Self-care in turbulent times

It seems like every day logging onto social media is becoming one of those daunting tasks. These days, it often feels like a much darker place than usual. Politics and arguments raging everywhere, people sharing their fears, mocking others for their fears. Civil unrest. Terrorist attacks. Human rights issues. They’re all piling up, like an avalanche on your emotions.

We live in a time when access to this kind of information is more prevalent than it has at any time in history. Before, we relied on waiting for the news, whether it came through the dailies and weeklies, or on the 5:00 news on the television.

Our time to be shocked and affected was limited, and often, the content was quite limited as well.

We might hear things now and again about what is going on in Syria, but the number of personalised stories revolving around the refugees would be fewer. We would know about the travel ban, but likely wouldn’t be seeing as many stories daily of the people being turned away and sent home just as they were reaching the U.S.

Having the ability to consume and see so much news isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has allowed us the ability to become far more aware of the world around us and has opened our eyes to the realities people are facing outside of our own bubbles.

But it can also be incredibly overwhelming and disheartening. In the past year, I’ve seen the phrase ‘I don’t want to live on this planet anymore’ posted more times than any other, particularly since Trump took office. Heck, I even uttered it for the first time amidst an emotional mess following some of the more controversial decisions made by the POTUS.

As I mentioned in my last column, our worlds have become so entwined through social media that they inundate much of our waking moments.

The question then remains, how do we keep ourselves from being sucked into a black hole of emotion so that we can continue fighting for what we believe is right?

The answer is actually quite simple. Disconnect for a while. Stay off social media. If you have to be on Facebook, simply unfollow pages and people sharing the stuff that is making your heart and soul so heavy.

But that’s just the first step. In the world of mental health recovery, we often talk about something called self-care. Self-care is many things to many people, but in its most basic form, it is about doing things that lift you up and make you feel good. It can involve everything from reading a book that inspires you, to taking a bubble bath, spending extra time with people you love, or going out and doing a good deed for someone. It can look like crocheting in the candlelight, enjoying a glass of wine, or for some crazy people (like me) doing some deep cleaning in your home.

Self-care is about refreshing your mind and renewing your spirit.

A big part of that includes keeping away from the things that are dragging you down for a little while.

I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with unplugging from Facebook and Twitter. One article I read recently described a kind of mental addiction we now have to bad news, saying the fears we have drive an obsession to consume and know all that is going on. It described this idea we get, typically on the subconscious level, that by somehow knowing all the bad news, seeing all the arguments that leave us feeling justified in our beliefs, we somehow think it begins to alleviate our fears.

If we know all that’s happening, we can’t get caught off guard and we can fight against it.

While that is true to some extent, on the other hand, it also has the ability to drag us down and leave us feeling discouraged and disheartened. Those feelings, as we all know, can work against us, leaving us so tired and bottomed out that we are unable to stand up as much for what is right.

We get lost in an abyss of darkness.

I think sometimes we forget that the world continued to go round and round before Facebook. We didn’t need to know what everyone was up to for every minute of the day. When we left our friends at school or our coworkers at work, we would often wait until the next day before discussing what was going on in our lives. We were not a culture of consuming everything about everyone.

Taking a break from social media is probably one of the best things we can all do for our mental health. Disconnect Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from our phones, and put our computers aside for a while. There may be a lot of terrifying crap going on in the world, but taking a day, or two, or a week off social media will not bring about the end of everything.

Besides, if the world were to end tomorrow, knowing the things leading up to it isn’t going to stop anything. And if it doesn’t end, the news will still be there when you get back, and you’ll still be able to get caught up if you feel the need.

So take a deep breath, step away from the arguments and back from the news feeds, and hit that power button for a while.

I promise you, your emotions will thank you for it.

This column appeared in the February 9, 2017 edition of the Orangeville Citizen.

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