Ever since I started practicing thought work, these past few years have been a fascinating journey of observing the world through a new lens. The pandemic, contentious elections, natural disasters, and recent wars have been a trial by fire as far as putting my thought work into practice and managing my mind. It’s been eye-opening to reevaluate and recognize just how much I–and each of us–construct our unique realities. If you’re looking for answers on managing your own thoughts around the heavy state of the world, keep reading for my guide to reacting to the world around you.
How we construct our own reality
It all starts with our thoughts, which then shape our emotions, and these emotions, in turn, drive our actions. It’s a cycle, right? And if you ever needed an example of this, consider the COVID pandemic as a prime example.
People tend to cherry-pick facts that align with their pre-existing beliefs. They mold the information to fit their existing thoughts, and when confronted with contradictory facts, they often dig in their heels deeper, rarely changing their minds.
This phenomenon is even more pronounced in today’s digital age, exacerbated by the flood of information and disinformation campaigns via social media. People interpret the same facts in wildly different ways due to their unique perspectives. The thoughts they choose have a profound impact on how they feel about a particular issue, ultimately influencing their actions or inactions.
You might find yourself feeling enraged or anxious about the latest news cycle. While rage is a natural emotion to witnessing inequality, abuse, and pain, if left unchecked, it can simply cause you to burn out and become apathetic. It neither serves the people who are suffering nor contributes positively to your life. It’s like that saying: “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This applies to various negative emotions, including anxiety. Ask yourself who benefits when you’re anxious about something. Often, the answer is no one. It only weighs you down.
When I feel anxious, I remind myself that the outcome will be what it will be, regardless of my anxiety. This doesn’t mean I won’t get involved or take action, but I choose thoughts and feelings that empower me and align with my values. I contemplate how such thoughts serve the causes I care about. I’m constantly aware of my thoughts, not to eliminate negative emotions but to ensure they drive me to meaningful actions. I may feel anxious, but it’s an anxiety I choose, and I remain in control.
How to manage your mind
In these uncertain times with intense emotions surrounding crucial issues, here’s how I navigated it:
One: Allow yourself to feel OK
Firstly, I no longer wait for everything to be perfect before allowing myself to feel okay. Many of us grapple with a sense of guilt when we witness the immense suffering and turmoil around the globe. It is one thing to acknowledge our privilege, which we must do. But for the longest time, I carried a heavy burden of guilt and shame about my own circumstances. I felt an unrelenting pressure to remain in a state of perpetual anger, sadness, and anxiety because I knew that countless others endured unimaginable hardships. It was almost as if my negative emotions created some solidarity with the people who were actually suffering.
But here’s the truth I uncovered: my feelings of despair and anger didn’t alter anyone else’s circumstances. Instead, they weigh me down and keep me from taking meaningful actions. I began to realize that if I kept waiting for the world to become a perfect place, I’d never find inner peace. Unfortunately, humanity has its dark side, and there will always be something tragic happening in the world. Even as we find solutions to some problems, new challenges arise.
Reflecting on my nearly 40 years of life, I’ve witnessed an array of conflicts, wars, uprisings, famines, and numerous global crises. I know that there will be many more to come as I age. It’s not just my journey; it’s a shared human experience. The question I pose to myself is how I want to perceive it. I refuse to become apathetic, resigned to the belief that these challenges are insurmountable. At the same time, I don’t want to let them consume me entirely.
Instead, I’ve come to accept that both good and bad will forever coexist. The power lies in my choice of where I focus my attention and energy, and what I can control.
Two: Find comfort in history
Secondly, I find comfort in history. As Martin Luther King once eloquently stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This quote serves as a guiding light in my life, especially when the world’s woes feel overwhelming. I wish I had the power to end these injustices, but I know I can’t single-handedly stop them.
What comforts me is the recognition that, although progress can be painfully slow, we are moving towards a more just and moral world. Just reflecting on the last century reveals immense strides towards equity and justice. Do we still have a long way to go? Undoubtedly. Do I advocate complacency or idle hope? No. However, I acknowledge that this is a long-term endeavor.
I’m committed to being part of this enduring change, actively contributing in my lifetime. And if you are, too, we mustn’t let the weight of the world’s problems consume us, but rather focus on where we can make a meaningful difference.
Three: Take a break from the news
Thirdly, I consider the overwhelm of information we face today. Not that long ago, news was limited to an hour or two each evening. Now, we’re inundated with constant streams of global crises, from tragic events to political turmoil. While it’s important to stay informed, the continuous flow of distressing news can be detrimental. Our brains actively process this information, even when we mindlessly scroll through social media or news sites.
Moreover, you can’t be knowledgeable about everything happening worldwide. Focus on what matters most to you, the causes closest to your heart. There’s no need to feel guilty about not keeping up with every global issue. Online shaming for not being constantly informed is counterproductive.
While social media can be a powerful tool to raise awareness and demand action, it can also become a numbing escape. Mindlessly scrolling and taking in information without taking meaningful action serves no one, not even yourself. Set limits on your information intake and remember that quality is more valuable than quantity when it comes to staying informed.
Beyond the news cycle
It’s worth noting that this mindset guide isn’t exclusive to world crises; it applies to any situation beyond your control. Realizing that your thoughts shape your emotions and behaviors can be a game-changer. You have the ability to transform your perspective, make choices that serve you, and decide how you want to feel and act in your life, relationships, or career. You possess more influence than you might realize, not in changing external circumstances, but in changing your internal mindset, which can lead to a transformative life.
I really hope that you spend the time to limit your news intake, focus on the things that you can focus on, and accept that even if outcomes are uncertain (spoiler alert: life is always uncertain), that you are still allowed to feel okay. Your well-being matters.