The stress in the air is palpable. I had actually been planning on writing an article this week on managing stress while all this craziness is going on in the world, and then I heard the sad news that Michael C. Ruppert had committed suicide. Michael C. Ruppert was a prepper, 9/11 activist, and Peak Oil proponent. He had apparently suffered from severe depression over the years, so his friends are cautioning the conspiracy-minded from concluding that he had actually been taken out.
You can listen to his last podcast here.
Taking this news at face value, I feel it is incredibly important that people are taught better coping mechanisms for dealing with the stress of everything falling apart in the world. We talk a lot about prepping financially and physically, but not much is being done to "prep" people for the mental health challenges that are sure to come up if the schnitzel really does hit the fan.
Most Americans have a really poor grasp of mental health. The default go-to is to resort to popping some sort of pill or downing a mind-altering substance in the form of drugs or alcohol. Schools don't teach kids how to manage their stress - if anything, schools are making things worse by handing out iPads like candy and encouraging kids to keep their noses in screens instead of outside playing in fresh air.
Our media is designed for maximum sensory stimulation and little reflection or deep thinking. People are over-fed, over-medicated, and over-stimulated. A lot of people don't know how to relax except with a bottle or a joint - or a big pint of ice cream. Depression and anxiety are rampant, and these days, you might find a quarter of American women or maybe more on psychotropic drugs.
This is all in spite of the popularity of holistic practices such as yoga. However, I can tell you, as someone who has been doing yoga on and off for almost 20 years now, and who has a yoga teacher certification - yoga has been overtaken by the over-stimulation mentality in America. The calm, peaceful, centering yoga I discovered in the 90s is now hard to find in a group yoga class. What you now get in most mainstream yoga classes isn't actually real yoga at all - it is hyper-aerobics and gymnastic contortions based on yoga poses.
Real, classical yoga is about balance, meditation, and connecting to God. It is not - sorry, guys - about doing a whole slew of fast sun salutations and strenuous pose sequences in order to develop a hot "yoga butt." But a lot of yogis don't go to yoga to calm their mind these days - I can't tell you how many times in yoga teacher training we've been told about how to try to calm down students who are so wired they can't even handle a few minutes in "savasana" or the final resting pose.
(See that yogi in the picture? That's what yogis used to look like. See how happy he is? And how little he's concerned about how tight his abs are?)
I use yoga to illustrate the point that you can't just expect to step into a trendy yoga class, or go to some sort of self-help seminar, and get "the answer" to life's problems. You won't find a solution in a bottle or a pill (even a prescribed pill). You have to find your own way to manage the stress and anxiety that naturally arises from the state of things on the planet. You need a multi-pronged mental health strategy that works personally for you.
As a point of full disclosure, I'm not speaking from some lofty perch where I've never had to deal with mental health struggles. I went through a severe depression in college. It is like falling into a black pit of despair, and yes, I can absolutely understand why someone might choose to kill themselves. The college shrinks tried to put me on Zoloft, but I had a dangerous allergic reaction to it (it was giving me "pre-seizure" symptoms) so I cannot take anti-depressants even if I wanted to.
My current struggle is with anxiety. For some reason, I have funneled a good deal of my world anxiety into an annoying little phobia relating to any sort of bug that crosses my path. It's ridiculous, and silly at times (you should see me running from a bee at a picnic and screaming like a girl).
But I do have some things that I am doing that are helping considerably, and in the interesting of actually providing some solutions, I thought I'd share some ideas and tips. These are just starting points and ideas. Ultimately, you need to come up with your own positive coping mechanisms and mental health practices.
1) I don't avoid the news, but I balance out the bad news by filling myself up with more positive or relaxing media. Right now, for me, this means listening to uplifting music on the radio and watching old television shows that have a charm and comfort that are missing in today's TV landscape.
For example, I'm watching Murder, She Wrote on Netflix. Sure, there's a murder every week, but we can rest assured that Jessica Fletcher is going to figure out whodunit with style and grace.
For music, I listen less to popular music than I ever did and tend towards Classical music, Christian contemporary, New Age music (yes, I realize for some people that doesn't mix with the Christian - sorry!), and old jazz singers like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. It is really hard to feel blue when Old Blue Eyes is singing an uptempo tune. Hawaiian music can also make me feel happy - there's just something about it that evokes the island paradise.
