It’s a truism: we are living in extremely challenging times. The current Brexit rollercoaster is riding roughshod over people’s lives and well-being. The constant discussions, arguments, clashes, and crises are extremely wearing. Uncertainty creates a ‘natural’ fight, flight or freeze response, so many of us feel caught in the headlights of national dysfunction. It is exhausting. This in turn creates fear, anxiety, anger, ennui, confusion and depression.
As a psychotherapist, I see the emotional wear and tear on my clients daily: uncertainty about making life decisions, fear of business collapse, worry about pension erosion, upset about travel and family plans, anxiety about finding love or having children. The Brexit sword of Damocles has been swinging lower and lower over all of our heads, slicing away at us and our well-being, as the fabric of our society and culture crumbles. The increase in daily violence, extreme attacks, trolling, harassment, and bad news, has created a feeling of everything being completely out of kilter.
On top of this, remember a melting planet, raging forest fires and overwhelming winds and floods. It seems like we are all fiddling while not only Rome, but the world, burns and turns to dust around us. Only a few beacons of hope, like the brave Greta Thunberg’s voyage, cheer us up momentarily against the grinding backdrop of gloom.
So what can we do when all is seemingly so hopeless and frightening? How can we retain a sense of balance when all seems to be so totally imbalanced? How can we look forward to anything when everything seems so dire?
The thing to remember is that deep within each of us is the ability to be hopeful. It is important to keep focused on what we have, what is working, what is good in our lives, rather than succumb to anxious overwhelm. We have to take pleasure in small things, moments, and experiences, which nourish our souls. This might seem glib, or easier said than done, but oddly, times of transition can give birth to something new and more fruitful longer term.
Brexit is a long and ugly argument, and reminds many of us of the split, dysfunctional and divorcing families we hail from. Actually, the whole Brexit debacle may well end up with us all understanding more about democracy and how things work (or don’t work) and could well lead to vital reforms.
Similarly, the continued pressure and speed of life needs resisting if we are to keep well. These challenging times may well force us to turn off our gadgets, look up at the sky and take time to smell the flowers and/or be with loved ones. We have to learn to look after ourselves first in these difficult times, and work outwards from there.
We are in transition as a nation, and as a world, but we are still human animals with our ancient evolutionary selves despite our seeming psychological sophistication. It’s important to take solace in the green of nature, or enjoy a moment looking at the moon and stars. Learning to breathe deeply, be mindful, meditate, even on crowded and delayed trains or traffic jams, can bring joy to life even in dark and troubled times. Singing, dancing, gardening, enjoying loving sex with a partner, visiting friends and family, stroking pets, can be a reminder of all that is benign, nourishing and good. We owe it to ourselves, after all.