Staying centered in times that feel unsettling

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the world lately. Every time I check the news or social media, it seems like all I see are stories or posts that make me feel sad, outraged or disappointed. There is a prevailing sense of divisiveness, and I have to search actively to find any “feel good” or heartwarming stories. I’ve noticed that this has started to take a toll on my overall emotional vulnerability, and I can see why people say that “ignorance is bliss.” I’m aware that I’m feeling more stressed, and at times even a sense of helplessness and hopelessness when I think about all of the big things that are happening in the world around me. So is the best answer to just stop paying attention; to get off of social media and/or stop reading the news?

On the surface that seems like a pretty good answer, but there’s one big catch to it- even though ignorance may in fact be bliss, I don’t actually want to be ignorant. For a lot of different reasons, I do want to stay informed and engaged in what is happening around me, but I want to be able to do so without feeling like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’ve tried doing a “media blackout”- taking periods of time to just tune out from the news, but that felt like a really black and white response and (perhaps strangely enough) left me feeling a sense of guilt- whether justified or unjustified, it didn’t feel good and so it wasn’t the right choice for me. But swinging too far over to the other side of the pendulum feels equally ineffective- that is, I don’t want to minimize or ignore the good stuff happening in my own life because I am too consumed with the bad stuff happening on a global scale.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can strike a better balance- how I can be present in my own life, and still stay engaged in things happening in the world around me without being overwhelmed and having it impact my own vulnerability. What keeps coming to my mind is the concept from mindfulness of “neither pushing away nor clinging to” the thoughts and emotions that go through our minds. It helps me to remember that it’s okay and important to fully engage in the joyous moments of my own life, and that I can still be engaged in the world around me without needing to be immersed in the news constantly. Doing so allows me to stay sane in a world that at times feels insane, and helps make me less emotionally vulnerable, which is ultimately what I need in order to be effective in all parts of my life.