Coping with Weltschmerz

As promised at the end of last week’s Weltschmerz post, this week we’re going to talk about how I’ve been coping.

In short: some days are better than others. But, what consistently makes the biggest difference in my peace of mind has to do with where I’m putting my focus.


When I focus on election day or the next four years or the week the last glacier melts into the sea or whether the polar bears will die out — you get the idea — my Weltschmerz grows.

Anticipating trouble, fretting about what might be, or could be, or should be, and even what probably will be, feeds my Weltschmerz like a steaming bowl of hot porridge on a cold morning.

Instead, I work to focus on what is right in front of me, what needs to be done next, or simply what is, now.

Of the many to choose from, here are my favorites. Do any sound familiar? 

Exercise helps

I try to exercise everyday — try, being the operative word here for we writers are a sedentary lot. When I exercise — which these days means getting in my 7,500 steps by snowshoeing around the property or going into town and walking the sidewalks, or simply going up and down my stairs any number of times — I get a physical lift in my body. (Along with the newly created aches and pains, of course.)

Fiction helps

Movies (Netflix in our case, due to Woody’s hearing loss, which keeps us out of commercial movie theaters) help. As does reading good books.

I’m reading novels again, fiction, and I’m enjoying the simple escapism. I also like the fact that the good ones will teach me something about this world we live in. Historical fiction, it appears, is my new favorite genre.

I recently finished Hilda and Pearl by Alice Mattison, set in 1950s Brooklyn with the McCarthy era in the background. And I’ve just begun a reread of Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, set in South Africa. This was my favorite book in high school, for it taught me the power of inequality and injustice, a message that never left me. Probably not the best choice in coping with my Weltschmerz.

Maybe I should try some humorous books and watch Netflix comedies.  Do you have any recommendations for me?

Food Helps

I take pleasure in eating well. It’s a gift I can give myself and those I love … even if Woody does most of the cooking. The colors and flavors of the food, the textures and tastes, all are important to savor.

My job is the clean up and there I can focus on the pots and stacking the dishwasher and washing by hand the pieces that need that.

I find the more I can be totally invested in what I am doing in that moment, the more content I feel about that moment. No more multi-tasking for me.

I recognize that this eating to stave off depression can be a slippery slope. But, in thinking about how I’m coping, I’m aware that fully enjoying the food I eat, acknowledging it as nourishing my body, is helpful. Even paying attention to my chewing. Someone once told me that every bite deserves 32 chews. Imagine. It’s a challenge I set for myself now and then and, honestly, I have NEVER made it all the way to 32. Have you ever tried to chew a bite 32 times before swallowing?  

By the way, my favorite comfort foods involve cheese, oregano, and eggplant. Maybe not all at once, but add any of these into whatever you’re cooking, add a little heat and I’m hooked.  What are your favorite comfort foods? 

Fun helps

What do you do for fun?  Some dance, some go out to parties and congregate with friends, some go to comedy clubs and laugh. Some hike in nature. The point is, that when you’re having fun, you are in the here and now.

Hiking is fun for me (and I can get in my steps), and there is mounting evidence of the many health benefits derived from being in the outdoors. I love the stillness that hiking in nature provides. But there is one more place to focus that helps the most:

Music Helps Me Most of All

For me, what is consistently soul enriching as well as deeply enjoyable is to listen to music and to sing music with others of like mind.

The music I love to listen to is usually familiar music, tunes I can tap my feet to and, especially when I’m in my car, sing along with.

There are neurological changes that occur when we listen to music, which would make a great post in itself (and will some day).  For now, it is enough for me to know I feel good when I listen to music that speaks to me.

Here is a song from my playlist that came up the other night as I was first writing this and seemed well-suited to this post. This is Jackson Browne singing Steven Van Zandt’s I Am A Patriot, first released in 1989.

The lyrics are in the drop-down box below.


