Lately I've had the same conversation over and over with friends. With all the tension in the news, the sad stories, the nonstop analysis and the limitless channels of information, how do we stop from falling apart?
Many of us are finding ourselves glued to the TV, radio, newspaper and internet these days. We get anxious, upset, depressed, frustrated and angry. We carry those feelings with us throughout our day, as we work, parent, and try to engage in our community. And it's starting to break us.
It's a good thing to be aware and engaged in current events. It's important to be part of the conversation. However, we also need balance in our lives. We talk about work/life balance, and family/solo balance. Why not talk about emotional balance?
For many of my friends, the current climate is leaving them in a constant state of anxiety. The antidote seems to be to unplug for a while or just shut it all off. This is helpful, but it usually just leads to an oscillation between anxiety and apathy.
We are allowing ourselves to flatline in order to stop feeling.
This is not balance. We need to allow ourselves to balance these strong negative feelings with strong positive feelings. It may seem difficult to seek out joy and beauty when there is sadness and ugliness in the world, but we need it. We need it to be able to engage and support our communities. We need it to keep our families hopeful. We need it to keep ourselves sane.
I think that to truly bring emotional balance, a few things need to happen.
1. Be intentional about your activities. Don't leave the TV on in the background of your life. Be intentional about the time you devote to getting your news and information so you can be present with the information and absorb it consciously.
2. Observe the changes in emotion that come over you. People tend to say, "the news stresses me out." But what are you really feeling? Did a story leave you feeling helpless? Sad? Uncomfortable? Frustrated?
3. Be conscious about what you need to balance that negative emotion. Did you hear something that frustrated you? Are you craving calm? Did you watch a video that was scary and filled with ugliness? Are you seeking beauty? Did a story leave you feeling helpless? Are you hungering for a way to get involved?
4. Find an activity that can bring that positive counter emotion into your life to recharge you. Craving calm? Take a quiet walk or listen to classical music. Feeling helpless? Have a thoughtful conversation with your children about race or community responsibility. Feeling isolated? Reach out to a good friend.
Because I'm a coach, and I love a good tool, I created this "emotional balance sheet" to help become more intentional about the way I consume information and more aware about both the emotions I am experiencing and the emotions I am craving.
Take care of yourself. It will better prepare you to take part in healing the world.