5 ways to assert psychological agency during jarring times
The sky seems to be falling: There are no shortage of reminders. The clock ticks until Election Day; the angst is palpable. Our feeds are jarring and scarring, flooding our psyches with non-stop messages of catastrophe and polarity.
While hypervigilance is called for in such times, the Chicken Little infestation is bringing us to a whole new level of traumatic stress and anticipatory anxiety. Our coping thresholds have already been put to the test, and yet we know there are no escape doors for what looms around the corner.
Between the impending election, the escalation of the pandemic, the state of a world turned horror/reality show, we are barraged with doomsday headlines that squeeze any potential last drop of Zen out of us.
We’re holding our breath, on our knees chanting “Serenity Now”, begging for a 2020 reset button. Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All” is on auto repeat. We are Googling “Will Halloween full moon reset Karma?”, “Ways to stay resilient,” “Does burning sage work?” and “Can I get citizenship in Canada?”.
2020 has required devout, steadfast attention to preserving sanity and summoning every creative bone in our body to muster every last ounce of psychological agency-the act of being accountable for the parts of our lives we can control.
Science shows that taking such agency is vital. That we are wired to do so. That the individual intentions and actions we take can contribute positively towards both individual and collective behavioral change and well-being.
Here are some ways to leverage our innate ability to take psychological agency during jarring times:
- Build a solid values-aligned foundation. Guard against the Chicken Little infestation. Know your values and the principles on which you stand. Write your own personal mission statement on how, no matter what the election outcome, you will work to contribute positively to society and social change.
- Read books that expose the root issues of social dysfunction. Check out authors like Isabelle Wilkerson, Ibram X. Kendi, Ann Russo, Glennon Doyle, Noam Chomsky, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Marianne Williamson. They help motivate us to recognize the unjust systems we’ve inherited and actively work to change them.
- Engage in creative activities that help you express a wide range of emotions. Music, song, dance, poetry, stream of consciousness writing, painting, and drawing can help us stay in the now and achieve a state of psychological flow-one where we are in an epic zone, enjoying what we’re immersed in and tuning out all else.
- Participate in spiritual practices. Spend time in meditation, prayer, deep-breathing, yoga and nature. Recognize our inter-beingness and collective ties. Radiate healing love, light and positivity. Be what the world needs (hint: it’s not hate, fear, power-over, violence and toxicity).
- Practice acts of kindness and solidarity. Stay accountable. Work for justice and peace. Reach out and use any resources and privilege you have to help improve the human condition. Fight against systemic racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism and Xenophobia. Love your neighbor-and recognize that everyone across the globe is your neighbor, not just those in proximity geographically or ideologically.
This next week, and well beyond will continue to be taxing on our mental health and collective resilience. Taking psychological agency can help us to stay well and do well.
Lee, (2018). Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking. Learn what it takes to be more agile, mindful and connected in today’s world. Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI Books.