Our world, it seems, is becoming increasingly stressful, fearful and even toxic; handling anxiety in this environment can sometimes seem impossible. Negativity swirls around us like dead leaves tossed about in a gust of wind. It’s not uncommon right now to feel alone in that wind storm because everyone else is trapped in their own anxious storm. Are humans still driven by kindness, or are they driven by hate toward those who disagree with them? 

Many people say that because of the fear, stress, and toxicity that currently exists in our world, their traditional anxiety coping skills are insufficient to calm fears and reduce anxiety. This feeling of powerlessness further increases anxiety. Feeling powerless makes sense given the climate right now; however, powerless does not mean helpless. There are ways to handle anxiety, build a sense of control, and move forward despite stress and fear about the world around us. 

1. Separate yourself from the noise. Think of it as coming unglued. Personalizing world events increases anxiety because it can make us feel directly responsible for problems. Distance yourself by intentionally keeping track of your own life and the positive things in it. 

2. Accept what you can’t change. Accepting that there are things you can’t change increases your power and control. When we’re caught up in big issues that we can’t directly impact, we can feel paralyzed by our anxiety. You can still have empathy, concern, and caring, but by accepting that you cannot change certain things, you can start to move despite your anxiety. You can focus on those things close to you that you can impact positively.

3. Control what you let in. Visualize an invisible filter surrounding you like a soft, comfortable blanket. This filter is a boundary that you create for yourself. We are bombarded by other people’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and interpretations of information, misinformation, and a desire to be noticed. It never ends unless we set limits. News and social media exposure can be detrimental to your mental health when done too frequently or for too long. When you notice signs of anxiety, stress, fear, take a break from your television, computer, phone, and other devices. Read a book instead.

4. Define your values. What in your life, in your own sphere of influence, is important to you? Instead of ruminating over what’s wrong everywhere, decide what is important to you in your own world and focus on that. 

5. Live your values. Know what is the most important to you and delineate positive action steps for achieving it. 

Having anxiety about what’s happening around us is natural. When faced with fear, stress, and toxicity, anxiety is a normal physical and emotional response. Happily, we’re not helpless and there are many things we can control.