Staying Sane in Unprecedented Times

Now is not the time to wallow.

I have been debating about whether or not to address current events on this blog for a while now. What do I, as a white woman, have to say about institutionalized racism? How can I positively contribute to a nuanced, complicated, and difficult national conversation? Not only that, but the focus of this blog is mental health and personal growth. Is it even appropriate to talk about worldly happenings here?

As a customer told me the other day,

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Because my main areas of expertise are mental health and art, this post will serve as a brief guide on how to take care of your mental health while being a responsible citizen of the world.

It can be tempting to look at the current state of the world as an irredeemable disaster. The future is uncertain, and the country is divided on how to proceed. So, my first piece of advice is to make a gratitude list a few times a week. There is no wrong way to do this; you can keep a running list on your phone, you can write it in a notebook, or you can do it any other way you desire. Try to put at least five things on your list. They can be material objects, relationships, or future plans. The purpose of the gratitude list is to help you see that even in times of despair, there is still light.

You may feel hopeless and helpless–unable as an individual to have any sort of impact on the “bigger picture” at all. I would encourage you to remember that while you may not be able to save the whole world, you can make a small bit of difference in your immediate world. You can support Black-owned businesses. You can educate yourself on racism and police violence. Google is your friend!

Here is an article listing many helpful resources. [CLICK HERE]

While we’re talking about hopelessness, let me just say, if you’re looking to restore your faith in humanity, STOP READING THE COMMENTS! In fact, my advice is to limit your time on social media in general. Anyone can make an infographic, and just because something looks credible, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Before you share inflammatory “news” on social media, verify its veracity. Check the dates on articles, and look at the source. Regardless of your political affiliation, there are credible and non-credible news outlets out there. Use those critical reading skills you learned in your freshman English classes. If a headline seems like clickbait, if it’s trying to sell you something, or trying to get your email address, etc., it’s probably not real news. Random YouTubers, Twitter threads, and “influencers” are not reliable sources!

I have an app on my phone that tells me how much time I spend on each app, how many times I pick up my phone a day, etc. On average, I pick my phone up about 200 times a day. I spend about three hours a day looking at social media, shopping, texting, and listening to music. That’s a LOT of time inundating myself with images, ideas, and other people’s opinions. Believe it or not, this doesn’t make me feel especially fulfilled or good at all. My biggest time-sucker is Facebook, so I set a timer that limits me to 35 minutes a day on the Facebook app. I get a five-minute warning, and then I have the option to ignore the limit for 15 more minutes, 1 more minute, or the whole day. I usually end up ignoring the limit for a little while, but I have definitely become more cognizant of how much time I’m spending on Facebook.

I have never cared much about politics. I always viewed current events as something that didn’t affect me. If it didn’t involve my mental health, my job, my art, then I simply did not care. That is my white privilege showing.

But as a Jewish person, I grew up with the idea of “tikkun olam,” repairing the world, instilled in me, and I can no longer turn a blind eye in good conscience. A few days ago, I encountered a group of young people peacefully protesting on a street corner. There they stood, six feet apart, wearing face masks, holding signs. As I drove past them, I started to cry. “Those are children,” I thought. “Those are children on the street corner trying to change the world and fighting for their rights.” At that moment, I did not recognize my own country.

I always have my camera with me, so I stopped and asked their permission for a few photos.

If you are religious or spiritual, now is the time to “Pray as if everything depended on God [and] act as if everything depended on you.”

This is an hour of change.
Within it we stand uncertain on the border of light.
Shall we draw back or cross over?
Where shall our hearts turn?
Shall we draw back, my brother, my sister
or cross over?
This is the hour of change, and within it,
we stand quietly
on the border of light.
What lies before us?
Shall we draw back, my brother, my sister,
or cross over?
-Mishkhan T’filah

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