Staying Sane when Everything is Terrible

Guest Post by LTC Team Member, Elizabeth Schroeder

Ed. Note:  No matter what our political views are, the relentless drumbeat of a negative news cycle impacts our mental health. Take care of yourself. Check out Liz’s self-care tips that go beyond just getting a massage or painting your toe nails. 

It’s been a hard news week  month. 

Of course, that’s a colossal understatement. This week has been a putrid dumpster fire of misogyny, victim blaming, and shameless political gimmicks. As more brave women step forward with sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — sacrificing their privacy and subjecting themselves to public ridicule to do so — a particular subset of our society continues their descent into frenzied, sexist madness. Every time I refresh my Twitter feed, which I freely admit to doing too often, I’m faced with something like this:

Or this:

Or this:

And after the initial shock and disgust wears off, it’s always quickly replaced by an emotion that’s become commonplace for me lately: potent, all-consuming fury. I’m talking balled fists, clenched teeth, can barely get through the day without losing it anger.

I don’t consider myself to be an angry person, generally; but lately, rage seems to always be bubbling just below the surface, waiting for yet another catalyst to push it over the top. It never has to wait long. As of me writing this, our country has experienced 268 mass shootings so far this year. By the time you read this, that number is likely to have grown.  Hundreds of migrant children remain separated from their parents. Our own President is flatly refusing to accept the horrific death toll of Hurricane Maria. To put it extremely mildly, there’s a lot to be mad about.

I don’t think I’m alone in my frequent rage-spiraling. My family and friends all seem to be just one outrageous headline or bigoted tweet away from flipping a table at any given time. So what do we do with all this anger? Implode? Run away and live off the grid? Tempting, but maybe not realistic. Here’s what helps me stay (relatively) sane in a time that’s anything but.

How to Deal with Negative News Cycles

Channel it.

Raise your hand if the news has pissed you off lately. Everyone? Great — now do something about it! For many people, myself included, anger can sometimes manifest as hopelessness or even apathy. Nothing I do will matter, so why bother? Try to remember that anger on its own accomplishes nothing; anger on a mission can accomplish almost anything. We’re all obscenely busy; I get it completely. But, there are opportunities for positive action everywhere you look, many of which require very little time or effort. Canvassing for a cause or candidate you care about is proven to be one of the most effective methods of voter outreach. It’s also a fun and easy family activity — really! Even my two-year-old loves it. (Full disclosure: she probably loves it because we let her eat all the snacks she wants and play PBS Kids games on my phone. But, I digress). Can’t canvass? Phone bank. Can’t phone bank? Text bank in your pajamas while you watch This Is Us. Call your representatives. Protest. Write letters. It’s all good, it’s all productive, and it will all make you feel better than stewing silently or ranting online.

Talk to your people.

Sometimes, after a particularly heinous news story breaks, I tell my husband, “I hate everyone except you.” It’s not true, of course, but he knows what I mean. I mean that, in that moment, the world is a little too much for me to handle and I need to commiserate with someone who just gets it. Find those people and keep them close. You’re going to need them often as we navigate the coming weeks, months, and years. Is there real value in talking to people we disagree with, debating cordially and trying to find common ground? Absolutely. But save those conversations for when you’re in a better headspace. And — take it from someone who’s gone down that road one too many times — there is absolutely nothing to be gained from arguing politics on Facebook. 

Give yourself a break.

After you’ve turned your rage into action, stop. Watch a RomCom, have a dance party with your kids, take a nap. Do whatever you need to do to feel like yourself again. Listen, we’re in this for the long haul, and you’ll lose your mind if you don’t allow yourself moments of joy and calm amidst the chaos. It doesn’t make you a less committed advocate, and it doesn’t mean you’re burying your head in the sand. Just as you can’t pour from an empty cup, you can’t change the world when your superpowers are drained, and we need you at 100%.

Find wins where you can.

Five minutes ago, as I was typing this blog post, I received a push notification from my news app — an image of Bill Cosby being perp-walked out of a Pennsylvania courthouse, about to serve a minimum of three years in prison for sexual assault. Is it the ideal outcome of a horrific case? No way. Is it enough to counteract the seemingly endless vortex of awful we find ourselves living in? Not by a long shot. But, will I let this one victory sustain me and keep me pushing through until the next one? You bet I will.

We have a long road ahead. I know I’ll have many more days like today, when I’m furious at the world and feel like screaming, crying, throwing up, or all three. You’ll probably have them, too. We’re in it together and will all come out the other side, hopefully somewhat unscathed. Until then, stay strong, stay sane, and keep fighting the good fight.


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