Maria’s Sunday Paper: Feeling Anxious? Find Where You Belong…
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about belonging. It’s not something I recall thinking about much when I was a child. At that time, I knew where I belonged, and who I belonged to. (Although I must say, there were times I wondered how I ended up in the family that I did, haha.)
But, I think there comes a time in one’s life — perhaps it’s when your parents die, or your kids grow up and leave, or your marital status changes, or your job ends— when you wonder to yourself, “Where do I belong? Who do I belong to, if anyone? Do I belong here? Do I belong at all?”
I believe that having a sense of belonging is critical to your emotional, spiritual, mental and physical health. Belonging is grounding. It’s reassuring. It’s calming. It gives your life a foundation.
Not feeling like you belong creates loneliness, unhappiness, fear and anxiety. And I must say, I feel like I’ve been having lots of conversations lately with different people — men and women of all ages and from all walks of life — about their fears, their anxieties and about where they belong.
“What do you think is happening in our politics and in our country?” people ask me. “Are we going to be ok?” “Did you hear we just bombed Syria? What will happen now? Does this mean we’re at war? “I just saw this on my Twitter feed and OMG, what does that mean?” “My kid is so anxious… My husband is so anxious… I’m so anxious…”
In my new book “I’ve Been Thinking,” I write about the power of the pause. And these days, I think it’s never been more important for us to collectively try and take a moment to pause.
“Easy for you to say,” you might be thinking. Well, not really.
I’ve had my fair share of anxiety over my lifetime. No doubt, growing up in a political family and then choosing to work in the highly anxious world of TV journalism did not help. But, what I’ve learned is that anxiety breeds more anxiety. Chaos breeds more chaos. Dysfunction — and dysfunctional people— thrive in confusion and division, and they only survive if we allow them to.
I am aware that anxiety is a crippling medical condition that is all too real for some people. But, I also think that our culture has bred a new level of anxiety amongst all of us — as a people and as a nation. The question, as always, is how did we get here? And what can each of us do to change our energy and the energy around us?
I know that for me, when I don’t check my phone the first minute I wake up, my day starts with a better energy. When I don’t sit and listen to people screaming on TV, I feel calmer. When I don’t check the news every second, I’m clearer about what I think. When I don’t compare my life to others who are parading around on social media, I feel more grounded, more content, more hopeful, and yes, less anxious. When I choose to surround myself with people who paint a picture of unity and belonging, my anxiety just melts away.
So, think about what is causing you to feel so anxious. If certain news shows flame your anxieties, then switch to shows that report the facts. If you’re worried that someone else’s life looks better than yours on Instagram, then unfollow that person or remove yourself from social media altogether. If your boss is fueling your anxiety, respect your health and look elsewhere for work that emboldens you.
Don’t tell me that’s not possible. I’ve had lots of conversations with people who have said, “I want to live differently and feel differently” and then made changes to their lives to reflect what their hearts and their bodies were telling them.
Look, I’m anxious about our response to Syria and how they will respond. I’m bothered by all the disruptions and turnover at the White House. I’m anxious about all the noise that surrounds us, too.
But, that’s why I am always trying to shift my attention and keep my mind focused on what I can control and what I can change for the better. I try to keep my home calm and I try to spend time with people who are positive, focused and centered. I strive to surround myself with people who make me feel safe and like I belong.
Feeling like we belong — to ourselves, to others, and to our country — is something we all need to feel less anxious. Belonging is calming. Belonging is powerful. It’s at the root of our being. To belong is to feel safe. It’s about being accepted and cared for. It’s about being at home in a family, in a community, and in a country.
I know a lot of people feel lost and disconnected right now. We hear on TV and from our politicians that we’re more divided than ever. But I don’t believe that, and I don’t think you should either.
What saves us in anxious times like these is our sense of community and belonging. What will save us is making changes to how we approach our lives, how we treat one another, and how we work together collectively to move humanity forward.
So, the challenge in front of all of us is this: will we continue to rail about who does and doesn’t belong in our country? Or, will we pause and look around and see our neighbor as ourselves? Will we pause and see our neighbor as another human being who is also seeking to belong?
After all, I belong to you, and you belong to me. That’s why I believe now is the time for us to calm our collective spirits and start to see that we are one community and one nation. We can unite and move forward together, and, in fact, we’ll all be better off and less anxious if we do.
