February is usually a hectic SAD month (seasonal affective disorder) for many of my friends. Not surprisingly it is the month that encourages many Calgarians to spend a few weeks away at an all inclusive resort in a warm location! If we measure the emotional temperature of North Americans at the beginning of 2023 (Leger poll), there are four dominant issues that we are concerned about:
- Rampant inflation and its impact on living costs/ retirement
- The fear of an economic recession
- The impact of climate change on weather patterns and our environment
- The impact of uncontrolled gun violence
If we add those suffering through the winter blues to those depressed about the above issues we get a clear impression of a society that is in despair. Despair is rampant, especially in our younger generation, who have little hope that things will change. As I have described in previous newsletters, a society that is living without hope cannot be expected to face the challenges facing it with creativity or innovation.
So, I’d like to spend the rest of this month’s newsletter dissecting our response to where we find ourselves in February 2023. As I speak to those from younger generations I am impressed with their mistrust in most politicians and leaders. Their frustration is that they feel that current leaders do not have a handle on how angry and dismayed young people are. The reason: younger generations cannot seem to be able to get ahead! They cant afford a mortgage, they’re up to their necks in debt, and are angry at what they see in our older generations. Older generations are living comfortably (some in retirement), have paid off debt and mortgages, and many are still in cushy jobs blocking someone young from getting that promotion. That is what our young people see! They also see how the wealthy don’t get taxed at anything near to what they deserve, which results in younger families being handed the undeserved burden of taxation. So the truth is always somewhere near the middle! I don’t think all in the older generation are living so comfortably as perceived, and many of them are also challenged by the status quo of current politics. But it behoves our current leaders to engage with young people, and to listen to what they are saying.
The second matter that comes with this despair is how we deal with it in our personal lives. How do we remain resilient, and how do we encourage our younger family/ friends to do the same? The objective of being resilient is simple – it helps us be more objective about the future; and it gives us something practical to work towards. Becoming resilient is a very practical exercise, and it is really vital that those of us in older generations stand with our younger family members/ colleagues or friends so they learn some of the essential steps in building resilience. Some suggestions include – encourage daily exercise, limit your thoughts to today, read encouraging books (and avoid bad TV), do something creative like painting or writing. My pet peeve would be to encourage people away from using negative social media. Try and stay away from this for a few weeks to see how your mood lifts immediately!
In conclusion, many of my SAD friends know how to manage their disorder (use lights, get away to the sun, develop good sleep patterns, etc); but many of us are struggling to keep our heads above water, with one stressor heaped on top of another. My advice – find at least one person whom you can talk to and take the time to have a coffee with him/ her. Try to regain some hope so you can open yourself up to dreaming again.
I remain your grateful servant, Peter Craighead