Are you having a tough time finding peace within yourself and in your life these days? Are you more anxious, irritable or sad than usual, but not sure why? While many triggers for anxiety and depression are subtle, some may have more to do with the bigger picture than you realize.
Mother Teresa once said, "I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me." She had the right idea! Unfortunately, the "vibe" in the US these days (and many other countries) is one of fear. Fear that we might be attacked by "terrorists" or that some guy with a grudge will go to work and shoot his associates. Fear that we won't be able to pay for our mortgages or rent. Fear that we'll never pay off those credit cards because interest rates continue to rise. Fear that our kids are not getting "good" educations or that our jobs might vanish at any moment. Yes, fear is a powerful thing. It tends to shrink our world so that we end up living inside a tiny box in our heads, while the "fear monster" lurks right outside.
No, it's not just you. It's all around us - everywhere we look - images, sounds, smells and projections of fear. Our government seems to be always on the verge of declaring war with someone, even if it's the vague idea of "terrorism." Advertisers and the media feed on this fear by telling us what we need that could make us feel better. So, we buy stuff we can't afford in order to try and soothe our anxieties or fill the hole that depression makes, not thinking about that credit card interest rate in that moment. Then we get the bill and the cycle starts over.
Society seemingly perpetuates fear and anxiety. Why would "the powers that be" want to do that? As usual, there's no simple answer. But one thing to consider is that scared people are much easily influenced than calm ones. Folks at peace are less likely to open their wallets for unnecessary purchases. Even in the recent economic recession, consumerism rates stayed the same, which means that some folks without jobs still pulled out the plastic to buy stuff they didn't need.
Is the almighty dollar more important than a country's collective mood state? Apparently, in some fields, the answer is sadly yes. Anxiety means money. War means money. Unfortunately, that money doesn't go to us; it comes from us. But being aware of the extent that the societal mood is influencing you is the first step to taking action to start feeling better...and saving money.
If you think that your mood may involve the bigger picture, below are some steps you can take to make a change. And the more folks that make these changes, the more the collective mood will improve. It's a win/win for everyone who feels helpless in the face of this larger oppressiveness. In the movie The Hunger Games, the character of President Snow says, "Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear." Here are some tips to boost your sense of hope:
- Tune out the news: most newscasts focus on the bad things that have happened and many of them provide skewed information. Video News Releases (VNRs), which are basically sponsored information disguised as unbiased news, are not uncommon.
- Record your favorite TV shows so you can fast forward through the commercials: not seeing ads at all will reduce your urge to buy unnecessary things.
- Set a time of day to unplug: with our availability being constant and information being accessible to us 24/7, it can be truly overwhelming. Set a time of day to turn off your phone, computer, tablet, etc., let the relevant people in your life know and then stick to it.
- Question everything: with so much information out there, bias is unavoidable. Do your own independent research on things that pique your interest before you form an opinion.
- Take time every day to just be: whether you meditate, nap, relax in a bath or read a favorite book, it is important to take 30 - 60 minutes every day to just be at peace and leave your worries at the front door.
- Get at least 6 hours of continuous sleep every night: sleep deprivation lowers our stress thresholds, which means it takes less for us to get overwhelmed. Make sleep a priority; everything else can wait until tomorrow. Believe me, it will still be there.
There's no need to put on aluminum foil helmets so that the advertisers can't melt your brain! Fortunately, everyone has choices and can exercise them. Hopefully, the tips above can help you to reduce any anxiety or fear that is being caused by "the bigger picture." Here's to hope!