How to Release the Pressure to Fix Everything
From the people in our lives to the ever-changing world around us, it can be tough to resist feeling the need to help “fix” everything. It's especially draining for those of us who are more empathetic and easily take on emotions and stress outside of ourselves.
Having compassion is a beneficial and beautiful thing, but when it begins to disrupt your life or mental and physical wellbeing, that’s when it’s time to take a step back.
We recently had a Shine member write in expressing this very common feeling:
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to feel like I have to fix all cultural and physical problems and the number of discouraging things I see are so overwhelming. So overwhelming that I don’t end up actually doing anything productive or good for the community, I just sit in anxiety and misery of how awful everything is."
I'm sure many of us can relate—and that's why it’s important to figure out where this pressure to "fix" everything comes from.
“For a lot of us, the pressure to fix everything is a survival strategy learned at a very young age," Jenn Hardy, Ph.D., a psychologist, tells Shine. "It is ultimately a way to cope with feelings of fear and helplessness. We feel safer when things are in our control—that said, our survival strategies may not actually accomplish what they intend to. They may create more fear than they relieve.”
The incredibly easy access we have to the news doesn’t help. Why: Our brains often can’t distinguish between a large-scale social issue and a threat that’s in our immediate environment.
“When we watch footage of something traumatic happening thousands of miles away, our brain and body react as if the threat is a whole lot closer,” Hardy says. “Our brains get overloaded. Our body moves into a fight-flight-freeze response.”
In order to alleviate some of the pressure and gain a more realistic perspective on what you can and can’t fix, Hardy recommends these self-care strategies.
Read the News Instead of Watching It
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by our political and social climate, know it’s OK to set limits to protect your mental health. Some things Hardy recommends: Try reading your news instead of watching it.
“We strip away a surprising amount of emotional intensity when we avoid the lights, music, and intense facial expressions of the news commentators,” she says. “We are better able to sort through our thoughts and feelings on the issue when we are reading text compared to when someone is dramatically reading the same text to us.”
Set Boundaries For Your News Consumption
While taking in less information might seem like a recipe to be ill-informed, taking care of yourself and practicing mindfulness around what you consume will actually help you show up as an activist and ally in the long run.
Try setting time limits on how much news you consume each day, and adjust it based on your stress level. Hardy also recommends turning off push notifications for news sources if you can, except for local emergencies.
Focus on Tasks In Your Control
To combat the stress of a nebulous problem that feels unfixable, find something you can fix or complete. “Find tasks that have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” Hardy says.
That could mean tasks like going on a walk that takes you to a destination, cleaning out a drawer, a shelf, or a closet, reading a book, working on a puzzle, or finishing a project that you’ve been putting off.
“Our mind and body like to feel a sense of completion,” she says. “In the midst of so many chronic world issues, it helps to give ourselves the satisfaction of finishing something successfully.”
Join a Community of Like-Minded Individuals
A key component of self-compassion is knowing you’re not alone in a given situation. And when it comes to the social and political issues of our time, you’re definitely not alone in wanting to solve them.
Try to find a community of other people passionate about fixing the same issues, and find tangible ways you can take action together.
Maybe it’s getting signatures on a petition or attending a town hall or protest. Or: Pairing your specific talents with a project that will help you raise awareness on an issue. (We have a whole guide on how you can be an activist even if protests aren’t your thing.)
Even simply talking about an issue with others can remind you that it’s not all on you to fix an issue—it’s something we have to and can do together.
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