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What to do about TWF (The-World’s-Fucked) anxiety

Happiness & Fulfilment, Resilience

It seems that 62% of us have recently developed TWF (The World’s Fucked) anxiety.

“WTF, TWF!” you might find yourself shouting at passing strangers as you accidentally insta/doom-scroll your way through your life.

If you ask the media, (or perhaps your brain), it really can feel like everything is going to hell in a handbasket. If I were Mr Hell, I’d be pretty bloody ragey if someone tried to pop me into a handbasket.

Which is probably the reason Mr Hell has delivered us this shit show of a demi-decade —

A smorgasbord of bullshit,

including the bitter taste of Trump and political polarisation, the forever-lingering flavour Covid-19, the horrendous bouquet of the unrest in the Middle East, and now the pièce de résistance, Ukraine. With a side of Will Smith slapping a guy on stage right after writing a book about emotion regulation.

Alongside of course, the ever present backdrop of racism, violence, sexism, homophobia, transism, climate change… And worst ever floods, bushfires, tornadoes and typhoons. And the sad polar bears floating around on tiny bits of ice. 😢

I’ve surely missed at least 100 other majorly horrendous things that have been splished about by the media in the last few years because 96% of the time I don’t watch or read news nor scroll social media and haven’t for years (can’t recommend it more highly). And no doubt I’ve missed a trillion other horrendous things that the media didn’t cover in depth or at all.

For example, one of my awesome Project Self team members had to move himself and his family to another island for a YEAR because the entire (huge) island where they live was so badly damaged by a typhoon last year. Can you imagine?

Meanwhile *some* governments be like “You know what we should definitely do? Open new coal mines! New gas fields! Hooray!”

Recently I’ve been volunteering up in Northern NSW after the worst floods ever to hit the area (by more than double), and I’ve never seen (first-hand) anything like it. The apocalyptic devastation of driving down street after street lined with the entire contents of people’s houses – fridges, ovens, all their personal belongings and clothes, (and even all their ripped-out walls and carpet) covered in mud and mould, piled up on the streets outside their likely-to-need-demolishing homes. Imagine losing literally everything you own overnight, including a safe house to sleep in.

Suffice to say, things are looking pretty fucked, and it’s not exactly showing signs of letting up. Nuclear war anyone?

What’s going on in the world… It’s a lot. Certainly enough to make many of us panic a fair bit more than usual.

The mad thing is, this is REALLY bloody tame on the scale of our entire civilisation.

Most of our grandparents or great grandparents have lived through significantly worse. We’re actually still living in one of the safest times ever, but you wouldn’t know it if you watch the news.

We have more access than ever to sensationalised media stories that make our brains feel like we’re personally in a state of war, despite (most of us — at least if you’re reading this blog post) being safe in our homes, far from war.

When the pandemic first started to get its germy little claws in,

I ran a workshop called How to Manage Anxiety when Everything Feels Fucked. Perhaps, given that things keep *seeming* to get worse, I should just keep running it over and over for the rest of time?

It seems like on one hand, many people are becoming more stressed, more anxious, more depressed and more burnt out than ever before. I’ve run a ridiculous number of corporate stress reduction workshops in the last two years — hundreds more than ever before. People are s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d.

I had a young woman stay in our Airbnb recently who told us that before the pandemic, she was pretty happy, wasn’t aware of any anxiety. Six months into the pandemic, with the incredible fear mongering that went on in the media (particularly in Melbourne), she found herself checking herself into a psychiatric inpatient centre. For a month. She was so anxious she could no longer function.

In the last two years, signs and audio announcements have sprung up in supermarkets, pharmacies, banks —  all over the place — asking people to,

please, for the love of mustard, be kind to our staff and stop shouting in their face for no reason.

On the other hand, I’m also seeing people take care of themselves and others more than ever before. Realising their limits and not pushing past them, taking more down time, going easier on themselves, meditating more (or at least trying to work out how to), practising mindfulness more, giving more, helping more, volunteering more.

It seems that more and more of us are reaching our breaking points… we’re hitting the “dark night of the soul” en masse, and having no choice but to look around for help when our suffering reaches unbearable levels.

Which on the one hand, sucks mammothly.

But on the other hand, it feels like something really beautiful might be happening alongside the horrendousness. More and more, faster and faster, people are waking up to the state of our minds, our egos — the thing that created the majority of this chaos in the first place.

My mate Ecky (also known as Eckhart Tolle), as well as many spiritual teachings and religions, told us that this would happen — that things would get worse before they got better. And that the suffering would cause a global shift in consciousness.

As I’ve written about many times before, the worst pain I’ve been through has created some of the most beautiful transformations in my life.

From heart ache and break ups, to more major suffering, like the sexual abuse I experienced as a child that later led me to dive into sexual self-development, thus opening up a whole new world of beautiful relationships and beautiful sex (See: Why we avoid sex and what to do about it).

In fact, the suffering from the hard things that happened in my young life are what lead me to what I do now as a self-employed unconventional mindfulness coach and a helper of people who are stuck on big life decisions! I ADORE my work and my business, and I’d probably still be stuck in an unfulfilling (for me) career as an architect if my mental health hadn’t nudged (and kicked) me to look for better answers to my suffering.

It doesn’t necessarily make the suffering easier, but I do find it helpful to remind myself that in my experience, more suffering = more awakening and transformation, and more awakening = more love, more wisdom, more kindness, more peace.

At this point, it seems likely to me that we can probably only get to a more enlightened, wiser, more peaceful way of living by having things turned on their head first. Which never feels fun.

A friend of mine lives in Lebanon and was telling me how the whole country only has power for around 30 minutes a day at the moment (max 1-2 hours). There is almost no fuel, and since the banking sector collapsed in 2019, everyone’s savings have been devalued by 90%.

As a result, he told me that people have no choice but to become radically innovative to survive. One example he gave is that renewable energy is taking Lebanon by storm, with businesses and those who can afford it buying up solar panels and renewable energy because they literally don’t have any other option. And everyone is helping each other in any way they can.

Humans only reallllllly innovate when they absolutely have to.

You only have to look at your life to notice how much you put up with when everything is going “ok”. It’s only when you really hit crisis mode that you consider making radical changes to the way you live. Businesses often do the same. Out of the pandemic came many great transformations and shifts in the way we work and the way businesses operate.

Also, the best tends to come out of us as humans when we see other people in need. I’ve certainly witnessed the most amazing human spirit while volunteering alongside thousands of others in one of the many flood recovery hubs up in the Northern Rivers.

So even though it may sometimes look and feels like everything is fucked…

It’s possible that actually, we’re well on our way to a much more beautiful, less dick-ish world.

At least, that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night. It works — highly recommend.

If you find yourself suffering from TWF anxiety, or just the occasional bout of FOATSOTW (freaking out about the state of the world):

1. Remind yourself: everything is not actually as fucked as it looks in the media. We are living in the safest time ever to live. Practising gratitude daily will help train your brain to realise it. (Non dick-ish How-To guide here: Is Gratitude Just for Annoying People)

2. Beautiful things often come out of the worst times, personally and globally. Hopefully, as Frank Sinatra tells us, the best is yet to come (please God/ Frank!)

3. Reduce or eliminate news from your daily mental diet. Just as you wouldn’t consume crap every day and expect your body to be healthy, do not consume hours of negative news every day and expect your brain to stay healthy.

Pst — for more tips to help your mind calm the fuck down so you don't jitter through your day like an anxious hampster, download the free g-book here: How to Stop a Bad Day in its Tracks  It’s free, and brill.

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