Continuing the series of blogs on self-care.
Last week I promised to give you some ideas for dealing with issues that scored lower than 5 on your list of things you have control over. I’m using the Environmental Crisis as an example for two reasons, firstly it may well be on your list and secondly, it is on mine.
It the last couple of years, unless you have been living in a cave with no human contact you will have seen or read news stories about how time is running out to reverse the damage we (as a species) have done to the planet. You are probably like me and are not in a position to directly make the changes needed to make a difference globally, (such as moving fully away from fossil fuels and replacing our energy sources with renewable options).
So how do we process our inability to control global issues and retain our mental health and well-being?
The first step is to answer a different question first:
“how is this issue impacting on me right now?”
A common answer to the question about the environmental crisis might be:
“I am worrying about the future”
The specifics that you may be worrying about will vary from person to person. For example, you may be worrying about the future your children will inherit.
Although the specific detail of your personal worry will be unique to you the state of “worry” or “fear” will be the same. So, you may need to begin by managing your feelings.
You can transform worry and fear into motivation by asking yourself:
“what can I do right now that will allow me to make a difference?”
You could make a list and start ticking things off as you complete them. We can all make small changes and you may already have started to do that. So, what do you do if the fear and worry is not going away? Although we can feel good about making small changes do you still feel out of control?
The trick is to turn fear and worry into motivation. Start by acknowledging your emotions and recognising they have a value. Fear and worry are emotions designed to keep you on alert for danger. If you allow these feelings to overwhelm you there is a risk you will move from fight or flight to the state of freeze. Acknowledging and expressing emotions will help prevent this shift.
Acknowledging emotion also allows fear to transform to motivation. Beyond the small changes, there will be more action you can take that will require more effort or more commitment. Make a list of what else you can do to influence change and then take a step back to reflect.
Be honest with yourself, what are the actions you are willing to take that also align with your values? What are the actions that for you feel outside of your personal scope? Acknowledge and accept what you are not ready to address or what still feels outside your control.
Now take action and notice how much better you are feeling.
With the example of the Environmental Crisis there are many things you can do beyond personal changes to the way you live. Here are a couple of things I’ve done in the last few days.
- Spoken to my dentist about the lack of environmentally friendly products on sale.
- I then asked advice from others about what is available. It turns out there are lots of products available. I am now in the process of bringing this information to my dentist’s attention.
- I also spoke to my local supermarket about the lack of environmentally friendly dental products in the shop. I am willing to go searching for these products however I know that if they are available in a convenient way more people will buy them. Hence, I am doing my best to influence my local supermarket. I’ll follow up if nothing happens.
- I am doing my best to share content on social media to help raise awareness.
- Writing blogs and posts about my feelings, beliefs and values.
- I’ve become an organisational member of Sussex Wildlife Trusts and a member of WWF. With SWT I’m also doing some pro bono work.
- I became a vegetarian a few months ago.
- I have written to my MP to ask what she is doing to champion this issue.
Now I don’t share this list to show off. Indeed, some will read my list and think I’m not doing very much. There may be things I will choose to do over the coming months. For example, right now I do not feel moved to join the protesters in London. That may or may not change.
The point of this blog is to show you how to find a sense of control over things that bigger than your direct sphere of influence. By finding ways to influence the issue where it intersects with your life will give you a sense of control. The greater your sense of control the less worry and fear you will experience.
What are you doing to take back control in your life.