Q. I have a job where I have to be very supportive to people and quite outgoing. I love that, but world events and reactions to them have been draining me and bringing me down. What can I do?
A. When major tragedies occur, even if they don't affect you personally, it can be hard to come to terms with them. It's easy to see them all around us; it's as simple as looking at Facebook and seeing reactions to recent terrorist attacks.
But giving in to fear, anger or despair only promotes the goals of the perpetrators, so it's worth taking back control of your own response (without going into denial). In fact, it was a sad post from one of my biggest-hearted friends that spurred me to take on your question.
These acts are designed to turn us against each other. To hate others who may appear different from us. To strip the joy from our lives and put fear in its place. And we don't have to let that happen. There are many things, large and small, that we can do every day to affirm our commitment to a healthy and loving world. Here goes:
• Smile at people. Everyone. Even (especially?) people who may look shut down, unapproachable or different from you.
• Post kittens. Or puppies. Or political messages that counter the push to closing borders and blaming innocent victims for the atrocities that are befalling them.
• Honor those who have been killed or whose families have been shattered. It would be disingenuous to say you should stop being heartbroken for them if that's how you feel. Create personal rituals to acknowledge that pain so that you can move forward.
• Help someone else, either through donation, personal support or even a workplace effort. The collaborative aspect may be very healing.
• Be an advocate for love. In your normal course of work, choose the kind approach, creating an environment of caring and respect for all. Hint — this will also bring you excellent work outcomes.
• And, most of all, have compassion for those who are experiencing these same fear-inducing events by lashing out at others they perceive to be different. They are not bad people, and they, too, need reassurance that the world is not all bad.
If you find yourself caught in the dark, take a moment to regroup. Notice what has triggered it. If it's ignorance from others, create a mental buffer. Or find ways to limit exposure to the sources, for example, taking a news break.
If you find yourself turning against others, think about what you're afraid of. Upon reflection, you may conclude that there is more risk to us from violating our moral principles than from the people we fear.
And especially, give yourself a big dose of positive. Set up networks of people who nourish you. Spend time in the fresh air. Hug. And trust the goodness in the world.
This matters. Resisting the pressure to take a dark view of the world is the single most important step most of us will take every day. Have courage! Take heart! And together we'll keep the world a beautiful place.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.