Days 365+54 NewspaperWe get 3 daily newspapers (Cincinnati Enquirer, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal), at least 7 magazines, and I’m an NPR junkie. This doesn’t include countless email messages from causes I support. You’d think this would make me an informed citizen. Lately, it has mostly made me discouraged and depressed about the state of life on earth. I know too much!

  1. First there are the global natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, drought, tsunamis, tornados). These are bad but there’s nothing I can do about them. Working on environmental issues to reduce global warming might help some but it’s all very long range and usually far away.
  2. Then there are all the international human-made disasters (conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, the Congos…, building collapses in Bangladesh, human trafficking, curable illnesses that aren’t cured for lack of money or government resistance, terrorism, corruption, economic collapse…) I can be disturbed but most of these are still far away and beyond my ability to help.
  3. Closer to home there is the political dysfunction within the US government. Both parties have strong principles and a desire to win the next election. This means compromise is a dirty word since it might allow the party in power to make progress and thus it will be harder to defeat them in the next election. Addressing all the life issues including abortion, poverty, overuse of fossil fuels, immigration reform, gun control, decent health care and education for all, elimination of the death penalty, racism, violence, prejudice, and all the other isms are at a standstill. It makes me tired just starting this list. I’m involved in some of these issues but they take political pressure from a critical mass of people and a fair amount of money to make a dent in the problems. I have limited time and money, so I choose a few to give my energy to. Watch FrontLines’ Two American Families  by Bill Moyer to get even more informed/depressed.
  4. There’s the even closer problems in my own community and family – ailing friends and schools, relatives who need help, worthy causes that need funding and attention . Here, gathered with my faith community and friends I can potentially make a difference, but it takes time.
  5. Then there’s everything to do with faith and the Church. For all the good that religious institutions do (my own Catholic Church in particular) I also see the underside of scandal, hypocrisy, and fear of losing control.

Fortunately my personal life is pretty stable, but it would only take a family crisis, an illness, an accident, a loss of income, to have my family life trump the 5 above areas on my worry list.

So what to do? Wallow in worry and feeling overwhelmed? That’s not helping anybody. Here are my
(The first 4 are the usual suspects. #5 is my personal response to “knowing too much.”

  1. Take care of my own physical and emotional well-being so I can live to help another.
  • Daily walk/exercise (Thank you, Jim, for reminding me and sometimes accompanying me.),
  • Decent nutrition (I still allow myself a few treats like half a Klondike bar for dessert.)
  • Laugh more (I watch the Colbert Report for humor and relaxation.)
  • Gratitude (I write down at least one thing/person that I am grateful for each day.)
  • Others do yoga, swim, exercise, etc.
  1. Ground myself in a spiritual base to keep balanced and have perspective. Morning prayer and a life-giving faith community have been essential parts of this. When I get mad at the Church, I remind myself that WE are the Church and we’re trying to live as Jesus showed us.
  2. Recreate enough. Contra dancing, watching my garden grow, and playing cards with Jim at night are my current preferred forms of recreation. Connecting with our kids, near and far flung, always brings me joy. Friends are an antidote to depression. We can vent to each other and support each other.
  3. Keep my work and volunteer commitments manageable. Assuming that most of us work enough, perhaps too much, the challenge for our culture’s multi-tasking, over achieving lifestyle is to achieve a family/work/personal life balance. (See To Do Lists in my previous post.) One friend just gave me a gag gift saying “Stop me before I volunteer again.” I’m about to resign from one long term commitment.
  4. Limit the amount of news I consume. This will be a new endeavor for me, and a hard one.  I’m going to experiment with consuming less news – at least repetitive news. I will be traveling for almost a week soon and will conclude with a visit our granddaughter visiting for a week. I think this might be a good time to try a “news fast.” My plan is to not read the paper or email news stories for a week. I’ll only listen to NPR when driving by myself in the car (to keep me company and awake). At the end of the week, I will check in with a news hound and find out if I missed anything that a quick summary couldn’t provide. I will be watching for negative withdrawal signs or increased personal calm. We’ll see what happens. If you try this too, let me know what you’ve learned.