I simply cannot stomach listening to much of modern pop music with lyrics that are so negative and stupid. The overly-repetitive quality of some of this music is seriously designed to put you into a trance and shut off rational thought. Lady Gaga's latest faux "hit" was all about how she loves applause. "I live for the applause-plause" - no doubt you do, you tool for the elite! When you listen to this crap, you are programming your mind - so choose to program it with something more positive.
2) I cannot overemphasize the importance of regular exercise. Exercise is clinically proven to be just as effective as anti-depressants - and unlike pills, exercise is actually good for you! I can tell a remarkable difference in my mood and anxiety levels based on my amount of exercise. Bottom line - when I exercise regularly, I am happier, calmer, less stressed, and better able to focus. When I stop, boy, I can become a wreck!
If you are not exercising regularly, and you are depressed or anxious, you need to force yourself to start. I hear so many people say they hate exercise and I just can't fathom it. With all the different forms of exercise, you must have one thing that you might enjoy. I am personally not a runner, for example - I just suck at it. But I love to swim, bike, do hot yoga and dance in Zumba class. Martial arts is a way to exercise and learn self-defense, so you are prepping while you exercise.
I also highly recommend Qi Gong as it balances out your system and provides that calm and relaxation that is so missing in our modern world. I have recently committed to doing Qi Gong daily - less than 10 minutes - and wow, what a difference it makes!
Bottom line: Pick something and do it.
3) Find some sort of spiritual practice that works for you. Yes, that includes you, too, atheists. While I have my personal belief that you are going to do a lot better in the future mental health-wise by trusting in a power higher than yourself (Hint: that would be God), if you insist on going it alone, you still need a "spiritual" practice. My dad is an atheist who loves the outdoors and nature. He spends a lot of time outside playing golf and sailing. This gives him some exercise and also helps to fill his spiritual well.
Meditation, by the way, has proven medical and mental health benefits and can be done in a religious or non-religious context. Christians can do Christian meditation and prayer, and atheists can meditate simply for the mental health aspects of it.
(By the way, I suspect some Christians might take this opportunity in the comments to bash atheists and tell them that they need Jesus and not "nature." Please don't. You're not helping them. Look, you need to meet people where they are.)
4) Get a hobby. In my mind, people who are finding a lack of meaning in their lives are not busy enough. I cannot imagine wanting to end my life too soon because I have far too many projects I want to complete. The bonus here is that your hobby could be a useful skill if things really do deteriorate badly. I took up sewing as a skill to learn and found it was quite fulfilling and fun. I now also knit and crochet - and discovered that psychiatrists actually recommend knitting to their patients because the repetitive nature of knitting actually calms the mind.
Your hobby might be fixing up old cars, or woodworking, or cooking and baking. The point is, by focusing on a hobby that you enjoy, you are not only potentially learning a useful skill, you are improving your mental health.
Note I said "hobby" and not "art." I'm not saying you can't pick up painting, but if you turn your hobby into an excuse to become a "tortured artist," you aren't helping yourself. Don't make your hobby focused on dredging up negativity or rehashing emotional baggage. For this reason I think "crafts" are somehow a better pursuit than "art" if you want mental health benefits.
5) Change your perspective - and stop whining! For this point, I will share the advice of Mark Dice in his tribute video to Michael C. Ruppert. You might think Mark Dice is a krank, or a jerk, or not your thing, but I hope you take his comments to heart. He said that fighting the "Illuminati" should be "fun" and "exhilarating." It's like "living in a movie." We should be enjoying the battle. He's right.
Seriously...why are we moping around all the time, giving up, and letting The Powers That Be defeat us so much mentally? C'mon guys, where's your can-do spirit?
I truly believe that a good portion of our battle right now is one of will and resolve. And one of the ways "they" will try to defeat you is by turning you into a defeatist. We need to take control of our hearts and minds, and stop buying into this false narrative that nothing can be done and the bad guys are going to win. That's crap. There are more of us than there are of them. Step one is to take your power back and part of that involves taking care of your mental health so you can be a light in this dark world.