[learn_more caption=”Lyrics”] And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous


I was walking with my brother and he wondered what’s on my mind I said, What I believe in my soul ain’t what I see with my eyes And we can’t turn our back this time

I am a patriot and I love my country Because my country is what I know I want to be with my family the people who understand me I’ve got nowhere else to go

And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous


And I was talking with my sister she looked so fine I said, Baby, what’s on your mind She said, I want to run like the lion released from the cages Released from the rages burning in my heart tonight, yeah

And I ain’t no Communist but I ain’t no Capitalist And I ain’t no Socialist but I ain’t no Imperialist And I ain’t no Democrat and I ain’t no Republican I only know one party and it is freedom

I am, I am, I am I am a patriot and I love my country Because my county is all I know Want to be with my family the people who understand me I’ve got nowhere else to go

And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous


Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Steven Van Zandt I Am a Patriot lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management [/learn_more]


I hope you spent time with this song. How did it grab you?  Did it leave you feeling uplifted? Hopeful? Could you relate to it or did you hate it?  I have, at one time or another, experienced all of these reactions to this song.

A Few Final Thoughts

Finally, I’m heeding some lessons from my LEAPFROG book and trying to smile more, to make eye contact and connect with strangers who cross my path (Chapter 2). It’s quick, it’s free, and it doesn’t leave me feeling achy and stiff.

Most days I don’t start out wanting to smile at strangers.  Heck, most days I don’t even remember to want to. But when I do remember, people return the smile. And I feel a jolt that says to me, “Good. People are good. Life is good. We’ll be OK.”

And, there is always the gratitude list (Chapter 8). Again, just the act of searching for things to be grateful for can improve your mood.  But I’m lucky; I don’t generally have to look far to find things for which I’m grateful.  That helps enormously.

How about you? How are you faring? What are you focused on these days? 


[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all face, is now available in digital and paperback format.

I’m participating in Amazon Affiliates, so your purchase through my website will enable me to make a wee bit more and not increase your cost at all.  The above link takes you to the LEAPFROG page on my website (not yet accessible directly) where you can learn more about the book. To skip that page and go directly to the book’s page on Amazon, click here. Thank you.


27 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    The winter months can be hard on people. My daughter really struggles during these months. Walking my dog really helps me as does chocolate. I wake up every morning being thankful for three things. It’s a good start. Living in Spain with the endless sunshine has helped me as well. Spring is around the corner!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You must be a morning person, Darlene. I try to end my day with three gratitudes. 🙂 I would miss the snow, I’m sure, if I lived in Spain. There is such a quiet that falls over the land when it’s covered in white fluff. Though, on second thought, I’d welcome the opportunity to struggle through a life of endless sunshine. 🙂 Thanks for starting us off this morning.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  2. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Thanks for this Janet—I have a friend that is having problems coping and I hope this will help her.

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I practice all of your coping strategies, especially exercise, which takes me out of the 4 walls and into nature unless it’s Pilates day. Also, I begin every day listening to uplifting music or playing the piano and writing in my gratitude journal.

    Since the tumult in the world has become increasingly louder I’ve upped my intention to find the good. You may have noticed a quote on my Facebook page recently: “If you want to change the world, start with the next person that comes to you in need.” That’s my motto.

    You are a lucky one, Janet with a husband who cooks! It’s only fair that you do the cleanup in that case. 😀
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Love Letters 2020My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I am lucky, Marian, in so many ways. Enjoy your Pilates class; someone in this conversation should. I tried it once, during my Philly days; too much thinking, I found. Then I tried Bikram’s Yoga. I called that “macho yoga.” No thank you. Stretching while my oatmeal cooks, that’s my current routine. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  4. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Lately my focus has been fragmented, flitting from one thing to another, never finding any inspiration &/or closure in any area of my life. Then there’s the bleak winter weather on top of that.

    I like how you’ve analyzed what’s going on with you and then applied solutions to see if you can empower yourself to feel whole again. You’re organized and self-aware in a way that I need to emulate. Perhaps I’ve found some inspiration after all! Thanks.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Five Photos From A Walk In The Park On A Gloomy Afternoon In FebruaryMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Self-aware. Yes, thank you for that; I work at it. Though, there are some occasions (like in the dentist’s office) when it’s not such an asset. You are more self-aware than you may realize, Aly. Knowing you are flitting is important. You can hone in even more closely with each flit, if you care to. 🙂

      Wish we lived closer; I’d enjoy a cup of tea with you.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  5. Merril D. Smith
    | Reply

    I try to exercise every day, too–and if I can get a walk outside that definitely helps. I also love to escape into a world of fiction–in novels, movies, plays, and TV shows.