“I‘ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life” is still on The NY Times Bestsellers list! Thank you, thank you, thank you! If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, click here.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE BEEN THINKING
I’ve been thinking about the individuals featured below and how their views on the world rise above the noise…
JACK KORNFIELD REVEALS THE PROFOUND BENEFITS OF COMPASSION TRAINING
My dear friend and Architect of Change Jack Kornfield recently had the great fortune of attending a conference at the Mind & Life Institute in Tibet. The theme of the meeting, Reimagining Human Flourishing, was a meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama, thinkers, educators and scientists about how to integrate mindfulness and compassion training into all facets of everyday life. And, if you’re in LA, join Jack and me in person for a conversation this Thursday. Get tickets here
THE SHRIVER SIBLINGS SIT DOWN TO DISCUSS THE LEGACY OF EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER
As I mentioned in the Sunday Paper last week, I’m thrilled about the new biography “Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World,” by Eileen McNamara, which offers rare insights into my mother’s work, passion, and dedication to moving humanity forward. Last week, my friend Hoda Kotb sat down with author Eileen, as well as myself and my brother Timothy, to discuss the book and my mother’s enduring legacy.
IN HER NEW BOOK, LISA GENOVA OFFERS A FIRST-HAND LOOK AT THE LIFE OF SOMEONE SUFFERING FROM ALS
My friend and Architect of Change Lisa Genova is a best-selling author who writes fictional narratives about people living with real neurological diseases that tend to be feared or misunderstood. In her latest book, “Every Note Played,” she recounts with medical accuracy the emotional and impactful journey of an accomplished man diagnosed with ALS.
THIS REVOLUTIONARY DEMENTIA DAYCARE PROGRAM IGNITES MEMORIES IN SENIOR PATIENTS
This week on TODAY, I toured what could be a game-changing dementia daycare facility in San Diego. Opening later this month, Glenner Town Square is set up like a 1950s town square to help activate patients’ brains and bring back memories of their youth.
AILEEN RIZZO’S HARD FIGHT AND PERSEVERANCE HAVE PAID OFF, LITERALLY
This week we honor Aileen Rizo as our Architect of Change of the Week. Rizo, a math educator who is now running for a spot in the California State Assembly, sued the office of education in Fresno County, CA, in 2012 because her male co-worker was being paid $13,000 more than her for the same job, despite her having more experience. In a major triumph for equal pay, Aileen won the case in federal court Monday, which could impact how women are paid in California and elsewhere. I spoke with Aileen in this special report for TODAY.
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
In addition to Friday night’s stunning military attack on Syria, the media was dominated this week by news of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony, the upcoming release of James Comey’s tell-all book, and the FBI raid on the president’s attorney. You may have missed the other stories out there that rose “above the noise.” Below we share a few stories that caught our eye and got us thinking…
1. The Dalai Lama Speaks With Students About Living Life With No Regrets: Anytime His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks, I stop and listen. In this powerful video, he talks with Danish students about death as being a part of life and how living a meaningful life leads to no regrets. at the time of death.
2. David Hogg To Take Gap Year to Focus on Political Campaigns: The first time I heard this young man speak, I knew we’d be hearing great things from him. David Hogg, one of the Parkland shooting survivors’ most visible student activists, announced this week that he will postpone his first year of college to devote time to political causes.
3. Scientists Neutralize Gene Responsible for Alzheimer’s Disease: I’m always excited to hear about advancements in the fight against Alzheimer’s, and this finding could be big. A set of researchers this week reported that they have successfully changed a protein associated with the disease, which could prevent it from damaging human brain cells.
4. Woman Challenges Herself to Live Outside Her Comfort Zone: I’ve always proclaimed that the act of interacting with other people is crucial for longevity and happiness. This woman, who admittedly feared talking to strangers, took on the challenge of doing just that in order to build her own self-confidence.
5. Judge Sentences Teen Vandals to Read: This is brilliant! Instead of sentencing five teens caught defacing a historic black schoolhouse with racist graffiti to community service, a Virginia judge told them they must read books from a list of books covering history’s most tragic periods. Here’s what one youth learned.
6. Mourners of the Humboldt Broncos Players Place Sticks On Porches to Pay Tribute to Team Members Killed in Bus Crash: I was moved by the show of love and support by Canadian town’s people after After a devastating bus crash took the lives of 16 players last week. Watch the touching video below.
In continuing recognition of National Poetry Month, I celebrate the young and inspiring poets making names for themselves today. This week we feature the work of the very talented Tyler Knott Gregson, an accomplished poet, author, and photographer.
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
JOIN US FOR MOVE FOR MINDS 2018!
I’ve been thinking… you might want to join us for Move for Minds 2018! This initiative of my nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, returns this June to Equinox Sports Clubs across America. Join me in person at these events as we work to make a difference in the fight to wipe out Alzheimer’s.
JOIN US IN CONVERSATION THIS WEEK
JOIN US ON THE “I’VE BEEN THINKING…” TOUR
SHOP OUR STORE: SEE OUR COLLECTION
Get Empowered. Pass It Forward.
We’re so excited to announce that we’ve added a few new items to our shop! Check out our stylish apparel to fight Alzheimer’s, created in partnership with Art With a Purpose. You can also order our newest product, the “Maria” candle – the same scent used in her office and home. Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to learn more.