The last few weeks have been difficult for many people in the UK. The debate, outcome and uncertainty following the UK’s EU referendum has heightened people’s emotions and left some feeling sad, some elated and many feeling confused. Unfortunately the “yes-no” character of the referendum tended to polarise discussion. There was no box on the form for “yes if”, “no but I’d rather…”, “it depends” or let alone “I’m not sure”. Nuanced or caveated answers were ruled out; but it’s important to now make space for open, respectful discussion, and also to maintain a caring and kind approach towards each other. As the situation continues to unfold, this post simply offers a few suggestions on taking care of your own and others’ wellbeing at what is an uncertain time for us all.
Share and connect with others
Make sure you take time to speak with other people about how you are feeling. Although many of our conversations are online these days, taking time to connect with others face-to-face can be particularly important; it can never hurt to have a hug, share a meal, or generally just appreciate each other’s company. Also, sharing your feelings can be very helpful and it can be a relief to know you’re not alone in what you are experiencing. That said, in speaking your mind you run the risk that someone will speak theirs. If they do, and you don’t like what they say, then try to see their point of view. Why do they feel that way? Conversation is not about winning the argument or proving your point. It’s about reaching out to another person. What can we agree on? And of course, insulting and aggressive words don’t help anyone feel any better in the long term.
Support for those feeling vulnerable
NOW’s vision is of a world where everyone’s wellbeing is met in ways that don’t cost the Earth. Many of the people who voted to leave are people who have lost out in a society obsessed with wealth and economic growth. It is precisely because our society is obsessed with wealth that some people are being made poor. And it is precisely because wealth is so exalted that some people feel we cannot welcome and make room for others, including those who are desperately fleeing danger abroad. In reflecting on the fallout from the referendum, we should remember the need to make our world a fairer and more equal place and our country one that looks outward with love not fear.
Sadly, one of the outcomes of the referendum result has been a rise in prejudice and hate crime against the diverse range of people who call the UK home. This is certainly not representative of the majority of people’s views, no matter how they voted in the referendum. It is important to make clear that this behaviour is wrong. There are different ways we can do this; from simple gestures of kindness, to signing petitions, to challenging any incidents we witness. The UK has been a place known for its openness, warmth and diversity. Let’s keep it that way.
It is vital that we don’t withdraw into ourselves. Instead of giving in to feelings of powerlessness, we should constructively engage with the challenges we face. This might involve connecting with campaigning groups such as Avaaz and 38 degrees, and getting involved in discussions, petitions and actions, such as to protest against hate crime.
It might also involve doing something different. Now might be the time to commit to supporting the local refugee centre or food bank, or to get involved in the local community group. Summer is a great time for a community picnic in the park, a street party or a festival. Shared eating is a great way of connecting with others. Being active in our local community can help us to meet new people, perhaps including those with whom we disagree.
Take a break
Remember to take some time off. The 24-hour news cycle and ubiquity of smart phones make it challenging to remain focused on the lives we actually live. Although it is important to stay informed, it’s also vital we take care of our own wellbeing so that we can think clearly and only get involved in ways that support our own values. Make sure to take some time out away from the screens and the constant news. Try some deep breaths, do a short meditation, or better yet go for a walk outside in nature. Make sure you sleep enough, eat food that makes you feel well, and spend time with family and friends. All of these simple actions will help energise you and remind you of just how much there is to still feel grateful about in life.
See the hope
Some people have suggested that although the referendum result was not expected, it can offer a potential opportunity to re-shape our society in more progressive ways. There is arguably now some space in the uncertainty to “come up with a new cultural, social and economic vision for Britain that everyone can get behind”, as Sanderson Jones from the Sunday Assembly suggests in a post shared via Action for Happiness. Tomorrow is another day.
What do you think? How are you dealing with Brexit in ways that support your own wellbeing and that of others? Please share your views and suggestions in the comments below.