There are days when the doom doesn’t go away. Do you ever feel it? Like no meditating, healthy breakfast, dog cuddles or hugs seem to eclipse ALL THE THINGS. Even if you ignore the media onslaught, the well of sadness that seems to be lingering in everyone’s eyes right now, the heaviness remains.
Reasons for this are abundant. In 2022, the American Psychology Association (APA) reported that Americans (and I’d assume much of the western world) are distressed about the state of government, the evaporation of our civil liberties, the bleakness of the future, inflation, violence, guns, climate change and it’s damaging our ability to function.
I see this every day in my university classroom. My students are drowning in stressors, whether it’s the self-imposed pressure of school or a social life, or the larger THINGS that are affecting us all. Some days I wish I could feed them a healthy dinner and offer them a safe space to relax. But more often, I find myself unable to do more than offer compassion (which actually just means suffering together).
Because the truth is, we are all struggling right now. No one I know is ok.
Obviously this is not a way to live and we combat our despair with cocktails of media and substances to get through the day.
However, psychologists tell us to take control where we can and so when I am feeling most at odds with the state of the world and my place within it, I walk.
Simplistic as it sounds, each step forward moves me a bit farther from the anguish. At first, I can only notice the ugliness in my neighborhood — the unkempt lawns, the dog poop left to disintegrate on the potholed sidewalk, the graffiti, a dented car, the trash along the roadway — but as my feet carry me forward, the stress begins to flit away, piece by piece. Out in the world, I must encounter what’s here in front of me — the cold air, the sun on my face, the old dude bumping Reggaeton from his Mercedes. The future begins to feel a bit less theoretical, less fixed, and maybe more like a prediction.
As the intrusive thoughts chill, I begin to notice other, quieter things. A hummingbird sipping nectar from purple sage. A hawk retreating to a torrey pine across the street from a used car lot. Water droplets on the collard greens of…