Mental Firewalls – The Secret to Resilience and Overwhelm Prevention

Mental Firewall














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Do you frequently feel overwhelmed by all the negative news and adversity flooding the media? Do you feel that your reserves of resilience and perseverance are being tested by the rapid changes happening all around us?

You are not alone, the economic downturn that has affected much of the world, a changing employment landscape, new technology, increasing polarisation between left and right, is affecting all of us.

There is a way to avoid being overwhelmed, develop our resilience to withstand the negatives and find opportunities to live the lives we want. Read on for the solution.

It doesn’t matter if we are liberal or conservative. Employees, self-employed, business owners, retired or unemployed. We can all become depressed and de-motivated by the daily diet of gloom on TV and radio, in newspapers, social media and in conversation with others.

Wealth is no insulation either, wealthy people worry about threats of higher taxation, witch hunts to expose and shame tax avoiders, (an entirely legal activity to minimise tax lawfully but lumped together with illegal tax evasion by politicians looking for targets.)

Those of us who have not attained a level of wealth sufficient to attract the attention of crusading prosecutors worry whether we will ever accumulate enough to be financially secure for the remainder of our lives.

How do we cope with this?

How do we stay true to our values, stand up for our beliefs, support what we know in our hearts to be right without letting it all make us negative and bitter.

I know that I have to continually guard against allowing bad news to dictate my mood and control my thoughts. It is too easy to succumb to the unceasing onslaught of negative news from an ever-increasing number of sources.

As a relative newcomer to North America, after surviving the corrupt, lawless and brutal regime in Zimbabwe, I am frequently appalled to find that in many ways, I have less freedom, fewer individual and property rights here in the safe democracy of  Canada than I enjoyed in the third world. A problem that is worse in most European nations and rapidly increasing in the USA.

The purpose of this post is not to get into a political rant or wistfully recall conditions in my former country (when it had peace, prosperity and a responsible government.)

My purpose is to suggest a way to protect ourselves from the continuous assaults on our basic values of common sense and the difference between right and wrong. Without burying our heads in the sand, and hoping it is all a bad dream. Without betraying our values, or ceasing to stand for what is right.

It is not just the baby boomer generation that is affected. A report in the February 19 edition of  Huffington Post describes Generation Y or the Millenials as the most stressed generation. – Millenials born 1980/83 to 2000/04 according to Wikipedia.

What can we do to increase our resilience and protect ourselves from the flood of negativity in the media – old and new?

We have to become more discerning about what we allow to occupy our mental real estate.

The Serenity Prayer by American theologist Reinhold Niebuhr – Wikipedia link says it best:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

When I first read the article that prompted my post on Resilience, Determination and Re-filled Vodka bottles,  I found that I was allowing my indignation at the injustice of punishing the victim of crime and the heavy-handed interference of big government to affect my mood and spoil my day. Once I realised how much attention I was giving to something that I could do nothing about right then, I let it go and moved on.

We have to get in the habit of choosing what we read, watch or listen to. We need to be proactive in our selection of both what we take in and how frequently we do so. Too often, we watch or listen to channels on TV and radio out of habit. Scan email newsletters that we no longer need or enjoy, because we have not got around to unsubscribing from them. The same for social media groups and notifications.

In my case, because I have family and friends scattered all over the world, I watch BBC news because it gives, in my opinion, the best international news coverage. Good as it may be, I do not need to see and hear the grisly results of the carnage in Syria more than once a day.

Despite the shock of hearing that Oscar Pietersen (the South African Olympic blade runner) had shot his girlfriend under strange circumstances, I do not need to know every last detail of what appears to be a badly handled police investigation. I certainly do not need or want to have it for breakfast, lunch and supper.

There are things we should make a stand for by voicing our opinions and taking action. There are others that we cannot do anything about until the next election when we can use our votes to make changes. Then there are those that are merely irritants and not worth more than a few seconds of our time.

The secret to building resilience is to know the difference and choose what we let into our minds. The more unnecessary negative input we can keep out, the more we can concentrate on living extraordinary lives.

A good analogy is the firewall concept in computer security software. We set the levels for what can get through. Anything not meeting our safety criteria is either quarantined for our decision or discarded outright.

What do you think? Do you choose what to concern yourself with?  Do you have a firewall to protect you from an overdose of toxic news?

Leave a comment.

Wishing you success.

Peter Wright



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  2 comments for “Mental Firewalls – The Secret to Resilience and Overwhelm Prevention

  1. Roberta
    February 23, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I have to agree with everything you say. Well said. Over time I have learned when to turn on and when to turn off TV news; or anything for that matter. The 24-hour cycle of news replaying over and over every news story, especially killings, is not good for my mental health.

    Another firewall I use is reading fiction. Getting lost in a good book is wonderful therapy.

    As for resilience, my childhood living with two alcoholic parents taught me that at a very early age.

    I like that you you used The Serenity Prayer. That is my morning prayer. My evening prayer is, “Finish each day and be done with it…You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    My prayer during the day is Oscar Wilde’s observation that, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”;

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