October 19, 2017—There are a lot of swirling currents in our society today. It’s easy to get reactive in response to all that is going on, whatever your political position. After the election last November, I realized I had to do something to manage my own anxiety. I developed a series of practices which have helped me stay calm(er). Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- I re-read Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. I read a page or two a day as part of my morning devotional time for six months. I’d read the book three or four times before, but I experienced it differently this time. For one thing, the slow pace helped the ideas sink in. For another, the current spike in societal anxiety made Friedman’s ideas all the more relevant. Now I’m reading the new Leadership in Ministry book, a few pages a day.
- I made decisions about how to consume media. I started out saying I wasn’t going to read any news online, only paper. I subscribe to The Economist, which I do find useful–it’s a British publication with an outside perspective on U.S. issues. And I do think paper is a cooler medium for news. It doesn’t transmit anxiety as rapidly. I don’t listen to radio or television news. I have slipped back into online news, but I only read it after the working day is over.
- I made additional choices about social media. I’ve stayed off Twitter, mostly. On Facebook, I use Social Fixer, a browser add-on which allows you to block posts by topic. You can also block the portion of the screen with trending headlines. I find that Facebook feature enormously distracting. I want to make choices about how and when I consume news, not have it thrust on me. This has been helpful.
- I read a three-generation biography of the Trump family, The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate by Gwenda Blair (revised title of an earlier book). The book was published in 2000, long before the last election. It’s a brilliant work. I created a family genogram of the Trumps. It helped me understand the multigenerational forces at work in this family and in our wider society. It helped me get more curious.
- I decided on what groups to engage with and what events to attend based on my roles and my commitments. I’ve been using Greg McKeown’s wonderful question from his book Essentialism: “Is this a 9 or a 10?” I find if I ask that question about an invitation or opportunity, I instantly know the answer. I know my primary call is to help leaders grow, so I can assess based on that calling.
What practices can help you stay calm and clear when you feel the pull of societal anxiety?
Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out. She is a long-term faculty member of Leadership in Ministry and serves at the Boston and Portland workshops. Get “Six Ways to Last in Ministry” at http://margaretmarcuson.com/.
The Center for Lifelong Learning offers the Leadership in Ministry workshops in four locations: Atlanta, Boston, Portland OR, and West Virginia. Click to learn more about the Leadership in Ministry (LIM) workshops.