10 Things To Try When the World Is a Dumpster Fire

A wooden chair in an empty lot is ablaze with orange flames

Sometimes the world we live in seems like one giant dumpster fire of pain, and it's easy to start feeling despondent and apathetic as a result. As a queer POC currently residing in the homophobic-leaning and gun-friendly state of Texas, I often feel like everything is terrible and nothing is going to get better.

I usually need to let myself stew in that for a bit before I'm ready to take on a new approach, and I think that's healthy as long as I don't stay simmering for too long.

Thankfully, I always get to a point where I want to (at least a little bit) participate in humanity again. It just becomes a matter of how. How do you transition from wanting to hibernate forever/let it all burn to the ground/hop on a spaceship to #AnywhereButHere to wanting to get back in the fight and make the best of things?

A fat, masculine-presenting person with glasses and short hair is staring at their phone with one hand to their temple appearing stressed

It's a tough question and one I've spent considerable time brainstorming on for both my own sake and the benefit of the folks I have the privilege of working with as a coach and consultant. So if you've been stewing too and haven't quite figured out how to hoist yourself out of your soup pot yet, I thought I'd give you some ideas.

Here are 10 things to try when the world is a dumpster fire and everything kind of feels like garbage:

1. Take a baby step toward the kind of world you want to live in by doing something thoughtful for someone else, whether a loved one or a stranger. Little things can have a big impact on the lives of others, and one way to respond to the world's terribleness is to double down on your own kindness. You could put a card in the mail, send surprise flowers, shoot someone a kind DM or text message, leave a positive Yelp review, or any other numbers of things (check out episode #113 of the Conjuring Up Courage podcast, How To Supercharge Your Thoughtfulness, for ideas, plus a free download of 50 Ways To Be More Thoughtful).

2. Look for things you can take off your plate entirely or at least give less f*cks about for the time being. In seasons when you feel overloaded and overwhelmed, it's important to give yourself grace and create as much breathing room as possible. Can the laundry sit a little longer? Can you cook a less complicated meal or order in? Can you shelve a project until a later date? Search for parts of your life where there's wiggle room, and let shit gooooooo.

3. If you're stuck in a funk, make sure you're processing your emotions (not just numbing them or burying them). The only way to move through feelings is to actually let yourself feel them. Trust me, I wish there was an easier way too. Thankfully, there are many different techniques you can use to process emotions, so choose the ones that feel best for you (a list of some of my fave tactics is available in this blog post).

A Black femme-presenting person with their natural hair tied up in a scarf sketches with a pencil at a desk

4. Give your creativity room to breathe. Something consistent across human existence is our ability to channel our pain into beautiful, remarkable things—as long as we give ourselves the space to do it. When was the last time you let yourself create just to create? Whether you want to paint canvases or your face, produce short films or TikTok videos, bake desserts or throw pottery, artistic outlets can restore your mental health (and even your faith in humanity).

5. Practice grounding yourself in the present moment when your brain is spinning out of control. Grounding techniques are ways you can bring your mind back to the here and now when things start to feel too heavy or like you're spiraling out. If you're new to grounding exercises or looking for some variety, here are ten different options to experiment with.

6. Determine one little thing you can do for yourself today to meet your needs. It's a great self-trust builder to get in the habit of checking in with yourself and responding to what your body is asking for. If you need calm, can you take a few slow, deep breaths? If you need a distraction, can you play a short game or watch a cute animal video? If you need affection, can you hug a loved one or a pet (or even yourself)?

7. Remind yourself of all the things that bring you joy by making a list. Refocusing on my joy is one of my favorite ways to help me remember that there is still stuff to wake up for and fight for and live for. If it would be helpful to see a sample list, here's one I made in the past.

A femme-presenting person with a pink streak in their hair has their arm wrapped around a cute bulldog

8. Determine where you have influence. When tragedy strikes, most of us feel helpless to change anything, but everyone has something to offer in terms of power, resources, skills/talents, and connections. I delve deeper into this concept with my clients, but for the purpose of this blog post, simply think about what power and influence you already have and how you can use it to push the world in a better direction.

9. Take a self-compassion break. Self-compassion is about extending yourself kindness and the benefit of the doubt, just like you do for others in your life, particularly those you love. It requires noticing and accepting your pain and suffering, feeling moved by that pain and suffering, and offering yourself understanding of that pain and suffering because it's part of the human experience. One way to practice self-compassion is to take an intentional self-compassion break (here are instructions for doing so from Dr. Kristin Neff, the author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself).

10. Lean into pleasure (yes, really). You might think when horrible things are happening that the last thing you should be doing is trying to prioritize pleasure, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Pleasure is an act of resistance. If your body is the epicenter of the oppression enacted against you as a queer person, a trans person, a BIPOC person, a woman, and so on, then reclaiming your pleasure in defiance of that oppression is a middle finger to the system and all who uphold it. So how can you provide yourself with pleasure today?

Stay consumed in the fiery trash can flames for as long as you'd like, just make sure while you're in there you don't forget how much this world needs you and your magic.

I'm looking forward to seeing you when you resurface!

 

A version of this essay was originally sent out to those who subscribe to my email newsletter, The Queer Agenda. To get more writing like this in your inbox each week, subscribe here.

 

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 Hi y'all! 

I’M SHOHREH.

I’m a self-trust coach and consultant, writer, and content creator on a mission to help queer folks (and our comrades) figure out who they are and what they value so they can come home to themselves.

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