Kay’s Journal: Emotional Overload

Here’s what I’m writing about in my journal this week!

JV icon K Journal

Nearly all of my conversations these days–at least with those with whom I share beliefs and viewpoints–begin with check-ins about current events. And one of the first things we check in about is our current emotional state as we watch the train wreck of the Trump presidency.

Nearly always, we first acknowledge emotional overload. The most common feelings are outrage, exhaustion and despair, all happening all at the same time, all of the time.

Yet we also each go about our daily lives, somehow juxtaposing our individual priorities and choices and circumstances against a background of hyperspeed news cycles in which “Breaking News” is permanently affixed to the chyron. “It’s a centipede, and the shoe continues to drop,” said Sen. John McCain last week.

For those of us who remember Watergate, this isn’t new. Yet it feels qualitatively different, because at least during Watergate our elected legislative branch was unified around the solution.

How do I stay sane and in service during this national nightmare? That’s the question I constantly bring to writing practice. Here are a few of my own responses:

  1. Writing practice. Five-to-thirty minutes of daily writing practice–even when I think I don’t have time!–is crucial to my resilience.
  2. Talking about it. Ranting, venting, and witnessing with those who can go there. Speaking truth to power in everyday activism. My speed-dial slots are filled up with Washington power brokers.
  3. Not talking about it. There are people I love dearly with whom I cannot have rational conversations about politics and government, and we have agreed to disagree and talk about anything but this.
  4. Eating clean. I know what my optimal nutritional plan is, and I adhere to it because to do otherwise leaves me vulnerable to stress responses.
  5. Perceiving beauty and participating in it every day.
  6. Praying. Acknowledging my powerlessness over the situation and placing my faith in a Divine Intelligence that will “hold up all this falling” (Rilke, “Autumn”).

This Wednesday at the Journalverse we have another Pioneer Conversation with the legendary Christina Baldwin. We’ll talk about how we can walk our talk and talk our walk with those with whom we have ideological differences. Because the conversations I can’t have are personally painful, I’m looking forward to a deep dive. I hope you’ll join us Wednesday at 9 PT, 10 MT, 11 CT and noon ET. Adjust for your time zone if you’re overseas.


Your turn! How do you manage the emotional overload? Share your best strategies in the comments. Thanks!


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8 Responses to Kay’s Journal: Emotional Overload

  1. Carolyn Koehnline May 23, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    Meditation, writing, and being intentional about when I look or listen to the news. It helps me to remember that silence is a precious thing. So is music. And I notice walking amongst trees feels crucial to me these days. And kindred souls!!! I can’t imagine traveling through this without them. I’m also reading The Book of Joy which has the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sharing about how they can be joyful in the midst of the suffering of the world.

    • Kay Adams May 24, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

      Thanks for adding to my reading list, Carolyn! The Book of Joy sounds like it belongs on my nightstand.

  2. Terri May 23, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    One of the ways I handled the emotional overload years ago was to get rid of my television. Not only did I stop watching the twisted and biased reporting (from many sides of the issues!) but I also eliminated the Law and Order Marathons, the inane, unfunny, and even toxic sitcoms, and the poorly produced and acted movies.

    Instead I went back to reading. I read a tremendous variety of fiction genre (and have learned that I’ve been practicing bibliotherapy all these years without even knowing it!) reading as a way of dealing with emotions.

    I also read professional and personal development books, news from a variety of perspectives in online and print media, professional journals, social justice essays and blogs.

    All of this reading in the quietness.

    And I have conversations with people who share my opinions and values and with people who do NOT share my opinions and values.

    I journal

    I also laugh a lot. Sometimes for sake of laughter.

    This piece is an interesting example of writing from a position that presumes everyone thinks and feels the same as the writer. It is even a bit insulting to those who might feel different emotions.

    The understandings appear to come from a position where the writer has been not only preaching to the choir but sitting in the choir when it isn’t her turn to preach. “Train wreck” is a qualitative/subjective descriptor and it speaks to your own position, opinion, and values rather than to any truth. Of course since it is your blog, it is your privilege to write your own position opinion and values right?.

    • Kay Adams May 24, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

      Thanks for your excellent suggestions, Terri. I admire you and others I know who have released television! I appreciate your observations about my worldview. Just got off the call with Christina Baldwin for the May 24 interview in which she noted that any time a finger is pointed in judgment, opportunities for healing and true understanding are impaired. So while I stand by my opinions, I am made mindful twice over that there are more spacious and curious ways to invite conversation. My core position remains that I don’t consider these issues partisan as much as humanitarian. I am deeply distressed by the mindset of destruction of social, economic, educational, environmental, health, mental health, etc. protections. I think basic human and civil rights are nonpartisan.

  3. Katherine Cox Stevenson May 26, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    How do I handle the emotional overload? First as a Canadian I share your concerns Kay about US politics. Very scary to me.

    I handle emotional overload by not watching the news, writing daily, being in nature, meditating, gardening and finding simple joys where I can. My five chickens and two cats cause me to laugh out loud at least once every single day. I sit and stare at the sea for hours and “escape.” And my recent addition of learning oil paining is a wonderful way to get into the creative zone which again is a fabulous release.

    Today happens to be the Journaling for Health group I facilitate and those women always fill my heart as we write and discuss together from our hearts.

    Thank you Kay for your honesty and sharing even if your opinions and ideas are not met with approval from others. So often, us women are silenced and I see you as a role model, who won’t be. Thank you again.

    • Kay Adams June 1, 2017 at 6:08 am #

      Ah Katherine you are a role model for me of balanced living! How lovely to have “housemates” that make you laugh every single day. And it’s thrilling to her you talk about your Journaling for Health group as if it’s part of your ongoing lifestyle. Just a few months ago you were getting it off the ground and now it’s a regular part of your week. That’s terrific!

  4. Wendy Tuck June 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    I find it also helps to join politically with others- to feel that my voice and concerns are not a lonely voice in the wilderness. I like being part of Indivisible, national but with local chapters. And also Citizens Climate Lobby/ again national with local chapters. I want to be part of building or rather carrying forward a wave of commitment to justice, reverence for life, making society better for all, that each generation is entrusted with- wherever and whenever we live

    • Kay Adams June 4, 2017 at 6:43 am #

      Wendy, what an important point. Yes, solidarity is a vital step. There’s strength and power in numbers. As we watch the daily deconstruction of institutions and policies we’ve held dear–and, sadly in my case, taken for granted!–a group voice brings a stronger message than an individual voice. Still, I have key politicians on speed-dial in my phone, just so I can also make my single voice heard on a near-daily basis.

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