The prompt was to write about how I prioritize and protect my mental well-being when the world feels chaotic. I was going to write about things like mindfulness, disconnecting and nature therapy. But my mind immediately turned to science fiction stories.
We are living one of those great stories. And it just happens to be a convergence of events beyond anything the great dystopian writers imagined: a climate emergency with unprecedented weather and fire events; a global pandemic; a despot and a disconnected populous thirsty for change. But unlike the heroes in those stories, most of us are the expendable extras, putting our lives on hold; not knowing how the multiple chaotic events are going to affect us.
It is scary watching from the sidelines. Some of us stick our heads in the sand, waiting in denial for things to just go back to normal. Feeling helpless others hang their hopes on miracles that will stop the chaos in its tracks. A vaccine, a new technology, the law, a new president. But that only happens in the movies.
So I turned to the movies to find wise words. In Samwise Gamgee’s words:
It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered…..
The story you tell yourself is what shapes your perspective and context. I find it useful to read about and think about current situations in the context of history. After all, the Spanish flu pandemic lasted about 3 years, and it took us decades to manage diseases like polio, TB, etc. We learned to live with them. And we will learn to live with this. “And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end…because how could the end be happy?… But, in the end, it’s only a passing thing…this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
Potatoes. Boil ’em, Mash ’em, Stick ’em in a stew
There is so much going on in the world these days that it can be hard to focus on what matters. We are a society that expects instant results and gratification. I think that makes it even harder. It is important to disconnect from media, slow life down and find the pleasure in the ordinary. Humans have a long history of periodic isolation due to weather. Domestic crafts such as brewing your own beer, baking bread or taking up knitting are not only useful, but can also help us manage our anxiety and find happiness.
There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for
The sky is not falling. It is not the end of the world. There is no need to cause toilet paper shortages and storm capitols. Anxiety can cause panic and when we panic we may cause the destruction we fear (a panicking swimmer may cause their saviour to drown). Connecting with my community, I see so many good people helping each other and those less fortunate. We may experience these times differently but we are in it together. Our survival depends on our collective well-being. As Gandalf said, “It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
Do you remember the taste of strawberries?
So, how do I protect and prioritize my mental-wellbeing? I do it by slowing down; focusing on what matters, what I can control; taking time to enjoy the small things; and connecting with my community. My mantra (the words of a great Canadian) “Be calm, Be kind, Be safe”. Because what is important is the story I tell myself and the meaning I make of it.
As Gandalf said, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”