I feel paralyzed by all the problems in the world. What do I do?

I know I’m not alone with my feelings of paralysis when faced with depressing news story after news story. Between climate change, mass extinction, pollution, homelessness, loss of human rights, and murders, all I want to do is curl up in a ball and lay in bed. There are just too many problems for one person to tackle, and I just don’t have the emotional or mental energy to read and learn these topics every single day. But, it doesn’t mean that we each can’t do something. Or do one thing at least. So where do we start?

1. Watch documentaries to inspire and educate yourself about important topics without making it feel like “work”. Surprisingly, Netflix has stocked its virtual shelves with high quality documentaries and docuseries. Instead of binging on mindless tv, put your free time to good use. Some of my favorites include “Dirty Money”, David Attenborough’s “A Life on our Planet”, “Minimalism”, “Explained”, “Our Planet”, “The Keepers”, “Down to Earth”, “Drugs, Inc”, etc., etc….

2. Donate to a worthy cause. This might just be the easiest and quickest thing to do that can make a positive impact on the planet and in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount either, most websites and charities will gratefully accept donations in any amount. Pick a topic that is particularly close to your heart, do a little online research, and then make a donation via their website. If you want to check the legitimacy of a charity, Charity Navigator is a good place to look.

3. Meditate. When I find myself feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed, I stop what I’m doing and take a few minutes to breathe deeply and center myself. Meditating helps remind us that everything is perfect in this moment, and that we are not our thoughts. I find that I’m more equipped to handle the stressors of the world and stay focused on what I can do instead of what I can’t do when I regularly practice meditation. This helps me lead a more meaningful life, improve my self-control, know that I am enough, and I have more than enough.

4. Next time you need to buy something, try to pick a more sustainable, local option. Remember, each dollar you spend is like casting a vote. You can either vote for the corporate, polluting option or you can be resourceful and creative and choose the local, sustainable option. Yes, it’s easier to click “buy it now” on Amazon, but it’s better to shop local, shop small, and shop green. It’s also more fun! Etsy and Ebay are two of my favorite options for buying handmade and second-hand items and for supporting individuals rather than big companies. Just because you buy it from Amazon or Target doesn’t mean it’s cheaper than buying small and local. The corporations try to trick us into thinking theirs is the best and most affordable, but it’s just another marketing ploy to get you to spend money in their stores. In fact, I would argue that buying local, small and sustainable is actually the better option because you will generally get higher quality items that will last longer and keep the money in the local economy, instead of padding the already well-lined pocketbooks of the mega-rich.

Self-Reflection: It’s Not Just for Socrates

When was the last time you had a substantial amount of time to yourself and by yourself? And I don’t mean binge watching Netflix or sleeping. Rather, I’m referring to a stretch of hours where all you had for entertainment, or someone to talk to was you, yourself, and thou. If you can think of a time, congrats! If not, don’t be too hard on yourself about it. In our current society with its insane schedules, iPhone addictions, and frenetic activity, quiet time for contemplation and reflection is seldom discussed or prioritized. (To be clear: I am not talking about meditation, although I find this to be of tremendous value as well; and something I practice daily).

In my opinion, Socrates got it right: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Without taking the time to be alone and even be bored (gasp!), we rob ourselves of the opportunity to let thoughts, feelings, and memories bubble to the surface of our consciousness. We miss out on vital cues from our body and heart, and we maintain the rat race that is 2018. Not to say that self-reflection is easy or enjoyable. Because, it’s not. There were countless times over the past five months where I found myself in fits of tears and anger as I confronted things about myself that I disliked and swam through deep wells of pain that I hadn’t realized still existed. But, it was entirely worth it. The hours I spent wandering around in foreign cities provided me not only with immense cultural enrichment but also a mental quiet in which to experience personal growth. Indeed, one of the most valuable takeaways from my entire trip, was the thing I least expected: having the much-needed time and space to reflect on the past ten years since I graduated college, and where and who I wanted to be for the next decade.

Before my extended traveling this past summer, self-reflection was something that I practiced infrequently and sporadically, but now it is something that has become a habit, thanks to my current lifestyle choices. I am alone when working from home; I take long runs and walks by myself, and enjoy luxurious baths where I let my mind wander. Other times, I lay in my bed or meander through museums and parks; all on my own, alone with myself. And those are the times when I experience epiphanies and have “light-bulb moments”, where I dwell on the things that I am grateful for, and, analyze if I am on the right path.

To be honest, if I had not created time for reflection, I’d still be working my corporate job, buying crap I didn’t need, wasting time on unproductive activities, and eating unhealthily.  I found that change is possible, but not if one doesn’t even have the time to think about what needs to be changed.  With that, I encourage you to to take ten minutes today and just sit with yourself and your thoughts. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. Then, try it tomorrow. And the next day. You’ll slowly see how different and more fulfilling your life can be.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

2 Books That Will Change Your Life

Through my journey on becoming less materialistic and a more mindful consumer, I’ve found two books to be especially powerful, enlightening, and inspiring. I have notice marked improvements in my overall level of happiness, contentment, and stress levels, as a result of putting the lessons of these teachers into practice. I know I’m probably sounding hippie-dippy right now and perhaps you’re even rolling your eyes at this point, but every word of this I have found, in my own experience, to be the truth, and I encourage you to give both books a try and see what happens.

If you’ve already read them, I’d love to hear what you thought, and if you have seen similar results?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson