For those of us with family, friends, roots, or a sense of connection to Palestine or Israel, it’s been almost impossible to grapple with the events of the past few weeks without losing trust in humanity.

The stories befuddle the mind, the images shatter the soul. Most of us are overwhelmed by an intensity and complexity of emotions that makes it very difficult to carry on with daily life. Or to feel human when doing so.

If you’re struggling with fear for the safety of loved ones, angst over the tragedy yet to unfold, guilt about your own relatively safety, helplessness at not being able to do much, anger that not enough is being done, or deep sorrow and grief for the loss of innocent and precious lives, please hold your hurting heart kindly and let yourself know it’s okay.

In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s a sign that your humanity is intact.

At a time where so many risk losing so much, let’s not lose our capacity to always learn how to hold on to our humanity. It’s the only thing that will move our world forward. What I want to offer you today is suggestions for being gentle with and guided by what makes you human.

This way you’ll discover how to hold on to your humanity when the world seems dark.

Everywhere we look, we find enough to fan our natural instincts of “us” vs “them”. Tribalism, barbarism and all other isms are simple solutions for a brain that isn’t equipped or willing to deal with the complexity of the world we live in. Long before October 7, society has been racing towards the bottom. 

I bring my suggestions to you with the utmost humility. All I can offer is soles to make the journey easier, so you can pick the one that feels right for you at this time. 

Look after yourself and explore how to hold on to your humanity

Below are a few suggestions on how to look after yourself because your body and mind is the vehicle of your soul. A resourced self will help you be who you want to be.

  • Get proper sleep. And maintain a routine that works for you.
  • Reach out for help when you need to. Find community where you can talk freely about your feelings.
  • Pray to a higher power, it’ll calm you. Or write, sing, walk in nature, play with your child—it’s all food for the soul.
  • Be wary of getting your news from social media—your feed will only show you what you read which can lead to overwhelm and loss of perspective.
  • Channel feelings of anger into advocacy. Repressed anger spills over in unhelpful ways, as does anger that is spewed out undirected. Ask yourself how you can channel your emotions into doing something that will help in some way, however small.
  • Set boundaries where you need to. Certainly, establish facts about loved ones or stay on top of important developments in affected regions. But be mindful of doom scrolling which is common when we feel helpless. If you need to curtail your online reading, take a social media break, or limit your exposure to people who feed your emotions of sadness, hopelessness or anger, you have the right to do so.
  • Be there for yourself. When tragedy unfolds by the minute, it can be terribly difficult to stay grounded. Many a day, all I’ve wanted is to be left alone in my sadness. If that’s how you feel at times, I want you to honor that as best as you can. Give yourself what you need and trust that you’ll find your way through to the wisdom and courage that’s inherent in you.

Tend to your island

Your island is the people who need you to walk them through their despair or rage to a better place. It could be your children, parents, a friend or colleague, or an online community. 

  • Make sure they’re looking after themselves. Suggest some of the ways that are working for you. Or ask them: What’s your one non-negotiable need right now? Like you, they need to be resourced in order to stay hopeful and resilient at this time.
  • Listen without fixing. When a dear one suffers, we often try to make them feel better by telling them what to do. It isn’t the best strategy because often, all the other person needs is to be heard without judgment—their own wisdom is waiting on the other side. Be that safe space where they can voice their emotions. If you feel they’re bottling them up for any reason, ask them how they feel. And listen. 
  • Include joy. Joy is the antidote to despair and hopelessness. It builds resilience and helps us keep going. I remember many years ago, a friend travelling back to Beirut to celebrate her daughter’s wedding during wartime. I asked her if she felt comfortable doing a big celebration. Her reply was beautiful: Celebration is our medicine. Without it, our souls will die.
  • Notice beauty together. Have conversations about what is positive, because however broken the world becomes, goodness still exists. This is important because when all we see and hear is darkness, it’s easy to feel hopeless. But when we look with loving eyes, we see the people whose humanity reminds us that a light lives in each of us. As author and social reformer Leo Tolstoy wrote: “There is a tiny and brilliant light burning in the heart of man that will not go out no matter how dark the world becomes.”

Build greater belonging

It’s usually easy to make our loved ones feel seen. We’re wired for it. But to do so for someone we disagree with isn’t so easy, because we need to develop new skills and capacities. 

Yet, we have the task of navigating an increasingly interconnected and complex world ahead of us. If any of the suggestions below feel too much for you right now, please give your hurting heart the love it needs to heal. It’ll open when it’s ready.

  • Look people in the eye with a warm gaze. When someone meets us, (or we meet someone), something in them is constantly asking: Am I a person to them? Being met with a look that’s trying to find something bigger in them elevates them in their own eyes. It also elevates us because we see the bigger person in ourselves too. As writer and philosopher Voltaire said: Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
  • Get to know them outside the topic of disagreement. In his latest book How to See a Person, writer and New York Times columnist David Brooks says it’s important to develop genuine curiosity about other people. Ask them about their lives—their high points, their low points, their passions and joys. Building trust and connection occurs when people sense your interest goes beyond their views and opinions.
  • Find common ground. When you do talk about the topic of disagreement, try to not let your head get in the way. The head judges. The heart feels. Listen with your heart so you find that something you both agree on. Sometimes, our focus on differences obscures the deeper connections that bind us together. Keep that at the center of your conversation, allowing you to disagree while continuing to learn how to hold on to your humanity.

My dear fellow traveler, it’s a very painful time we’re living through. Things are falling apart literally and metaphorically, and we don’t know what to do with the shards. As we stand at this precipice, there’s a path of least resistance — headed straight down to our lowest instincts. Many of us are racing towards it at an unprecedented pace, prompting a quest to learn how to hold on to your humanity amidst the chaos.

And then there’s the difficult path. The mountain we need to climb. The thinking we need to transform. As Einstein said: “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.

Let us climb that mountain together for our individual and collective flourishing. Let us plant the seeds for a brighter tomorrow, knowing how to hold on to our humanity and trusting that one day they will bloom.

A version of this article originally appeared on Happify.

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