Amid a global pandemic, political unrest, and a litany of other tensions, right now may be a good time to look inward, reflect, and . . . pause. Make no mistake: Despite the claims of some of some Western philosophers, who make abstract claims that the external world does not exist, or Eastern thinkers who make similar claims, externals do impact our mental health.
After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, for example, there had been reports of people who received a legitimate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis after being exposed to the images of the towers falling . . . again, again, and again. This, along with many more examples and evidence, demonstrates that people can have their mental health compromised by simply witnessing a traumatic event.
So, in some ways, we need to protect our mental health, particularly if we have a history of mental health disorders, which include things like depression and anxiety – disorders that are much more common than one would think.
In a time where many individuals are suffering, either from racial injustice or social inequalities, or – in the case of COVID-19 – individuals may be suffering from health-related difficulties. Our empathy and understanding needs to be on high alert. At the same time, we need to practice deep, active listening. That said, however, a million upset or hurt people is bad. A million and one upset or hurt people is worse. There ought to be ways to find empathy with those who are suffering without adding to the collective pain ourselves. Finding inner peace is a personal experience that can have widespread, social effects.
Some of the simple truths that resonate during times like these include having a positive attitude, don’t awfulize a situation, try not to mind read other people, and overgeneralizing a situation. Although no advice can have a perfect outcome for everyone, most of this advice is grounded in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques that have been well researched, time-tested, and have lots of data to back them up.
The world needs to take a collective breath right now.
Finally, the first step toward making the world a better place is to start by making ourselves better people. We need to stop, think, and listen. Again, although this is not an absolute solution to every problem, it’s certainly a good place to start.