far, is not a bad thing, as it serves to keep us connected with the greater world around us, and can sometimes motivate us to take action towards meaningful changes we’d like to see in the world. And yet, it still hurts, and sometimes the emotions are so overwhelming that they can feel paralyzing.
There is no easy solution to any of this. Not the feelings, and not the events that caused them. So where can you go from here?
I recommend this as your first step: recognize you’re absolutely not alone. Put a hand on your chest, feel your heart beating beneath it, take a deep breath, feel your rib cage and your heart rate rise and fall with your breath and remind yourself that you are feeling exactly what a lot of people are feeling about this. Give yourself permission to feel these things, because it is perfectly human to connect with the sadness of the world. Second step: feel your feet on the ground, notice the muscles in your legs that are working subtly to keep you upright, feel the sturdiness of the ground beneath you and imagine the miles of earth and rock underneath that support your feet, and remember that in this moment you are safe. You are safe. Remember this any time your mind wanders to the awful things that exist in this world – you are safe right here and now. Third step: connect with others in positive ways: look for the helpers in the moments of tragedy, reach out to the ones you love, hug your partner or your children a bit longer today, and allow your eyes to linger just a moment longer than usual when you make eye contact with someone and smile. And, finally, be kind to yourself, because it hurts. It can be crushing. Pain is pain is pain, and if you’re feeling emotional pain it can be helpful to treat yourself as though you sustained an injury. Rest, soothe, take care of yourself, and provide yourself the time and resources you need to recover. Try to avoid the tendency to ignore or “push through” emotional pain, because that can be about as productive as trying to walk on a broken ankle. You have permission to need and accept care, both from yourself and others.
Doing these small things isn’t going to make the problems of the world or your intense feelings about them go away, necessarily. But it might help, and maybe when you start to feel a little more like yourself you’ll feel motivated to do something to help change the sadness in the world. And with every bit of action you take, you’ll feel more powerful and hopeful and in control, and when enough people meet you at this place you’ll actually change the world. But until then – breathe, get grounded, connect, and be kind to yourself.