Watching the nightly news is almost too much for me these days.
I'll sit down and watch three horror movies end on end so I'm pretty tough but the daily news at 6pm has me beat.
It's one adversity after another: the ever increasing COVID numbers here in New Zealand as Omicron flexes its muscle, the continual hammering of the Prime Minister and the government, the widespread protests creating social divisions to a degree that is profound and disturbing, the rising cost of food, the startling escalation in petrol costs and mortgage interest rates, and now the war developing in Europe as Russia pushes its way into the Ukraine.
How much more can we handle right now?
I was feeling overwhelmed this week. My journal pages were bursting, overloaded with words trying to describe emotions and thoughts that are all over the show. It's the uncertainty that is so hard to deal with. I don't do well with it and it reminds me of the cancer treatments I had where we hoped for the best but didn't really know for sure. Past traumas come back to haunt.
So what can we do to keep ourselves well?
I remember a fellow manager I worked with in the air express industry when I was a manager there myself. It was high stress every day back then - flights delayed by weather or mechanical failure, packages routed to Auckland ending up in Egypt, couriers calling in sick - and we were having coffee together and she said, 'I only worry about those things over which I have control.'
That worked kind of well in air express and I sometimes apply this to my every day life: why worry about something that I haven't any hope of controlling, like petrol prices? Can I control that? No, I cannot - but I can find a way to manage how it affects me.
The other maxim I remember was from counselling sessions some years ago and this piece of advice has served me well ever since: the concept of 'structure and distraction' to get through tough times. The structure could be a daily routine (e.g. work, or a routine to the day) and the distractions could be a nice walk on the beach, reading a book, a visit with a friend - those little things that we work into the structure of a day.
Yesterday my structure was cleaning the house, a bit of gardening and my daily swim at the beach. The distraction was sitting in a comfy chair out on the deck with a shot of whiskey in my Attack of the 50ft Woman glass, some jazz playing in the background, and the neighbour's cat Miss Poppy on my lap. Sitting in this way gave my soul some much-needed solace for an hour or two, a reprieve from the worry, an oasis of calm.
We take our comforts where we can these days.