This Thanksgiving feels different to a lot of people. They are glued to the news, concerned about the state of the world, watching or participating in demonstrations and rallies, not sure how to speak to their children about war, and seeing cracks in friendships because of opposing opinions about global events. Anxiety about Israel and Hamas, Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Hezbollah, America and Iran, gun violence, political polarization… the list goes on and on. There are fears for the present and trepidation about the future.
Individuals vary in how they react to anxiety. Some bury their heads in their sand and ignore the rumbling sense of anxiety that seems to permeate society or that lies beneath their exterior. Others are in a hyper-alert state and can’t get enough of the latest, up-to-the-minute news reports and social media feeds.
At a time when people get their news from sources that accentuate their own beliefs and communicate in an echo chamber, emotions become even more intensified. Because of 24/7 media, the international, the interpersonal, and intra-psychic have all converged in a way that we may never have seen before. This tests the metal in each of us.
As Benjamin Franklin said, out of adversity comes opportunity. Our age of anxiety presents us with what can be considered a Zen challenge. Can we maintain calm and experience gratitude at a time when we are tense, worried, and, perhaps, feeling a bit pessimistic? Like anything else, relaxation and calm take a bit of work.
Steps for Easing Your Anxiety
Here are suggestions for easing your anxiety and fostering your appreciation for the blessings in your life:
1. Modulate what you are being exposed to. Staying tuned to news all day is a recipe for agita. Give yourself breaks. Some people can’t help but starting and ending their day with updates on the news, but try to limit your exposure.
2. Practice loving-kindness and self-compassion. This frequently means relieving oneself of guilt for things not done to your satisfaction or just generally feeling anxious. Try to do this for five or ten minutes. Holding on to moments when you are not consumed with negativity is invaluable.
3. Exercise. Whether you run, practice yoga, or do any other type of physical movement, it will help clear your head and access positive energy.
4. Take a couple of moments during the day to count your blessings—including the people in your life and the good fortune from which you’ve benefitted. Take nothing for granted. Taking things for granted only robs you of the fruits of your labor. (If you don’t think you have good things in your life, chances are this is a distortion from being depressed. Don’t ignore this sign. Seek help.)
5. Meditate. Posture, relaxation, breathing, and focus calms one’s body and mind.
6. Surround yourself with people who nourish you. Think about the effect that others have on you and, to the best of your ability, spend time with those who exude positive vibes. It can be just a phone call; it needn’t involve spending a weekend together.
7. If it’s within your spiritual outlook, pray for goodness in the world, for those you love, and for yourself.
If you’re looking for more guidance…We can help.
Hillary Counseling offers individual psychotherapy and online psychotherapy services for anxiety treatment, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and EMDR.
Contact us to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation! →
Written by: Samuel L. Pauker, M.D