Caring and Self-Caring in Today's World
In today's world, the geopolitical and sociocultural climates feel like a state of never-ending crisis, heightened by real-time updates and social media frenzies. There are so many issues that require our attention - from climate change, reproductive rights, gun violence and tax reform, to the human rights atrocities in places like Myanmar and the Philippines, natural disasters, and the recent sexual harassment deluge sweeping Hollywood and Capital Hill. Without even scratching the surface, I often find myself feeling overloaded with information and emotions. I worry that I'm not doing enough, but also acknowledge that there are only so many hours in our days. Which leads to me wonder...
How do we have informed, meaningful impact on the world (beyond just a superficial appearance of caring)? Without draining ourselves of all our time, energy, and emotion? And without feeling overwhelmed or guilty that we're not doing enough? And, most importantly, without losing our faith in humanity?
There's no one right answer (unfortunately). But there are strategies we can use to continue to fight the good fights without burning out.
1. SEGMENT YOUR TIME
Every day, every hour there's breaking news. And while social media has made it easy for us to stay up-to-date every step of the way, the on-going stimulation can also leave us feeling overwhelmed. Just like with exercising or being productive at work, having dedicated time to do something helps us focus on the task at hand. Carving out 15-30 minutes to read the latest news or educate yourself on the issue is often more effective than trying to continuously digest everything throughout the day. If you see an interesting article, bookmark it for later. Make a note to research an issue more in-depth - don't rely on headlines and 'trending' news as your only sources when you formulate an opinion. Give yourself time to process, react and, if needed, decompress.
2. ADVOCATE STRATEGICALLY
When systems (like our governments) or people (like those in power) are failing, we as citizens have a critical role in advocating for change and making our voices heard. Avoid getting sucked into a Facebook comment fight with someone with a dissenting opinion. Your energy is better spent on dedicated advocacy and positive disruption. And don't underestimate the power of starting locally because the most effective change can start at the ground up. Get out there and vote - and better yet, volunteer to help register others to do the same. Find ways to participate in political platforms. Join a protest, march or demonstration. Consider writing an opinion piece for platforms like Medium or Huffington Post that can spark a conversation or healthy debate. And don't feel like you have to do it all - pick one or two issues and start there.
One of the most effective ways to support a cause is to support the people, groups, or institutions who dedicate their time and expertise to the cause, allowing them to use the resources where they know they're needed most. As they say, there's no need to reinvent the wheel - but you can help make the wheel turn smoother, faster, and go farther. Just be sure to do your due diligence so you feel comfortable with who you're supporting.
No money? No problem. YOU are a valuable asset in your own right. Work with other individuals and groups in your community to address an issue you care about. Having a dedicated time each week or each month where you give back will keep you feeling committed, and 'getting your hands dirty' can refresh your perspective when you're feeling jaded. Volunteerism has grown also, so if there aren't places in your city that need in-person volunteers, you can volunteer virtually for and from anywhere in the world! Reach out to any organization and offer ways you can get involved.
5. EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
When things get really heavy, it's hard to look past the turmoil and keep sight of the good things in life. At time like these we need a mental and/or emotional reboot - and the best way to do that is to do something new! Pick up a book completely unrelated to anything you know, try a new TV series or documentary you probably wouldn't watch; listen to a new podcast, or travel somewhere with the intention to learn about a different way of life. You'll be surprised where you can draw inspiration from! Whatever it is, you're guaranteed to learn something new that can help you in contributing to a larger global movement.
Whenever, however, and whichever way you choose to get involved in the issues you care about, remember that it's ok to feel exhausted, conflicted, and emotional. That's how you know you're paying attention. But it's important to practice self care so we don't become desensitized or lose the will to drive change forward.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. And what works for some might not work for all. So let's share strategies and ideas, and keep the conversation going!