“The times they are a-changin.” —Bob Dylan
I’ll say. More like exploding.
Watch any news outlet and you’ll likely see someone exclaim almost daily, “He’s unhinged! She is coming unhinged!”
The meaning, of course, is that people are losing control of their emotions and behaving erratically. Visual evidence is everywhere and it seems to grow more disturbing week to week.
How can you keep yourself hinged in the face of near-constant chaos? First off, find some perspective. The world has always been full of crazy acts and mean people; we’re able to see more of it today than ever before. It’s not your job to fix it.
That said, you can have tremendous personal impact. At work, at home, at school and in the community, how you engage others matters. The things you do and how you do them, the words you choose and the tone of voice in which you deliver them create feelings in others. Are you aware of your power? Do you tend to stir dissent or encourage understanding?
The truth is, you can be a remarkable individual agent of goodness every moment of your life. Practicing behaviors that make you proud to live in your skin and the community you help create is a powerful way to keep yourself hinged.
Here are some others.
Be sure to offset the daily deluge of bad news with uplifting information. Seek people who focus on what works and how to fix what doesn’t. Find entertainment programming that emphasizes growth, development and performance. Limit the dark and violence-prone shows; you’ll be less paranoid as you move about the world.
Resist the inclination to take bad behavior personally. Where possible, let it go. If you need to engage or correct bad behavior, do so as objectively and matter-of-factly as you can. You may not rehabilitate anyone, but you can offer respect, along with alternative behaviors. When someone challenges something you said or did, listen to the objection. Think about what you hear, then decide whether change in your behavior is warranted.
Learn to sort fact from fiction. We see a lot of conjecture presented as news, which raises everyone’s blood pressure. Yes, North Korea could nuke the U.S. And floods could overwhelm cities across the land. You could wake up with Lyme disease. I could have a heart attack going for my mail. Many things could happen; we can only deal with what does.
Remember that you will have good days and bad days. On the bad ones, practice patience. Not everything needs to be solved right this minute. Notice when you’re feeling testy and give yourself permission to idle down. Frayed nerves can create volatile situations that might not otherwise develop.
Don’t catastrophize. Little things go wrong all the time and sometimes it’s the drip, drip, drip of little things that can cause you to snap. Take care of things as they come up, then put them behind you. Nobody said life would limit its challenges to three per week or a hundred in a lifetime. Confront difficulty, resolve it as best you can, then carry on.
If you make a mess of something, try to get some perspective. If you hurt someone, apologize. If you break something, restore or replace it. If you make a mistake, vow to learn. Dawn will come again and with it, a chance to start fresh. Understanding you have a choice in how to behave in the aftermath of error helps calm overwrought situations. Learning to forgive yourself brings profound peace.
Here’s the truth: You are stronger than you realize, more resilient than you appreciate and you have a tremendous capacity to grow. When you can stay hinged while others are coming unglued, you create a little haven of sanity. The rest of us thank you for your dedication and example.