Calgary Herald, August 2, 2016: There are so many things to worry about these days, it can be a challenge to fit them all in. A quick back of the envelope list includes, in no particular order: Alberta’s recession, whatever the hell is going on in Turkey and terrorists or their wannabes taking out innocents all over the place.
There’s Britain happily voting to destroy their economy and upset the global one, glaciers melting, that old standard ‘fear of dying alone’ and a brand new one: mean kids Snapchatting you to the world as you quietly pick your teeth in the food court.
Then there is ‘Merica. The guns, whatever the hell is going on with the Republicans, the guns, the cops shooting innocent black men, angry men shooting the cops, the guns, the trolls and all the lies from that orange gas bag who wants to be president. (Not that we have everything all sorted up here. We don’t. We have fear, racism, hate and Kevin O’Leary, but far fewer guns).
It’s too much to think about all at once.
Perhaps we should schedule. Start the day wondering whether rinsing strawberries really gets the pesticides off. Glide into Brexit after breakfast and start moving to Donald Trump mid-morning —his three-second attention span and short fingers getting a hold of the nuclear codes, not backing NATO allies (Putin!) and whipping up a full(er) on race war at home.
At lunch, along with your tuna sandwich (mercury!) take a 15-minute break to worry about the war of words between Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian. Then get right back at it with market access, how someone got a hold of your credit card info for a six-hour Uber ride in Mexico, the weird sound your car just started making and Syria.
It is enough to make you weep. But before you collapse with the Kleenex, maybe try one or more of these simple hacks to see if you can make yourself feel better.
- Do something nice for somebody. It doesn’t have to be grand. Hold open a door, say good morning to people on the street and if you can swing it, pick up the tab of the table having lunch next to you. If you’re too shy — or too broke — for that, read about people doing nice things. Like the strangers in Southern Ontario who came together to help a bewildered Syrian family get on the right train. Most people are good. Remind yourself by being one of them.
- Go for a walk. Studies show that walking in a nature reduces negative thoughts, what scientists call “rumination.” It’s also exercise, which is never bad, and if you look up you may discover that falcons live in your ‘hood (true story!), which will give you something cool to think about instead of post-truth politics. One more advantage to walking is that it means you’re not sitting. Researchers are discovering that the more time you spend sitting the higher the risk is that you will have anxiety.
- Say it out loud. Whether you’re worried about the mean kids on Snapchat or global geopolitical instability, talking about it can really help (your girlfriend is right!). If your friends and family are all busy, call the Calgary Counselling Centre or another professional type. Don’t let all those concerns just crash up against each other in your head like some anxiety roller derby.
- Count your blessings. And then count them again. We may have legitimate concerns about our jobs, our health, the people we love as well as global forces well beyond our control. But the vast majority of us also have more than enough good things going on, starting with living in Canada. When you run out of fingers, use your toes.
- Read history. Or watch it on Netflix. Human beings have a remarkable way of getting ourselves into a whole mess of trouble. And then we generally get ourselves out of it again.
- Be in the moment. A friend recently diagnosed with cancer talks about this one a lot. He’d be the first one to tell you to stop fretting about the future or get worked up about the past. Instead, get an ice cream cone and eat it right now, before it melts.
Worrying has its moments I guess. Maybe you did leave the iron on. But there’s this great quote that helps put it all in perspective: “If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.”
The Dalai Lama is reported to have said that, or maybe it was just the guy who played the Dalai Lama in the movie. Not sure. And am not going to worry about it.