Apparently, every era believes it marks the end of humankind. Nostradamus predicted the end of the world. The Aztecs did, too, and the Mayans. Eclipses were considered a sign the world was ending. In the 1950’s, people were on edge about the push of a single button annihilating our species if not the entire planet. And in the 1980’s, remember Ehrlich’s population bomb theory, predicting “The Great Die Off” that never happened?
These days, people flock to my office wanting coaching on how to handle what so vividly appears to be Armageddon. Disease and pestilence are rampant. Cancers, autoimmune disorders, tick-born illnesses. (Here in New England, my layperson estimate is that roughly half the people I know either currently have or have had Lyme’s Disease). The climate change that is purportedly not real meanwhile wreaks havoc on so many parts of our globe. I hold the intention of not getting political in these writings. So let me try to do this next part without naming names. I have the sense, often, while listening to my clients, my friends, my family and myself, that we are all like powerless children trapped in a minivan with a madman at the wheel, let’s call him a reckless daddy, most likely hammered, waving a gun out the window aimed at North Korea and shouting racial slurs. So we, clustered in this minivan called the U.S. of A., are a little freaked out. I recognize I am not speaking for all of us. I know many find this wacky daddy fun. But this minivan image comes to me often as I listen to people’s fears about what is currently going on in our country.
There is a lot we can do to combat modern-day Armageddon. Getting involved in Black Lives Matter. In the Climate movement. Protesting the travel ban, the Affordable Care Act repeal, and any other decisions that we may find unfair. Writing to our congresswoman or man regularly about our objections and concerns. Et cetera… In spite of feeling powerless over the bigger picture, we can, and ought to, do whatever we hope might make a difference. (Even in the back of the screeching minivan, we can buckle our seat belts and take action from our hand-held devices.)
There is something else we can—and must—do. Let me draw our attention to the common understanding of the Hippocratic Oath. “First, do no harm.” (I say common understanding because apparently that phrase is not in the original doctrine of Hippocrates—although if we want to split hairs, the Latin translation of the ancient Greek contains Primum non noncore, which means: First, do no harm.) Doctors take this oath—and I believe we all should, too, right now, during these anxious times. What can we do to not cause harm? Not contribute to the mayhem? Not join with the dysfunction and fear?
I say: self-regulate. Do whatever you can to regulate your nervous system. Meditate. Practice 1:2 breathing. Pray. Exercise. Doodle. Write in your journal. Dance. Sing. Whatever it takes to get yourself back to your center, back into your compassionate heart, so you don’t go out there and spread more anxiety into this already anxious system of our minivan— aka our great nation. If you’re an overachiever, and I hope you are in this case, you can take it one step further. Now that you’re not contributing to the rampant anxiety spreading like wildfire through our culture, and you are a regulated organism, spread peace. Do good deeds. Open doors for people. Smile at them. Teach someone to read. See how many people you can grace with your kindness.