I have a friend in Puerto Rico who is hanging on, covering up his increasingly dire living situation with black humor and grim cheer.
I have a friend who’s a dreamer because her dad is a ridiculous flake. She’s smart, educated, productive, positive. She’s unambiguously American. She’s worried she may have to start a new life in a country that’s never been her home. And I’m worried with her.
All times feel tumultuous. But this isn’t the usual “I don’t know how I’m going get it all done.”
We’ve all heard of that supposed traditional curse, “May you live in interesting times.” And I get it now. Going back to boring would be great, please.
You can respond by pulling the metaphorical covers over your head, and sometimes, we all need to do exactly that. Ask me where to find the cute pug videos, I’ll send ’em on over to you.
But eventually we have to get back to adulting, so we can take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities. Here are some things that are helping me.
This one has been a mainstay of mine for a long time, not because I am so virtuous, but because it reliably helps me feel a lot better.
If you’re anxious about friends (or just fellow human beings), give some money to a worthy cause. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. $20 will help you see that you’re not helpless. And, not coincidentally, it will be added up with lots of other folks’ donations and it will do some good.
If you can give time, that’s wonderful. If you can give a few moments of attention to call your elected officials, that’s superb. If it’s just going to be $15 or $20 today, that’s completely fine.
The act of giving changes your focus. Instead of feeling paralyzed, you realize that you do have agency. That you can do something.
Sharpen your skills
The ideal time to get massively better at what you do was 10 years ago. Obviously.
If your TARDIS is broken at the moment, you might as well roll your sleeves up and start now.
If you’re a writer, get better. If you’re a designer, get better. If you’re an accountant, get better. If you’re a marketer, get better.
While I do think it’s good to work on your weaknesses, in times of crisis I think you get more bang out of focusing on improving your strengths. It’s easier to do when you’re already emotionally exhausted, and the payoff is faster and greater.
Manage your overwhelm
It’s funny (as in, horrible) how we can lie there at 4:00 AM like paralyzed rabbits stressing over things we can’t change.
What I did this morning when I found myself doing exactly that: Got up and banged out a webinar script. By 6 AM I had added a couple of free hours to my day, crossed an important to-do off the list, and kept myself moving forward.
Small daily habits work really well for getting a handle on feelings of overwhelm or helplessness. So do tools that let you deal with tasks you might find overwhelming.
I’m a new convert to the budgeting software YNAB, and it’s brilliant. Everything feels tracked, managed, and under control. Cross one more source of stress off the list.
Finally, you must manage your social media intake. My 4:00 AM stress bomb was probably triggered by staying up too late on Twitter last night getting pulled into the latest Genuinely Awful Thing.
Social media arguments do very little. Focus on more meaningful tasks, even if they’re of the one-minute variety. A single call to a senator or congressperson will do more than 24 hours of nonstop social media bickering.
And yeah, I use an app for that as well. It can feel impossible to tear yourself away from Facebook or Twitter in the middle of a long argument, so I use the Freedom app to just kick me off. Problem managed.
We all know about this, and we do not do this.
You must create some rest for yourself, or you will break into non-usable tiny pieces.
Cultivate a small, frivolous creative habit. Maybe you want to make paper dolls. Or design fancy bullet journal pages. Or balloon animals. Maybe you just want to draw shapes with Elmer’s glue and cover them with glitter.
Anything like that would be great.
Make moments throughout your day to get up and move around. Go outside. Look at the sky, and some plants if you have any handy. (The post photo today is of the beautiful ash tree in front of my house.)
Hug something. Ideally something alive. Oxytocin (the “love hormone”) helps your body handle stress in a healthy way. Find some puppies, friends, kittens, loved ones. Hug another being every time you get the chance. (Get their permission first.) We all need the therapy.
Even if you’re an introvert. Even if you feel socially exhausted. We have to group together.
Horrible problems are so much easier when we tackle them together.
Form small groups. Find communities. Cultivate business friendships. Cultivate non-business friendships.
If you’re spinning your wheels, ask for help. If you can’t figure out the thorny problem, and digging into the research makes you feel like bursting into tears, ask a friend if you can do it together.
Prioritize connection. Even if you don’t feel like it — and you may be stressed enough that you don’t. But if you collect some people who understand you, and you can agree to have each other’s backs, you’ll find you can do all kinds of things you never could before.
Possibly I can help …
I’ve put together a mini-course (delivered by email) to help with some of the scary stuff that keeps us stuck and afraid. Things like not feeling safe, not feeling like we’re the kind of people who can be successful, and coping with our good friend overwhelm.
If you haven’t signed up yet, you can get it by entering your details below. I’m also going to be letting those folks know about a new (tiny) coaching program I’m launching, as well as some discount codes for things you might want.
It won’t be a pitch fest, and I do think the ideas and suggestions may be helpful to you. Hope to see you there. 🙂