How to Stay Sane and Helpful in an Extremely Overwhelming World


From the Capsule team

OPINION: I’ll be honest with you, as wonderful as it is to work for Capsule, the almost two years working here have been some of the most challenging for me, creatively, as I seek to write ‘new takes’ on a world which is more and more despairing of being part of it.

Emma Clifton works for Capsule.


Emma Clifton works for Capsule.

In a previous life working for magazines, there were a lot of tough topics that we all covered, but they were covered for what they were: current events.

But the pandemic et al brings with it a better understanding of the mental health toll that accompanies such times (“Would you like an existential crisis with that?”).

Case in point: Two weeks ago I wrote an article about the protests that was so depressing that I couldn’t bring myself to publish it, because I don’t find the protests funny, or post-satirical, or in any clever way. re dress this particular clusterf….

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I find it sad and scary, and no amount of tinfoil hats or mule weddings is enough to distract me from the fact that people continue to use pro-Nazi and pro-terrorist language, while they are literally s. .. about our government.

Then this morning I wrote an article about the “memification of war”, following the devastating invasion of Ukraine and the thousands of pointless at best, racist at worst opinions/shootings that followed. Turns out it was also too depressing to post (it’s a miracle to write anything these days, honestly).

I dare say that a lot of us have the same problem no matter what career we’ve chosen – how to build excitement for raising kids, running planning meetings, worrying about second-quarter earnings days when the words “nuclear” “high alert” make headlines and you see people, again, trying to flee their country in terror by any means necessary.

An elderly woman is carried in a shopping cart after being evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

Vadim Ghirda/AP

An elderly woman is carried in a shopping cart after being evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

They were planes in Afghanistan. These are trains in Ukraine. Life can change in no time, but we all have to constantly pretend that everything is business as usual, even if we left “normal” behind us a long time ago.

The world seems divided between people who read everything and get overwhelmed by everything, and people who don’t read anything and therefore don’t understand the general malaise felt by everyone.

I don’t know what the right balance is, but I know I haven’t found it – and I don’t think I’m alone.

So what’s the solution to continuing to function as an adult, in times like these when you really wish you could take a break from the world for a while? Good. I have some sweet suggestions.

Step 1: Don’t feel like you have to keep calm and carry on.

The news cycle can seem overwhelming.


The news cycle can seem overwhelming.

One of the main things I’ve noticed in almost every mental health-related interview I’ve ever done is that a lot of our own misery comes down to thinking “everyone is handling this better than me. “.

A lot of people think that – heck, I’d actually bet more people think that, it’s just that nobody really says it. And when they do, it’s over a glass of wine with girlfriends when someone “jokingly” says, “Sometimes I just think I’m losing my mind, lol.”

And then someone else will add their own hilarious joke, like, “Sometimes I scream-cry in the shower!” or “Sometimes I just want to lie down for three days straight and not talk to anyone, hahaha, I’m so crazy.”

And then there is this shared look of fraternity which keeps you warm for a few days (it’s considerably less effective in a group chat, I would say).

Imagine if we weren’t joking, drinking or memorizing our way through another global crisis, or another Covid-19 spike. Imagine if we could say to our bosses, loved ones, or friends, “I’m really struggling today and the world feels a little too much, and I feel helpless and overwhelmed.” And we haven’t tried to find a solution yet, we’ve just allowed ourselves to be a little sad and a little scared.

Step 2: Rest

Remember in the early weeks of the pandemic when (parents of young children and new graduates aside) there was a real movement to slow down a bit, take those daily walks, soak up the sun.

Well we’re now at the stage of the pandemic where it’s like “Yeah I know you have Covid-19 but sorry a deadline is still a deadline” even though we still don’t have a date end in sight and everyone’s coping mechanisms are much more frayed than they were two years ago.

“We’re now at the stage of the pandemic where it’s like ‘Yeah, I know you have Covid-19 but sorry, a deadline is still a deadline. “

Those simple, everyday tools we used in the beginning are still just as powerful: go for a walk, soak up the sun, chat with your friends, take an online yoga class. Treat this as if it were a global pandemic, because it still is.

Step 3: Help

If you have enough money to comfortably prepare for the pandemic, consider donating for those who don’t.

Perhaps there is a food bank donation at your local supermarket that you can add to. There may be a local food bank that is in desperate need of your support, here are some good places to start.

If the images from Ukraine overwhelm you, consider donating money to those in need.

And/or support the many refugees we currently have in this country, who also fled war-torn situations and also need help.

If cooking helps you in times of stress, you can put those skills to work for organizations like Good Bitches Baking or Bellyful. Or maybe you can put your money where your mouth is and buy treats from welcoming places that need our support now more than ever.

Buy a coffee for the person behind you. Drop off (wrapped!) chocolates at your local urgent care or vaccination center. Offer to buy groceries for your elderly neighbor or stressed friend.

But also: do not jump directly from the first to the third step without recognizing the second step in the middle: you also need time to pause.

You are also a person and you also need to be taken care of. A good rule of thumb I’ve kept in mind over the past couple of years is to “assume everyone is on a bad day for a nervous breakdown and act on it.”

It’s also a good rule of thumb to use with yourself. How can we be human in a world like this? With great care.


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