There has always been darkness in the world. Most of it humanity inflicts upon itself. People are infinitely fallible and succumb to their worst impulses often enough that it can seem we as a species do little else but self-immolate. Anyone could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed or even despair from time to time. Still, for those who struggle with mental health concerns like anxiety or depression, global events – particularly those with far-reaching negative implications – can be triggers sending those individuals down a dark rabbit hole from which it’s difficult to recover. Indeed, some don’t recover, instead making a tragic choice from which they can’t return.
The challenges that our world faces are grim, immense, and numerous. From climate change threatening to irrevocably alter the habitability of our planet to the resurgence of fascism across the globe, from a still-churning global pandemic with new viral variants appearing regularly to overt racial injustice rearing its ugly head, there is no shortage of worldly problems that could drive even the most optimistic person to despair temporarily. But for those who are already struggling to keep their heads above the proverbial water, the burden can become too much to bear.
When even day-to-day life seems insurmountable, how can someone struggling to cope with the negativity in the world find the strength to carry on? How do you safeguard your mental health and well-being in a world that constantly threatens to chip away at it?
For all its potential to bring us together, social media can also be a driver of negativity at a volume that few other mediums can match. Suppose you spend enough time on Twitter or Facebook. In that case, the respective algorithm of whatever platform you’re on will, at some point, inevitably surface something that might drive you deeper or heighten your anxiety. Similarly, staying glued to the news will overwhelmingly remind you only of what’s wrong in the world and can often create a feeling of helplessness in the face of its enormity. If you cannot tear yourself away, doom scrolling instead of sleeping, delete the apps. Silence the alerts. Turn off the television or computer. Focus on what’s right in front of you – your health, your family, and your friends.
Fight Small Battles, Achieve Small Victories
When it seems like you as an individual are incapable of changing the trajectory of society at large, it might be time to think smaller—volunteer for a cause you deem worthy. Become a mentor. Start or join a club centered around a favorite hobby. Do something small with a high chance of success that will increase your self-esteem and make you feel accomplished. Exercise control where you can and make a positive change that’s tangible and meaningful to you. Making a difference for others, your community, or yourself can narrow your focus and give you the perspective you need: you can make a difference, you can do good, and the world is better off for having you in it.
Share the Burden
Commiseration can be the best therapy. Finding like-minded individuals with whom you can openly and honestly converse can reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness. You’ve undoubtedly heard the old axiom they tell you in school, “Don’t be afraid to ask a question. If you want to ask it, odds are someone else does too.” The same is true when the world seems overwhelming. Though it may feel like it, you’re not the only one struggling. Despair comes for us all from time to time, and when it hits, conversing with someone with equal concerns, even if neither of you have solutions, can make a difference in your mental state. At a minimum, you’ll know you’re not alone.
Ultimately it comes down to control: what you can and can’t do. Focusing on what you can’t control, like the political machinations of megalomaniacs or the destructive potential of fossil fuel companies, can legitimately rock the stability of any conscientious person. Conversely, focusing on what you can control within your sphere of influence, however narrow or seemingly insignificant, can help you achieve the victories you need to keep going.
Find a reason to wake up and get out of bed tomorrow. The world can’t always provide that reason for you. Sometimes you need to create it yourself.