Four Ways to Cope With Existential Dread
Instagram, TikTok, Facebook—no matter where we go on social media, we’re inundated with someone else’s accomplishments.
While you’re scrolling through those highly-curated feeds, I can guess that (at least once) your stomach has turned with dread. After your stomach quelled itself, thoughts of uncertainty about your own life likely started popping up. That stomach drop sensation and uncertainty about the life ahead is what’s known in therapy-speak as existential dread.
Defined by the American Psychological Association as, “a profound, deep-seated psychic or spiritual condition of insecurity and despair in relation to the human condition and the meaning of life,” existential dread can be a tricky pain point to navigate.
If you’re dealing with intense uncertainty about the future and you’re completely freaking out—here are four coping strategies that I recommend.
Practice Mindfulness and Drop Into the Present Moment
I know, I know. You likely rolled your eyes the second you read my first tip. I’m sure you hear the term mindfulness gets thrown around a lot—especially on social media. But there is a reason for it—it works.
A mindfulness practice is the best place to start when focusing on becoming more present in your daily life. Those who have a mindfulness practice tend to report lower anxiety and depression symptoms.
Mindfulness Sessions Don’t Need to Take Forever
Don’t be mistaken into thinking that the only way to shake your discomfort is to drop into an hour-long meditation. You can simply set aside three minutes every morning to breathe and check in with yourself with a body scan meditation.
Think About How the Content You Consume Makes You Feel
Take a look at the accounts you turn to most often and pay attention to how you feel when you watch content on that app. Notice where your mind tends to wander or if you feel discomfort in your body.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I feel overwhelmed?
Do I feel worse than I did before I opened the app?
Do I feel annoyed, frustrated, or sad?
Do I feel bad about myself?
If you answer yes to most or all of these questions, it may be time to scale back your time spent consuming this content and consider other sources to get your news from.
Stop Following Accounts That Don’t Make You Feel Good
It’s time to curate your social media feed. Scroll through your followers and unfollow or mute accounts that leave you feeling uneasy. This could be people from your hometown who gush about how well their life is going or gossipy accounts that focus on the worst traits of people. Don’t be precious with this process. Rather, be as discerning as possible.
Be Real With the People Close to You
You may already speak about your sense of existential dread with your friends and family. That’s fantastic, if so. But, even if you do feel like you’re being open, I have a feeling you could be even more honest.
Something I’ve come to realize in my work is how devastatingly alone those in pain can feel. So, be real with those whom you feel safe with.
Take Action Where You Can
There’s much that is outside of our control. Honing in on what you can control may be the balm your soul needs right now.
Here are some small ways to make your community a better place:
Go to the grocery store to stock up on water and granola bars before passing them out to unhoused people in your area.
Consider volunteering at an organization that you believe is part of the solution our world needs.
As you take action over time, you’ll begin to feel empowered and inspired.
Excerpted from “As a Therapist, Here Are 4 Ways to Cope With Existential Dread” by