More and more teenagers and adults are expressing feelings of disillusionment about life, the world and the leaders of society. More teenagers are being rebellious towards their parents, teachers and counsellors, and are cynical about being cautious and investing in a future that they no longer have absolute faith will be guaranteed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shattered people's trust that we can be safe in the world and that we can believe that society's leaders know what they are doing and are prepared for any eventuality. Global movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are also raising awareness of violence, discrimination and lack of safety of big groups in the world – which contributes to anxiety and fear in general.
Adults are anxious about their own and their family's physical and financial safety and are losing hope in the purpose and continuity of good quality of life. As a result of this, health professionals are seeing a huge surge in people seeking help for significant anxiety and depression as the fear and helplessness is not improved.
At this time it is vital that we keep track of our emotional state and note any changes which may indicate that we are starting to feel negative effects.
If we find ourselves identifying or expressing marked feelings of cynicism, or making remarks to others which are jaded or very pessimistic, we need to actively work on supporting and nurturing ourselves.
There is a difference between making thoughtful comments which are constructive in their criticism and allowing ourselves to wallow in cynical, pessimistic cycles of thought which are destructive both to ourselves and others.
We can ask ourselves if we can make a constructive change by thinking these thoughts and if acting on them is healthy, but if not, we have to accept what we cannot change and change the little bit that we can.
To guard against cynicism at this time, you can do some of the following:
- Make a list of our values and guiding life principles and see what we can actively do to act on them.
- Contribute to charities and community initiatives that we believe in and offer our financial support or our time and skills as support.
We will feel the difference we make and renew our sense of purpose, change and power in the world.
Other things you can do to protect your hope are:
- Limiting how much time we expose ourselves to alarming TV news
- Being critical and thoughtful in our social media use.
Looking after our emotional health by being careful of adding stress to our lives and doing things that feed and nurture our resilience is crucial in protecting against a loss of hope and a development of cynicism and depression.
In consciously changing our attitude to the positive we can model and encourage others and younger people to rekindle hope in a brighter future.
Rosamond Veitch, Clinical Psychologist, Akeso Kenilworth