Don’t Let Anger and Anxiety Threaten Your Piece of Mind

stress-freeMy name is Janet, and I’m a 43-year-old divorcee with two grown children. I live alone, and I love my job as a massage therapist. Lately, though, I’ve been experiencing an overwhelming amount of anxiety about current world events.

As of about 8 months ago, I didn’t know much about politics or world events at all, and I never kept up with what was going on. Since then, I’ve started listening to talk radio, watching cable news networks and surfing the internet, and I’ve become increasingly obsessed with the seemingly hopeless and horrifying events overseas. Add to that the anger and sense of injustice I feel about the actions of our current administration, and I get even more worked up. I feel like if I stop worrying about it and talking to people about it, then no one is going to care and nothing will change.

The problem is that my anger and anxiety threaten my peace of mind on a daily basis, and I’m becoming bitter. It’s also affecting my personal relationships—I get so pent up about the situation, I can come across as cranky or angry even toward my friends and family. I wonder if I should just turn off the TV and the radio and stop paying attention altogether, but I feel like I want to stay informed. How can I keep up with the situation, try to make a difference, but take care of my overwhelming anxiety at the same time?

Dan’s Perspective:

As with all things, keeping your anxiety level low is a matter of balance. News and other media are important for our Intellectual Wellness, but we must exercise moderation when we expose ourselves to it. You may find that you experience a sort of rush when you discover new injustices or find out about shocking world events. You may also feel a surge of energy when you are talking about these subjects with others. This is okay. You have discovered an intellectual pursuit that enlivens you.

However, once this fixation becomes obsessive or begins to negatively affect your personal life, it’s time to look at your motivations. It is completely all right to not watch the news or read a paper. The world will not fall apart if you look away or talk about a subject other than politics. If there is something you need to know, you will find out about it.

Remember that there are a variety of news sources available through TV, radio, and the Internet. Along with the major networks, there are independent channels from which to get your global information. If you’re listening to programming that’s highly polarized, whether to the left or right, it’s easy to see why it would leave you feeling off-balance.

The truth is that worry serves no purpose. If you are worrying, you are wasting your time. If you find that you have all this energy geared toward social issues, do something with it. Write about your feelings. Find others who feel the way you do. Volunteer your time to those in need. And then allow yourself to stop thinking about it. Energy is a call to action. If you’re not acting, you’re going to feel dissatisfied and out of control. Find a way to act, and release your pent-up energy into a positive outlet that you believe can make a difference.

Nan’s Perspective:

All very true, Dan. Still, I know it can be tough to put those feelings aside, even once you’ve realized all that worry is wasted energy. When I’ve got a lot of emotional energy about something I can’t necessarily change, I like to pray. This works especially well for anger. Think of whomever you’re angry with (in this case, the current administration), and pray for them. This will feel like the last thing you’d want to do in this situation, but wish them all the happiness, peace and joy you’d wish for yourself. Wish them love and light. A loving-kindness meditation may help, during which you wish good will for yourself, then your closest loved ones, then those against whom you feel anger, and then the entire world. It may take a few periods of quiet prayer and meditation, but you’ll begin to feel that anger slip away if you stick with it.

Prayer also helps to develop hope for seemingly hopeless situations and allows you to let go of your worry over those events you cannot directly affect. You can pray to whatever conception of God or a Higher Power you believe in—I have friends who start prayers with, “To whatever made the trees…” The idea is that you let go of your fears and worries and give them to a force that can handle them. Tell your Higher Power that you believe he or she has everything under control, and you’re going to let him or her handle if from here on out. In reality, the universal flow already knows it’s in control…but it’s good to use prayer to remind yourself!

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