When the World Feels Like Too Much
This last month has been a challenge to many of us (including your therapists too!). We have all been psychologically navigating minefields of news alerts, conversations, articles and daily realities of the ongoing pandemic, school shootings, the war in Ukraine, global warming and more. More of my clients than ever have been talking about how the current global climate personally and existentially affects them and I am grateful to have provided a space to help them process their stories and reactions. But how do we acknowledge what can feel like the endless tide of horrific events, cope with these difficult moments in history and move forward with hope? I happen to think the common adage “don’t react, respond” fits well here as a basis for our response to these global events (as well as many other things!). Reacting can be immediate and rash (like Twitter rage posting!), while responding involves pausing and feeling what you need to feel. This helps us take a deeper look at the complex issues facing us and choose our actions wisely, once you’ve done the hard work of feeling. I invite you to take the space to really feel whatever is present for you right now. If you’re feeling numb or plagued by a nagging feeling about these events, tune into that too. Therapy can be a good space for engaging your feelings with the guidance of a therapist. There are also ways to practice deeply feeling our feelings during meditation, or with friends in mutuality. With practice, you might find that even extreme feelings can move through you like a wave or multiple waves. Here’s an example of a meditation for riding the wave of emotions.
We can also use art, music, dance, or writing to express feelings that are hard to manage. In one of my recent sessions, a client and I acknowledged we were both struggling with the Uvalde school shootings. We both wrote sensory poems, describing grief as a color, smell, shape, sound and so on. Just putting words to an experience without needing to change it can be healing.
Most of us can also benefit from developing a healthy relationship with news by aiming to be informed, not inundated by the fire hose of constant updates on negative events. This can allow us to engage with restorative practices such as self-care, joy, laughter and social support, which are also crucial for recovering from these difficult experiences.
Lastly, we cannot forget that the act of “responding” in your community, and globally if you are able to, is crucial. I invite you to reflect about what is within your control and what is not, but also keep in mind that even seemingly small actions can combine with other people’s small actions to create greater change in our society.
Melissa Lee Nilles, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist with a Master's degree from Lesley University’s Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy program. She is deeply passionate about self-exploration through the arts, mindfulness practices and therapy. She seeks to collaborate with her clients using the tools of person-centered therapy, mindfulness, meditation, trauma-informed body-oriented psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy (through music therapy, art therapy, and poetry/writing therapy). Melissa also employs CBT and motivational interviewing to help you transform your life. She prefers a holistic, eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to addressing client concerns.
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