Stressed about the world? How to move that stress instead of succumb to it.

Woman holding the world in her hands

I’ve had many conversations these past few weeks with patients feeling absolutely overwhelmed by everything going on in the world – so many local, state, national, and world events.

Stress on top of stress.

Collectively we have been in a heightened state of stress for some time now – covid, vaccines, masks, racial tensions, political tension, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes. Now the news from Afghanistan.

It’s.. all.. so.. very.. much.

Please don’t think I have it all figured out, or am trying to give easy solutions to complicated problems.

But being empathic, I feel things deeply and if I don’t do things to take care of my emotions, I can wind up making choices that numb and cocoon.

These are ideas that help me. Maybe they’ll help you too…

1. Worry-Fear-Anger

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we don’t look at any emotion as being a bad emotion.  It is only when we get stuck in one that it will wreak havoc on us.

So move through the worry, fear, or anger. Help them to dissipate so you don’t feel stuck.

These emotions can be channeled into action and change which is empowering.  If you stay stuck in them, it will lead to despair which is the lowest vibrational emotion.

2. Set a time limit on news.

Remember news outlets are designed to grab our attention and then work really hard to keep us glued to the TV broadcast or app alerts.

Reduce the amount of time you spend on the news.

  • I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes and scroll through the updates until my timer goes off.
  • If you don’t like the timer idea, then start with watching one less broadcast than you normally do.
  • Or try “half and half” – however long you spend watching the news, you need to then spend the same amount of time doing/watching something enjoyable, light, funny, or soothing.

I get it that you want to stay on top of what’s going on, but start observing… you’ll notice that so much of the info is repeated over and over again.

You don’t need to watch it/ read it/ listen to it multiple times.  Once is enough.

And speaking of….

3. Watch out for secondary trauma signs

Secondary trauma is a real thing. It happens to those who are not the victim of the trauma itself, but either witness it or hear the telling of traumatic stories.

And it’s not just in those in the helping professions – social workers, counselors, nurses, etc.  Anyone can be vulnerable.

In the case of the news outlets, sharing information to expose a situation is one thing. But showing the same traumatic image or video clip over and over and over again creates more trauma.

Pay attention if you are starting to feel detached, hopeless, unusually fatigued, withdrawing, or engaging in self-destructive coping methods.  If so, PLEASE seek out help.  

4. Where do you feel it? 

Whenever you are starting to feel tension:

  • Pause immediately
  • Notice your body – where do you feel it?
  • Breathe deeply
  • Visualize the tense muscles in that area relaxing.

For example, when I feel worried about something, I notice my throat gets constricted, I feel butterflies at my upper abdomen and an uncomfortable sensation along my sternum.  My shoulders also tend to climb up to my ears.

So while breathing deeply, I focus on bringing my shoulders down and trying to relax the muscles from my throat to my belly button.

5. Send loving kindness out, not worry

Many of us have somehow been taught that worrying = caring.

And therefore, if you aren’t worrying, then you aren’t a caring person.

That’s not true and it does us so much harm.

An unending cycle of worry does nothing to help the other person and nothing to help ourselves.

It is not helpful to project your fear and worry onto the one you are worrying about.

Before thinking about a person who is suffering, before praying for someone, before watching stressful broadcasts, bring up a feeling of loving-kindness. 

How?  Think first of something that has given you a happy feeling…

  • a picture of your infant son
  • holding your newborn grand-daughter
  • a video of schnoodle puppies crawling all over each other.

Gather up that good feeling, notice where you feel it in your body, and NOW concentrate on the other person.  Send that warmth out to them.

6. Can, not Can’t

Helplessness is a feeling of “can’t.”

I can’t fix it. I can’t make it better.  I can’t do anything from here. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t…

And for a lot of it, yeah, you’re probably right, you can’t.  But turn the tables and start asking…

“So, then, well, what CAN I do?”

This brings your attention away from worrying about the problem and instead putting energy to possible solutions.

No, you can’t control international relations.  But, can you educate yourself on the issues to decide your choices at election time?

You can’t fix the mistreatment of women all over the world.  But, can you find reputable humanitarian organizations to donate to?

You can’t make everyone agree on anything.  But, can you determine your own viewpoint without getting mad at others for thinking differently than you do?

Focus on the can’s.  

7. Move your body.

When we are feeling fear, worry, and anger, our energy can get very stuck.

Everyone knows what this feels like – tension, fidgeting, irritable or even foggy, lethargic, and numb.

The best way to move stuck energy is to move your body.

Go for a short walk, dance to a song, walk your dog.  Even just standing up from the couch and stretching your arms to the ceiling makes a difference.

8. Find some nature. 

Trees and water are the best for grounding and getting out of your head.

Turn off the TV for a little bit, put your phone down, and spend a few minutes in your yard or at a park.

I love being around really old trees, moving water (fountains, rivers, oceans), and watching the moon & stars.

These make me realize there are forces in play that are far beyond my worldly problems.  

Remember, taking care of yourself puts you in the best possible way to help others.  

If you have a family member or friend who needs what I’ve shared here today, will you please share this with them?

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