Take a good look at the picture that accompanies this post. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an off-ramp that would allow us to exit Life temporarily so we could retreat and rest and regroup before tackling it again? Unfortunately, between the news media and social media, the world seems intent on constantly reminding us of how terrible everything really is. And that it’s only going to get worse.
COVID deaths are climbing drastically (and no, this isn’t a COVID blog . . .) especially among our children. There is unrest in our country and across the globe (none of which I’m going to address here). There are natural and man-made disasters all around us . . . from the Surfside condo collapse to the forest fires that are consuming California and the earthquake in Haiti . . . from the tornado that damaged much of Iuka, Mississippi to the flood that ravaged Waverly, Tennessee . . . the images burn themselves into my brain and haunt me when I try to sleep. There is so much devastation and so much death, sometimes it’s hard to comprehend.
We can’t make sense of it all and there are no explanations that will satisfy those who are hardest hit by the catastrophes that seem to pile one on top of the other. And although I don’t understand the whys, I do understand how important it is that we learn to manage the stress and the worry, the fear and the grief that can consume us, even when it’s brought about by events that do not directly affect us. How do we go about reclaiming a little of our sanity and a great deal of our inner peace? Maybe the following will be a start toward answering that question:
- You need to find your safe space and dare anyone to intrude. It may be your porch with a cup of coffee. It might be a quiet corner with a good book or binge watching your favorite show. It could be a moment of prayer or a walk in the woods—or even a trip to Wal-Mart (or not . . .) but somewhere there is a place where you can enjoy just a moment of peace. Find that place. And go there as often as you can.
- Look for the good. There is far more good in this world than evil, but it seems the evil screams for our attention while the good sits quietly, waiting to be noticed. Knowing there are good people and good things being done will help to balance the bad news with which we are so often afflicted. Look for the good. Find the good. Focus on the good—and be part of it when you can.
- Stay informed but not obsessed. It’s fine, even commendable, to want to know about world events. But don’t think you have to watch the 24 hour news channels for 24 hours straight. Put your phone or your tablet down and walk away. Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter can easily give you apoplexy if you’re so inclined. And most of the time it’s over something you can’t control.
- Which brings me to . . . If it’s out of your control (and let’s face it, most things are) it doesn’t need to consume your thoughts. Worrying about things that are beyond your control robs you of so much, including but definitely not limited to joy. If you can fix it or change it, then by all means, tackle it with everything you’ve got. Otherwise, don’t allow it to steal your peace.
All of that is easier said than done. I know that. But I also know if we don’t learn to control the amount of time we give to negative emotions and thoughts, and we don’t learn how to control our reactions to them, it can literally kill us. The old saying, “You’re gonna worry yourself sick” and its variation, “You’re gonna worry yourself to death” are old sayings for a reason. There’s truth to be found in those words. Think about that the next time you feel yourself being sucked into the tragedies that are not yours. Yes, there may be things you can do to help, but worrying isn’t one of them.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.