Island Senior: staying sane in a crazy world

By Peggy Sue McRae,

Journal contributor

May is mental health month. How are we doing? Is the pandemic over? Not really.

Can we stop climate change before the whole planet is on fire? Probably not. Does the firepower of our nuclear submarines’ down sound make us a target? Yes.

It is easy to catastrophize. Catastrophizing is fixating on a worst-case scenario. Most of us do this to some extent. You could call it excessive worrying. We do need to acknowledge real dangers in order to mitigate them but excessive worry is never helpful. How do you stop it?

What works best for me is taking some long slow deep breaths and refocusing on the present moment or practicing mindfulness. I’m not on fire right now. No one is bombing me. I don’t have Covid. In fact, life is pretty good right now. Focusing on the present moment can help to alleviate mental stress.

I have been a member of the Sakya Kachod Choling Buddhist retreat center on Mt. Dallas since the early 2000s. The center recently closed and the property is now for sale. I’d like to acknowledge the center for having been an important place of sanity for me in what can be a crazy world.

The Buddhist teachings, which over time managed to seep into my conciseness, gave me tools that especially now as I’m getting older, are proving invaluable. Besides mindfully focusing on the present moment, developing equanimity in the face of constant change is, for me, key to living a happy life.

The inevitability of change is a basic Buddhist premise. Change often arrives in the form of loss and can be very painful. Accepting change can be hard to do but fighting or denying change can lead to prolonged suffering. Buddhism teaches equanimity, or keeping an even keel however stormy the sea.

Nothing is permanent. With gratitude I reminisce about the “Gompa” or Buddhist Center on Mt Dallas and the teachings that helped bring calm sanity into my life.

Meanwhile, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis please do not hesitate to reach out

988 is the new, nationwide number connected with National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL)

24-Hour Crisis Line (800-584-3578) is a 24-hour/365-day-per-year resource for anyone experiencing a self-defined mental health crisis. Friends or family of someone in crisis may also call.

Online mental health resource directory for residents of San Juan County: