Since November 8, I’ve been in touch with literally dozens of people who are stressed to the extreme about the state of the world, and the state of the nation.

I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that we have not seen this level of national turmoil in the United States since the Great Depression, or the Vietnam war period.

Many people, in these troubled times, will simply withdraw. They will withdraw into activities, or the workplace, or family and home. Or perhaps into addiction and other unhealthy behaviors. This is a normal human reaction to extreme stress that is not confined tfetal-positiono the United States. In one of the many essays I’ve read over the past few weeks, the author noted that there was a huge upsurge in participation in “self-development” classes after the crumbling of the Arab Spring in Egypt.

But many others will want to stay involved in some way, or work actively on causes they believe in. How can we stay in touch with and participate in the world without drowning in its pain? How can we engage in action without spiraling toward burnout?

Burnout is not the automatic result of stress. While we all have our limits, burnout is as much about how we handle stress as the level of stress itself.

Everyone’s stress kit will look different, but here are some techniques that have a proven track record of lowering and mitigating our physiological and psychological reactions to long-term stress and fear. (Lots of links ahead.)

Meditation practices. If you think it’s all just hooey-wooey California hype, check again. The scientific evidence demonstrating the physical and emotional health benefits of mediation practices is, at this point, very solid.

I used to have mixed feelings about meditation, wondering if it wasn’t just a form of escapism. But I was wrong.

Mindfulness’s aim isn’t just, let’s have stress reduction for the sake of it. The aim is to reduce the noise of the mind that disables our ability to see clearly and therefore be able to respond effectively to the world around us, and that’s what community engagement means.
                                          – Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, a Zen priest

Good news: You do NOT have to sit in lotus position, or chant. (Remove images of 1970s gurus from your mind.) There are many alternatives that can bring the same benefits. Any activitymingyur that quiets the “monkey mind” will get you the health benefits you’re looking for. I like walking meditations because they better fit my hyperactive nature.

Want to learn how to meditate any place, any time, in less than 2 minutes? Check out this video from Zen master Mingyur Rinpoche. (Two minutes. Seriously. He’s a genius.)

Exercise. No time? Gym workouts aren’t for you? Just walk. If you can’t do anything else, walk for 30 minutes a day. Research on anxiety and depression has clearly shown that aerobic exercise stimulates anti-anxiety effects in the body.

Improve Your “Emotional IQ.” Often we know we are 63587ef8-a0ce-46f4-8384-5f88fc419d5d“upset,” but many of us are hard-pressed to name what we feel beyond that. There’s pretty good research at this point showing that the better we get at accurately naming the emotions we feel, the better we are at managing them in a healthy way.

Put “Grown-Up” Controls on Social Media. We’ve got buttons on the remote to control kids’ access to the TV. Where are the grown-up controls for social media? We gotta install them ourselves. Drowning in social media tends to magnify stress and can lead to the feeling that nothing works, nothing is going well, and nothing ever will. It can also lead to further narrowing our worldview and reinforce our preexisting biases: every time we “Like” or click on something, somewhere an algorithm is cued to send us more of the same. (Facebook claims to be working on fake news and preexisting bias, but that’s gonna be a long haul.) All of this is a recipe for ending up depressed and paralyzed.

How to put bumper guards on your social media use? Check out the 5-minute social media plan from my January 2016 blog post. There are some basic things we can do to prevent the siren call of pings and bells and whistles luring us to spend yet another 20 minutes on fake news and click bait.

A new tool I’ve discovered since writing that Jan16 blog post: consider signing up for “digest” emails from a couple of media sources you really trust. I get a digest email once a day from the Washington Post. It’s super handy and easy to quickly scan. You can essentially do the same thing by using Twitter and following just a few people or trustworthy news outlets. That way you feel updated, without getting sucked in.

Do Something. Anything. None of us can fix the world. But all of us can do something. Pick that one cause, charity, political campaign, non-profit, or volunteer activity you want to give time, money or energy to. Do that regularly. When we take positive action, we feel less helpless and less overwhelmed and stay focused on the future.

Taking care of ourselves is not only good for us, and those around us. It’s the only way to engage in the world for the long haul in a positive way, whatever your goals.