Over the past several weeks I have had multiple conversations with people who were just feeling drained and exhausted from all that was happening in the world. From the never-ending global pandemic to the complexities of how to handle it, to the crises in Afghanistan. It certainly hits all of us differently, but we are all impacted emotionally is some way.
The word for it is trauma.
When we feel trauma, it is easy to become outwardly angry or to go internal and retreat. Trauma has a way of overexaggerating our emotions or paralyzing us. Neither is a good option.
Here are couple simple practices to help you process all that is happening in a healthy way.
1. Stop inundating yourself with news, social media feeds, and more information. All of us have a threshold for emotional overload that we must pay attention to. There is a point where you cannot process more information in a healthy way. If you cross that threshold, you become overwhelmed, angry, or retreat. This makes relationships very difficult because there is no emotional margin left to give.
2. Don’t shut yourself off from everything that is happening in the world. Retreat or naivety are never good options. This seems like it contradicts number one but an understanding of what is happening in our world is healthy. Throughout the New Testament there is this interesting description of Jesus every time he was in the midst of the crowds of people: the Scripture says, “He was moved with compassion”. Awareness of creates empathy for. It’s a tension for all of us to manage in that too much information intake leads us to unhealthy emotions and too little information leads us to lack empathy. Digest information in small amounts to allow your mind and body to process it.
3. Lean into relationships that replenish you. You must understand which relationships drain you, exhaust you, or provoke you. There is certain relationship that require space in certain seasons. Understand what boundaries you need to put up and spend time and conversations with a few people who will re-center you rather than lead you to extremes emotionally.
4. Don’t respond to everyone who has an opinion. We have an innate ability to make ourselves the center of everything. We are all guilty. But every opinion, post, or hot take is not about you. Practice the discipline of not responding, not commenting, and not engaging. You don’t need to let everyone you disagree with know that you disagree with them. It’s called wisdom.
5. Take a small action step. When we feel trauma, we feel out of control. When the world seems out of control, we can become paralyzed. A small action step can keep you from retreating. It may not do much to prevent a global crisis or solve international problems, but it is something. Your mind and body need to act: send a text, give to a worthy relief organization, encourage a friend who is struggling, or help a neighbor. It may seem insignificant, but it helps re-direct your emotions and mind in a good place. The feeling of being able to do something or help someone guards against the temptation to retreat.
6. Pray. No seriously. It’s crazy how this has almost become cliché at certain times. But we respond, tweet, harass, get angry, get overwhelmed, shut down, and then repeat before we ever make this a meaningful priority. The scripture invites us repeatedly to seek God through prayer. Of course, it changes things but in Philippians 4 Paul makes is clear that it changes us. Some of us our responding beyond our capacity for clarity. Prayer has the power to reshape our perspective, calm our anxiety, and give us clarity. Prayer is a posture of humility that tends to spill over into how we respond to the world around us. Make prayer your first priority and not your last resort.
During a season of extraordinary trauma in the Hebrew Scriptures, David clung to this promise: “God is close to the broken hearted.”
God knows. God sees. God hears.
Create healthy patterns of dealing with the trauma you may be experiencing around you and create space to lean into the God who is close.