At the risk of sounding like a snowflake, we need to talk… oh hell, who am I kidding, I AM a snowflake: a soft-hearted, forward-thinking, bleeding-heart progressive. Out and proud!
I feel like I’m in a constant state of fight or flight and it makes me anxious, angry, frustrated and depressed. I can’t turn on the news without being blown backwards by reports of bullying...narcissism... nationalism... ethics violations. I’m hearing the same thing from friends and coworkers.
So how does one stay sane and thoughtful while barraged every day by things that go against our most ingrained values?
1. Refuse to engage. I used the term “snowflake” because of the bullying efforts on the part of the alternative facts “news” sites. I saw a headline that said something like: “Snowflakes crying in their safe space circles because Gaga’s performance wasn’t political enough.” We should ask ourselves: Are these things true? Of course the answer is no. Do you respect this person’s opinion? Are they someone you look to for advice?” I believe a resounding “Hell no!” is the answer. So why does it matter at all at these people write? It doesn’t. So stop engaging with bullies. Rise above.
2. Spend some time revisiting your core values. Fellow snowflakes, we’ve got to stop going to an 11 with every tweet, order and offensive story. We’re going to wear ourselves (and those we want to influence) out. I suggest sitting down and writing a very short list of the things that are most important to you. What hill are you willing to die on? LGBT rights? Immigration? Black Lives Matter? Education? Trust that beautiful fact that we’re all created differently, with different passions, and together, we make a whole (Oh! Just like actual snowflakes!). Speak out calmly and clearly about what really matters to you or people will stop listening. We’ve gotta tag team, folks, or we will burn out. That’s what the bullies are hoping for.
3. Limit media and social media. I made the decision to deactivate a certain big blue social media system for a while because I have absolutely no self-control. I found myself compulsively reading every single article and reacting. I’ve made strict limits and try to stick to them. I don’t open a news source or social media app until well into the afternoon. Mornings are for calmly setting myself on a thoughtful course for the day. Each person has to decide what works best.
4. Protect relationships with those you love. It’s easy to snap at your kid when you’re mad about the news. That’s the fight or flight response. Under your list of values, write the names of the people you most want to maintain a positive relationship with. Partners, kids, best friends…watch your tone with them.
5. Read classic words that will uplift and encourage you. I recently re-read Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC speech, “The Politics of Hope.” I got the chills and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It says things like, “For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga: a belief that we are all connected as one people. If there’s a child on the South Side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child.” There IS hope. There is goodness out there. Find it and hold onto it like your life depends on it.
6. Meditate. I know, I know. We’re veering into high-level snowflake territory here. Listen, we’re trying to make sense of the nonsensical, right now. Combine that with the normal craziness of life, work, kids … it makes for a giant case of monkey mind. It’s more important than ever to find time throughout the day to reconnect to our breath and our values. I’ve made a rule for myself that anytime I want to open a media or social media app on my phone, I have to open my meditation app first and breathe for 1-2 minutes. If I have 5 minutes for social media; I certainly have 1 minute to meditate.
7. It goes without saying, so I’ll say it anyway: take care of your body. It’s intimately connected with your mind. Eat right. Put down that wine. Exercise. Spend time outside. Have sex.
There’s this idea I use with my at-risk students: we have a lizard brain (the one that responds to stimuli without thinking) and a wizard brain (the one that stops to think before engaging). The answers do not lie in reading another news story or fighting in the comments of a post or even in eviscerating the enemy on Twitter (no matter how satisfying that may feel). The answers we’re looking for lie in our hearts and values systems, in the thinking part of our brains. By all means, we need stay informed. But we should look for the solution to our anger and nervous energy in our wizard brains and in the still, quiet places in our hearts.