The Four Cs
I am an optimist.
At least I like to think I am. I am a master of positive spin, too; I can take a bad situation and find the good inside. It’s a coping mechanism. Some may find it maladaptive, chiding: “Hey Melissa, things are NOT good right now. Why are you making jokes?” or “Your spin is a distraction. Why don’t you pay attention to the problem?” But I am paying attention. An optimistic perspective does not represent disrespect or dismissal. Every time I turn on the TV or listen to the radio or even check Facebook, all I see and hear is negative content. I know, I know. This is where the world is right now. And I know, I know. I can’t close my eyes and ignore it. But this continuous stream of negative energy is overwhelming and I feel like I’m treading water in a state of empathy-overload. I have to hold on to even the smallest specks of anything positive, or I will drown.
This is my brain on emotional overload, and it can’t continue. It can’t. I’ve got to slow my thoughts, but the questions keep coming. How to find quiet space in this world of turmoil? How to reduce the distractions and think? How to find each other through all of the shouting, and finger pointing, and mistrust and … bullshit? These are weighty questions my friends; ones without single answers. But that’s not stopping me from looking. While I mulch on the possibilities, I’ve devised a few coping strategies to keep me afloat and thought I’d share… in case you might need them, too.
THE FOUR Cs
Find something that you know will calm you and grab tight. This could be a ritual. This could be a book. This could be a person. This could be a specific item. I have two… a blanket and a vaporizer. Don’t judge. The blanket has been with me since infancy, through college and even medical school. We’ve been through a lot together… school, exams, breakups, migraines, anxiety… and while torn and tattered, the edges are still silky, and it rolls up into a perfectly sized huggable lump to press against my stomach. The other item is a Hankscraft vaporizer. The white noise and cool mist of the machine are sensations I crave when I’m frazzled and at my wits’ end. I haven’t pulled out my blanket in decades, but the vaporizer has been plugged in since Thanksgiving.
Give yourself permission to tune out from social media for a while. I’m on Facebook a lot. I like to see what friends are up to, and appreciate links to interesting articles and news. Reading posts is usually a mind-numbing and relaxing activity for me, but not anymore. Facebook is frenetic; the energy on the newsfeed is raw and desperate, full of anger and fear from every direction. Sure, I follow like-minded friends, but I also choose to follow people with opposing views. I believe that it’s important to listen to differing opinions, and Facebook makes it far too easy to only see the viewpoints I agree with on my newsfeed. I’ve made an intentional choice to find and read oppositional posts, but the ranting and bullying in these opinions are beyond shocking. There is no longer room for actual discussion; on the one side people are shouting, and on the other they are screaming. No one is listening. It’s awful, and my stomach can’t handle much more of it. I’ve started eating Zantac because it’s so nasty. So… cut the internet cord. Log out. Yes, you will miss out on announcements and news, but you will regain sanity. Trust me, your Facebook friends will not be angry with you. In fact, I bet many will not even notice if you don’t post or press “like” for a while.
Interact with a real person every day. Call a friend. Sit down with your partner/spouse. Make small talk with a child. Focus on the here and now. Communicating a majority of the time via social media is dysfunctional and deceptive. We forget that the people on the other end of the cable or line are real, with real feelings and real needs. We need to talk TO each other face to face again. We also need to reach out and hold each other once in a while. Never underestimate the importance of human touch; without it, we die. Honestly. We die. Don’t die.
Believe that goodness still exists. All of the seemingly endless negative energy oozing from every corner of the world right now makes the good stuff that’s still out there difficult to see. You have to really open your eyes and your heart to find it. Actively seek the positive and give it voice and nurturing. Start with yourself. You’re a fantastic person! I’m sure you don’t believe me, but you should. We often under-value ourselves and our contributions to each other, and it’s time to stop. Go and look in a mirror right now and tell yourself how freaking awesome you are. Give it a try and channel some Stuart Smalley while you’re at it; “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
The Take Away
The howling winds of anger and frustration aren’t lessening any time soon, but they can’t tempest forever. We need to be able to stay standing while they blow and after they stop. The Four Cs are how I’m coping right now, and they’re working for me. If you are also stuck in a state of negatively induced emotional overload, feeling distracted and paralyzed, give one of these coping strategies a try. Let me know if it helps.
CALM … CUT… CONNECT… CULTIVATE