Staying sane in crazy times

It’s not easy for us to be performing at our best right now, is it?

Whatever we might consider ‘ideal conditions’ to be, we’re certainly not experiencing them as you read this.

Whether it’s the horror of war or the grimness of a pandemic, the mood music is discordant. Most of us are ‘getting on with it’ but finding our steps forward to be somewhat heavier than before.

And yet, there are people on this planet enjoying the best day of their lives today. The sun is shining in a lot of places. Some professionals have never been in greater demand. Some businesses have never had such opportunity.

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If you’re not middle-aged or older, you should ask your parents about a newsflash. Newsflashes disrupted normal programming. And the news tended to be pretty big.

The concept of a newsflash is largely irrelevant in 2022. We now live in a world where BREAKING NEWS is breaking all the time. Our phones are pinging with updates. We’re scrolling (apparently ad infinitum) seeking a fresh angle on something that already changed four times today. We have an uninterrupted stream of novelty just awaiting our (ever dwindling) attention.

I’m not making an argument in favour of saying life was better before the internet and 24-hour news media. I am, however, reminding you that we haven’t yet evolved to have a stable and healthy relationship with an endless feed of drama.

We’re still the same human beings who lived in fear of not knowing the right answer when put on the spot by our school teachers. Now, we have access to unlimited knowledge in our pockets. So the question arises, what constitutes enough knowledge?

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Making sense of the world around us is not something we should take for granted.

We need time and space for reflection, for making new meaning from the things that happen to us and from the events that play out around us.

It’s hard to put things in a useful perspective if we’re immediately seeking an alternative reality or chasing a fresh distraction.

And it’s probably time we took stock of the damage we’re doing by not allowing ourselves that time to breathe. We’re cultivating an unhealthy impulse to avoid our proximate reality while feeding an addiction to seek external immediate gratification.

So, how do we cope better in this environment?

The most common advice, and perhaps most useful, is to do a lot less passive observation and a little more purposeful action.

A psychologist interviewed in Ukraine this week has got the right general idea.

It’s worth remembering that while we can’t change certain events in the world, we can work on improving our relationship with those events.

We can consciously choose to engage further where required, or disengage when our attention is better used elsewhere.

P. S. Both the above cartoons are by the renowned New Yorker cartoonist David Sipress.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

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