My sister Elaine has told me countless times, “Our qualities are gifts when we are in charge of them – and problems when they are in charge of us!”

Are you a compassionate person who cares deeply? Caring and compassion are wonderful qualities when we use them to be kind both to ourselves and to others.

The problem for me was that I would get flooded with so much caring about all the problems facing the world, my friends, my family, and myself that I almost drowned in despair.

The truth is, there are many terrible problems that you and I can’t do anything about – at least in the short run, and maybe never.

While getting deeply upset about this reality is normal, getting stuck in misery about all the problems we can’t fix robs us of our joy in life – and getting stuck this way can actually make us even less effective!

Being in misery about overwhelming problems can drain our energy and distract our attention. When we’re stuck in this kind of misery, we are likely to miss opportunities where we CAN act and make a positive impact – or feel too tired or overwhelmed to take action even if we do notice opportunities.

No matter what, we each deserve to have joy in life – and we deserve skills to protect and empower ourselves and others in ways that can reduce harm, even though we cannot prevent ALL harm.

One powerful way to get unstuck is to focus our attention on those things that we CAN do, instead of dwelling on all the things outside our control.

Taking even one small positive action can help to replace isolation with connection – and can replace despair with hope.

Even though we can’t fix everything, we CAN:

  • Go outside, move our bodies, and feel the ground under our feet
  • Find awe in the beauty of a cloudy sky, the sound of a bird, or the sensation of a breeze
  • Throw away one piece of litter instead of leaving it on the ground
  • Thank the bus driver for getting us somewhere safely
  • Wave and smile at a lonely, grumpy neighbor
  • Give even a small amount of time or money to help a cause we care about
  • And of course, much MUCH more.

Because sharing stories about hope helps to create more hope, here is one of my own stories: Profound Sadness – and the Powers We DO Have!

Finally, we would LOVE to know YOUR stories about how focusing on what you CAN do has helped or is helping you to take charge of your mental health.

Wishing you joy always,

P.S. Again, thank you to AEO Foundation for inspiring and supporting our Take Charge of Your Mental Health Campaign.


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Published: May 18, 2023   |   Last Updated: May 18, 2023

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.