You may already be familiar with the phrase that seems to pervade the internet:
IDGAF (I Don’t Give A F**K)
This exposes an alarming trend in which individuals are “giving up” on caring for others, about others, or about issues that directly relate to them…to all of us. However, I fully understand how we can reach such a tipping point in our thought processes to intentionally and forcibly shut down.
We are overloaded daily with pleas to help this cause or that….to care about someone’s individual mishap or misfortune; we are bombarded with concepts that seem ludicrous and a waste of time to our daily survival. Yet another post about a Kardashian, or Kanye, or a tragedy in a far country? How do we process all of this, and yet not reach a point where we block it all out?
Learning to block it out is perhaps the best defense we can teach ourselves.
I’ve posted numerous times about how severe depression has negatively impacted my life over the past decades. However, there is a silver lining to it. Through the darkest days and nights, I had to learn a virtual “work around” to not being able to care. For when we stop caring about and for others, we stop caring about our own well-being. While in the throes of a percieved inability to care about anything, I found that I couldn’t care about myself, either. So I set out to find a healthier way to be able to care about and for myself, while limiting the tsunami of external overload at the same time. Was it possible to find a way past my defenses and not shut out the external world completely?
The answer I finally landed on, after much trial and error, might seem a bit simplistic. But it’s the only resource I found that really works.
And it was completely free.
We humans have a need to care for ourselves in order to care for others. We are social animals that require a mindset of empathy in order to help ourselves and our fellow humans. Being bombarded as we are, blunts our sensitivity to the ability to do so. And that creates a negative process in which we are the ones who end up suffering the most.
Here is what I learned:
Creating an attitude of mindfulness within myself helped to regulate the overwhelming feelings I wound up with day after day.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditational practice.
Some confuse mindfulness with religion, but in fact, it’s not a religion at all. It’s a state of being. In our moments of being overwhelmed, we cannot hear the voice within that calms us, reassures us, and guides us to clearer thinking and emotion. When we allow ourselves to become inundated with unimportant NOISE, we drown out our own intuition and ability to care for ourselves. When we experience this chaos, are allowing too many things into our thoughts, provided by others. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on the internet. When we can focus on our own thoughts and hear our own inner voice, only then can we calm chaotic thinking.
Practicing mindfulness can take place in many ways. Taking five or ten minutes out of our day to commune with nature, or sit quietly and allow our chaotic thoughts to settle…this helps create a mindfulness within. And the more we practice, the easier it is to obtain. Like any instrument, the mind requires practice for it to stay healthy, and us to remain happy. It isn’t, by any means, a substitute for medications or therapy…but it does open us up to more effective self-assistance. Why not enhance your current regimens with mindfulness practice?
There are many resources you can avail yourself of to achieve the calm, reflective demeanor your mind requires. Author Thich Nhat Hanh provides very straightforward practice in his book, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.
Mindfulness is not a new concept. Buddhist beliefs have practiced mindfulness for centuries, with amazing results.
There are meditative classes you can join, meetup groups you can join (if you prefer to work in more social settings), or you can practice mindfulness at home. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the IDGAF trap. When we stop caring for others, we stop caring for ourselves, for we are all one beautiful, wonderful organism.