We can easily fall into the trap of anxiety once we become aware of a problem. Many challenges are so interconnected that their complexity thwarts genuine attempts at trying to improve the situation. Or we just have so much going on that we do not have the headspace to pursue yet another undertaking. We quickly fall from enlightened to disheartened. Such a state can lead us into helplessness, skepticism, cynicism, or apathy.
How can we stop from feeling overwhelmed so we can still make a difference?
Take a breath and analyze your situation.
A Responsibility to Act
Are you among the first to find out about a particular adverse situation? Then you have a duty to spread awareness so others can contribute to its resolution, especially if you can prevent it from spiraling out of your immediate control.
Have you or someone in your family worsened the situation or will not changing your behavior lead to measurably worse results in the future? Then you have a responsibility to help counter past action or inaction. You should not leave future generations saddled with the mistakes that you or your family made.
Will you or your family be personally affected by this situation or have you been already? Then you have an obligation to yourself or to others who could encounter the same scenario. Addressing your problem for the future gives meaning to your past suffering and having carried that burden makes you uniquely qualified to resolve it for others.
A Debt to Repay
Have you benefited from a situation that cost others who were disadvantaged? Then you owe your improved chances in part to them. You may have still had to work hard and overcome other obstacles to achieve success, but many people do not even get an opportunity. Do the right thing and pay it forward by ensuring more people get at least the shot that you were able to take.
A Choice to Make
Have you not played a role in a current situation which does not positively or negatively affect you? Will the situation likely continue to get worse for a particular community without substantial effort?
Here you have a choice. You can choose to take up their plight by spreading awareness or taking action for the affected population. Or you could save your time and money for something you are more passionate about. Try not to be anxious about a situation for which you are not the cause or you are not personally affected when you have little control over the outcome. There are nearly 8 billion humans trying to survive amid 1 trillion living things on our planet. Each has their own struggles and you can easily get overwhelmed worrying about any number of them, which would not benefit anyone.
Just caring for one person, one pet, or one plant can be an effective salve to our own worries. And while guided meditation or medication prescribed by a mental health professional might help people cope with difficult situations, understanding the root causes of our anxiety and how to deal with the stress of responsibility on our shoulders could be a longer term solution for others to stay sane in a what can feel like crazy world.
Are you ready to find one or two causes – not 50 or 100 – that speak to you so you can do your part without getting burnt out?
Don't despair. You are not alone. Feeling overwhelmed is a natural consequence of our 24/7 news society and our always-on lives. Only by diagnosing our place in situations that arise can we find our true calling and sleep soundly knowing we did our best.
How can we improve mental health as a society?
If we treat anxiety and depression as public health concerns instead of stigmatizing them in silence, we can make real progress toward a healthier society.