Covid-19, recession, armed conflict, severe weather events, and rising food and gas prices.
All of this seems overwhelming. Each day is a new list of things we need to worry about. And I do not even watch the news. But how can I miss the events of the world that seem to inhabit every opening on my phone? All news outlets are competing for market share. Each finds a way to populate the open spaces on my cell phone.
I only scan the headlines of our local newspaper as I bring them in from the paper tube at our mailbox.
Even our local community has issues that it wants me to be concerned about. Going into town, I sometimes hear locals at our tiny grocery store speaking with the cashier. Everything I hear is a problem for one of them, or their cousin, or sister, or the volunteer fire department.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if how I feel is my depression or the culmination of all the anxiety and bad news I am exposed to.
And while I don’t spend every waking moment anticipating the sky falling, I do know I feel the underlying uncertainty that most of us are living with. This is far from an ideal scenario. Although it has been 3 ½ years since I spent 4 days on 5 East, I still am learning how to live with my depression.
Being bombarded with bad news, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute can make even the most positive “glass is half full” person doubt their convictions.
I have intentionally focused on the positive. While I am aware of everything else and stay abreast of some, I do not picture myself as a worry wart. Yet everything, every day is attempting to have me think otherwise. While I am not in any way advocating sticking your head in the sand, I am saying you must set boundaries.
And that’s where self-care comes in.
Once I choose how much and how often I am going to be exposed to the news of the world, my day became easier. Yes, the world’s problems are still on my mind. And starting down that slippery slope is tempting and for me, oh so easy. But I am making a conscious effort to only let so much in each day. I want to avoid getting into could a, would a, should a, which is where my slippery slope ends up.
After all, even though I am not currently up against the wall, with no clear path forward, I am still learning how to live with my diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
And part of that learning is the ability to set boundaries. For instance, waking up in the morning, I will grab my phone as I head to the kitchen to put the coffee on. But I will purposely not look at it until the coffee is ready, I have poured a mug, and made my way to the rocking chair on the front porch. I take a few sips and enjoy whatever or whomever I see. In addition to the birds at the feeders, I often see deer, rabbits, and lately, the occasional fox.
Only then do I look at my phone.
Those precious 20 to 30 minutes set the tone for a positive day. On the days when I do not allow enough time for this routine, my day can be a crap shoot. It may still turn out fine. But there is less certainty in my step, at least for the first hour or so.
I don’t have advice about dealing with the world’s woes, but I know what is working for me.
Limiting my exposure to outside issues gives me time to work on myself. This does not mean that I am not concerned about the state of the world. Or not worried about specific communities that are experiencing life-altering problems. I still support programs, give my time, and act in a respectful manner to others. I choose how I will interact with the world.
And knowing that, I continue to tell myself, I have depression, depression does not have me.
What are you doing these days?