I’m not sure about you, but when humanity starts to really screw things up I slump into a deep, trance-like ‘almost depression’ that I find hard to get out of. I become paralysed by our predicament and sometimes feel like throwing in the towel and turning my back on the world. You know, eating all the Bluefin Tuna I can get my hands on because “What the hell, it’ll be extinct soon anyway”. These feelings are not particularly good for my productivity at work, for my sense of wellbeing or for the contribution I’m making to society.
The past two weeks have been a shocker; we’re currently alienating same-sex couples by threatening a plebiscite that we know will create hate speech and waste millions of dollars, oh and speaking of hate speech we also witnessed Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech to Parliament.
Then you have the barbaric torture we are subjecting refugees to at Manus and Nauru, with leaked file after leaked file telling us what we already know. THIS IS WRONG. We have the Australian paedophile being sentenced in the Philippines for crimes I can’t even bear to hash up again.
AND THEN a few days ago I woke to the news that a convoy of UN relief trucks had been bombed in Syria, killing 12 beautiful relief workers and drivers and obliterating the first relief parcels to enter the region in months. Vital food and medical supplies that would provide temporary relief to a group of people whom have been through hell and back already.
How does one leap out of bed and take in the first signs of spring whilst enjoying their morning coffee when all of this is going on in the world? How do you make the most of the sheer luck that you were born in ‘a lucky country’ and that every day offers up opportunity that others could only dream of?
I will never know the suffering of so many people, the most I have had to deal with is losing my mother. Grief is something we must all face. Torture, persecution, violent death or relentless fear is not.
On the one hand I get frustrated at myself for the guilt and sadness I perpetually feel when I have so much to be thankful for, but on the other I don’t want to lose sight of the bigger, more disturbing picture. How does one tackle this mighty conundrum?
Here’s what I do, I hope it helps anyone who feels the same:
1. Focus on the small stuff. The things you can control.
I can’t necessarily change the world but I can aspire to be the best version of myself so that I’m not stealing precious resources from future generations or making people feel crappy. I don’t always succeed, but I try.
When externalities become too overwhelming I stay home and make washing powder with my two-year old son, literally. Much joy can be found in my house from avoiding single-use plastic packaging and making things from scratch, especially with a glorious, carefree and impressionable little person by my side.
I plan family outings that don’t involve the car to get us all outdoors and active.
I spend a little longer at the farmers’ market on a Saturday, chatting to the people who boost my mood and grow my food.
I recently campaigned for the rabbit at my son’s childcare centre to have a run built for it because she was housed in a ridiculously small cage. I won! See, I’m not creating world peace here people, but it’s a start.
2. Conversations and self-education are important
Sometimes I wonder what the point of reading articles and watching documentaries is when nothing seems to change. But the thing is; it does change. It might not happen at the speed we’d like it to, but discussing issues with friends and family, challenging each other’s ideas and striving to be a more ethical consumer and inhabitant of this planet is important. Heck, half my family and friends now sport reusable cups, cloth bags and seek out free range and organic meat. That’s progress and it stemmed from casual conversations over dinner and a few too many wines.
3. Dance alongside a busker
We have these incredible creative industries right before our eyes and they’re largely underappreciated and underfunded. So much can be gained from stopping to enjoy the sounds of a busker on the walk home from work, or slipping a gold coin into their guitar case to show your appreciation. Tiny act, huge reward because our streets remain vibrant.
4. Sign petitions and donate
I fall into the trap of ‘liking’ the shit out of causes and news I’m interested in when perusing social media. Around once a fortnight I stop to donate to said cause. I quietly remind myself that incredible charities and advocacy organisations can’t survive off ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ (Sustainable Table included!). It might only be $5 but it’s something.
5. Stand up for people/groups/ideas even if it’s uncomfortable to do so
We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced excruciating moments where something has happened or someone has said something that is racist or hurtful or wrong, but we’ve been too timid to respond. The retort you repeat in your head all the way home sounds AWESOME, but it’s too late. Find the courage to have the uncomfortable conversation with the casual racist at the dinner party, or the person who teases you for caring where you food comes from because that somehow makes you an entitled hipster rather than a conscious consumer. You might not walk away feeling like you’ve won every time, but you’ve been true to yourself and that’ll pay off in spades.
As I have said, I’m not running the country or doing anything remotely as important, but these five little exercises help me to manage my anxiety regarding the state of the planet.
Have you got any coping strategies that should be shared?