How to Live a Sane Life in an Insane World

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of the world and, specifically, about what is happening in this country. I can barely stand to watch the news. How many wars, natural disasters, and mass shootings can one person absorb without losing all hope for the future? It’s not as if I am binge-watching 24-hour news channels or checking social media ten times a day, but somehow the news seeps into my consciousness. Not only is it terribly sad, but what makes it worse is that I am powerless to do anything about what I hear.

Today is one of those days when I am immensely grateful for the Internet. Whatever my question, Siri or Alexa or Google, or my favorite search engine can lead me straight to an abundance of answers. It’s a miracle we have come to take for granted in our new world of smart technology. What I wanted to know is how to live a sane life in this insane world, and there is a lot of advice on this subject, there for the asking.

Allie Volpe is a senior reporter who covers mental health, relationships, and wellness for The New York Times. She agrees with my assessment of the situation. “Our constant, relentless exposure to news and headlines has a way of inspiring near-constant dread,” she writes. “As distressing news continually filters to the top of our feeds, phones, and TVs, it isn’t uncommon to feel more than a little nervous about the state of the world.”

“It’s easy to turn on the news and believe the world is ending. When a large-scale news event — say, a pandemic — affects many groups, people want to discuss it more widely and frequently,” according to Dr. Kathleen Smith, a therapist and author. “This constant conversation can lead to a snowballing of negative thoughts.”

Despite all the bad news, there are ways to cope when things are rough and ways to remind yourself the world will keep on spinning. Here is some of what I found:

Nick Wignall, a clinical psychologist, writer, teacher, and podcaster, observes that “Whether or not the world today is objectively any crazier than it’s ever been, it can sure feel that way. And that feeling of being overwhelmed by the state of things, can lead to both personal miseries like chronic anxiety or depression and make us less capable of creating the positive change we desire.” Here are his four suggestions for staying sane when it feels like the world is on fire:

  1. Be intentional about how you consume the news.
  2. Maintain your hopes but lower your expectations.
  3. Stop whining and do something useful.
  4. Cultivate a habit of gratitude.

Mark Sanborn, named a Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association (NSA) and a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame, poses this question: How do you live well in crazy times? His answer: “Pursue sanity.” He offers a long list of suggestions for how to do that. Here are eight that really speak to me.

  1. Don’t add to the craziness.
  2. Separate fact from opinion.
  3. Act with integrity even if others don’t.
  4. Limit your news intake.
  5. Be civil.
  6. Count your blessings every day.
  7. Live intentionally.
  8. Invest your energy in constructive effort, not soul-draining worry.

These suggested coping strategies only scratch the surface of ways to avoid internalizing all the bad news that constantly bombards us. Here’s another way to look at who benefits from the 24/7 news cycle. It’s worth noting, says Nick Wignall, that “a handful of people make a lot of money using ‘the news’ to keep us perpetually riled up and upset all the time … and all that time and attention means a whole lot of advertising revenue.”

For more on that idea, I recommend reading Red, White & Blind: The Truth About Disinformation and the Path to Media Consciousness by Tony Brasunas and Ashley Rindsberg. It will forever change the way you think about the news. (It’s free on Kindle Unlimited)