When You Feel Numb or Paralyzed in the Face of Tragedy
Although I don't want to admit it, my first inclination is to shrink away. To tune out. To keep scrolling. I’ve heard a lot of people expressing the same thing. We're plagued by natural disasters and tragedies and wars what seems like on the regular these days, and the fatigue is real.
It can be hard to keep caring, especially when there is so much privilege involved and my daily life is unaffected.
I do care. And I’m sure you do too. I think my brain has trouble reconciling the simultaneous feelings of deep empathy and deep helplessness. The natural reaction seems to be to freeze up and take no action at all.
Action is what’s needed most. I’ve heard it put that “caring is hard, and action is harder. But we’re up to the challenge." (Chelsea Yamase)
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the idea of taking one next step. How do you run a marathon? One step at a time. So while I feel helpless to immediately “fix” the problems coming at me in the media, what I can do is take one next step after another.
What does that look like? It might be different for everyone based on circumstances and resources, but here are a few suggestions I’ve been seeing lately:
Volunteer on location
Open your home to displaced victims
Share the message
Establishing a Method of Action
When tragedies strike, I typically like to use the broad categories of People, Animals, and the Planet. I’ll research organizations in the affected area that benefit those categories, and make a financial donation to each. For me, it’s a strategy I find helpful and it gives me an automatic plan of action when I feel overwhelmed.
(Due diligence through research is important to make sure the organizations are legit and that financial contributions will actually be most impactful.)
Where I See Hope
It is human nature to learn from mistakes. It’s literally hardwired in our brains for survival. And what I’ve seen in the wake of the destruction in Australia is many, many people (myself included) making commitments to live even more sustainably, to take a more active role in voting on climate issues, and having important conversations with friends, family, and followers about our impact on the planet.
And I know that using less plastic won’t extinguish the fires. However, a few small actions multiplied by millions of people could help prevent future disasters like this. Even just doing three small things a day, which many people have been pledging to do. And that to me is a small bit of hope.
I have hope that long-term stability for the planet is possible. I HAVE to have that hope. Otherwise, the only thing that comes from destruction is more destruction. I think we can get there through the changes and choices of each person collectively.
The louder the message, the further the reach, the bigger the impact. Keep taking one next step. We can get there.
Links to Some Resources I've Found Helpful for the Fires in Australia: