5 Tips for Keeping It Together When the World Feels Like It’s Falling Apart

Keeping calm

Feel like the world is falling apart? What with the ongoing pandemic, floods in Queensland NSW and war in Ukraine, not to mention live streams and updates of every event, it’s really no wonder. But, according to Peta Slocombe, a psychologist at Lysn, which offers psychology sessions via video chat, while it can be tempting to think that way, it’s important to realise that’s a result of our brains being wired to search for risk.

“Scanning for danger and trying to problem solve is what kept us alive thousands of years ago when our physical make-up was never going to be a match for wild animals,” Slocombe explains. “As we’ve evolved, this alarm has come to be set off not just by our own life or death threats, but by events that may happen to others on the other side of the world.”

Fifty years ago, if there was a flood, the news might travel between villages and then be reported through local newspapers, taking weeks or even months, if at all, to reach us, explains Slocombe. Even then, it might be one person’s recount of the event and we’d only need to read that once.

Now, an always-in-hand phone streams to millions of us in seconds. We see every image, of every tragedy in real-time popping up on our feed over and over, whether we chose to or not. Because news is more likely to report on outliers, it’s the tough stuff we are seeing amplified.

So, aside from knowing that and reminding yourself of it, how can we keep it together when the world seems like it’s falling apart? Slocombe shares five ways below.

Connect With Others   

“Humans are tribal. We have our best chance at surviving and thriving when we connect, not when we isolate ourselves. Studies show infants who are not touched or spoken to fail to thrive, even when they have food and warmth.

“Connection helps remind us of the good, the trust and the safety we have around us. In cultures with a strong community, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress are less common, and resilience is higher.

“Sharing the things we are struggling with, instead of holding them, also helps put them in perspective. If you are feeling down, choose connections that are familiar, safe and trusted. So, if in doubt, don’t overthink it, go! Remember you can leave early if you need to. People are more likely to regret staying in than going out!”

Be Mindful of the News You’re Consuming

“Twenty years ago, the average human was blasted with the equivalent of 40 newspapers a day of information. Today, we are hit with the equivalent of 200 newspapers through the course of our day. The brain makes sense of the world based on what we feed it. It’s like leaving what you eat up to a stranger, and then not feeling good about your body.

“If we are not selective about the sources we receive and time it takes up, then we are reducing control of our thoughts, feelings and sense of reality. Decide the feeds you pay attention to. Disable notification and make a deliberate decision about when you will check. And when you’ve got the information you need, get off.”

Shift Your Attention  

“One way to look at our wellbeing is to think of three buckets:

  1. What we can control.
  2. What we can impact on but not really control.
  3. What we can’t control at all.

“Our wellbeing is best when we focus on the variables we can control. For example, our sleep, health, and choices about how we manage our stress. Make sure you are doing everything within your own control first. If it is not within our control, like worry for flooded communities, get off the news feed and find out how you can help practically and locally.

“It is when we start to focus our attention on things that are out of our control that our mental health suffers the most. Lying awake about the outcome of a world conflict doesn’t change it.”

Be Gentle With Yourself

“You’d be compassionate and gentle with others who were struggling, so try not to be hard on yourself. Psychologists often hear people minimise their worries by concluding that ‘others have it worse than me’. We can never quite predict why or how things impact us differently at different points in time.

“Newsflash: unless you have the worst life in the world or the best life in the world, we’re all somewhere in the middle, doing the best we can. A news story one day might have a different impact than the same news story another day. If it is tough, it is tough. Ask yourself what you need right now rather than criticising yourself for it.”

“People often ask how they can reduce the chance of global events and tragedies from impacting on them. The truth is, it says wonderful things about human beings that the suffering of others bothers us and we should be more concerned if we felt nothing. It is what makes us human and that should comfort us. Humans have an incredible ability to adapt and recover and it’s good to remember that this is only a moment in time.”

Create a Healthy Routine

“When the world seems to be falling apart, our minds use up a lot of battery. Routine is one way to lock in some constants and comfort, reminding us of the things we can control. Choose small rituals or blocks of time – for example, walking the dog before work, calling a family member after dinner, making your bed before you leave or grabbing your coffee from the place you know you’ll get a welcome smile.

“Reduce alcohol use if you can. As much as it’s tempting to turn to a wine to help sleep or calm us, alcohol increases irrational thoughts, is a depressant and lowers mood and disrupts circadian rhythm that throws out our sleep cycle. If you have a tendency to worry, reducing caffeine consumption and practicing good sleep hygiene can help too.

“Finally, exercise, natural light and nature also has powerful impacts on mood and adds different sensations that can get us out of being stuck in our own thoughts. Even if you don’t feel like it, make a start. You can always turn back.”

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