    I’m a fan of both cooking and eating! I’m not sure what my favorite comfort foods are. I do love homemade bread and soup in the winter–and good chocolate always!

    I tend to watch dramas and mysteries, but for comedies, “The Good Place” (w/Kristen Bell and Ted Danson) might be on Netflix, though probably not the final season, which was just on network TV. And “Sex Education” (w/Gillian Anderson)–though that one is sexually explicit. Both are comedies that also deal with serious/moral issues.
    Merril D. Smith recently posted…They Sing and Dance Across the SkyMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I love it when you take walks through the streets of Philadelphia (Hmmm, now I’ll be humming that for a while) and post your photos. And thank you for the recommendations, Merril; they are secured on my movie list that I keep on my phone.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  6. Clive Pilcher
    | Reply

    I was feeling a bit low before I read this, as I’m suffering from some sort of bug, but you’ve reminded me of what matters in life – and it’s much more than a few sniffles! I hope Jackson Browne’s I’m Alive is also on your playlist – that one always works for me. If you’re looking for humorous reading, have you tried Carl Hiaasen’s novels? Back in my commuting days they got me some very odd looks when I burst out laughing 😊
    Clive Pilcher recently posted…What’s In A Name?My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’d never heard of I’m Alive (except it’s a section of the new Considering Matthew Shephard passion I’m now in the midst of learning) and am playing it now as I write to you. THANK YOU. It’s great. How is it I’ve missed it? It reminds me of “Good Noise” by John Gorka. And I’ve written down Carl Hiaasen too. Again, a new name. But I do love works that get me laughing right out loud. The best kind. Thanks so much, Clive.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  7. Tracy Rittmueller
    | Reply

    Humorous (but also surprisingly serious) books: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith set in Botswana and featuring the character Mma Precious Ramotswe. The series is named for the first novel, published in 1998. Nineteen novels have been published in the series between 1998 and 2018. (from Wikipedia) These books kept me from totally losing my mind in 2015, when I didn’t know what was going on with K. Try out the first one and see whether you like it. I have a hunch you might like the first few (they get repetitive after a while).
    How am I? I don’t know. Things are stressful, and I’m simply trying not to dissociate. That’s a huge step—recognizing that I do it, and working with an intuitive-healer physical therapist on being in my body. So, I guess the answer to that question is, I’m healing.
    I’m sorry I don’t have more time to spend reading/reflecting on your blog. I like your writing and the questions you raise.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You’ve reminded me I started No 1 Detective Series a few years ago. Then got sidetracked and forgot all about them. I also have enjoyed a few of Louise Penny’s mysteries. My biggest challenge with books is that I’m cheap. I guess that’s why God created libraries. 🙂 Being IN your body is a big, important part of knowing who and how we are, Tracy. I’m glad you’re finding a way. I may work as a psychotherapist, but for me it’s (almost) always about learning how to listen to one’s body. It knows; it remembers; and it cares. I’m so glad you wrote. You always inspire me.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  8. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Another timely post, Janet. The weltschmerz has definitely sunk its claws deeper into me as of late. I recently spoke to my youngest daughter about that old serenity prayer — focusing on the things that matter which you can control — but it’s easier said than done. I recently purchased a road-type bike to go along with my trusty mountain bike, and have been getting out for some long rides, both for the exercise and to blow things out a little. It helps. Sometimes, I scream into the void on twitter, which doesn’t seem to help at all. I do need to find more time for fun, and also to dive into some good movies in order to escape from it all and hopefully for perspective.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah, that “wisdom to know the difference.” That’s a slippery one, yes, Tim. I envy you your bike collection. I’m starting to look at electric bikes, which says something about something. Hopefully, only the steepness of VT’s hills. 🙂 I’ve recently deleted my public links to my Twitter account and haven’t been there in maybe six months. It is indeed a deep, dark void. Good luck finding fun. I find that it’s one of those slippery eels too (like laughter). Greased pig may be a better metaphor for the more I chase after it, the more it escapes me. When it finds me, I am pleased. Keep me posted.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  9. Nurken Aubakir
    | Reply

    Dearest Janet,
    I take pleasure in reading your posts, every now and then when I have a spare minute. So what’s with Woody’s hearing, what is the condition for now anyway?
    I’ll try to work on your “Connect with strangers” tip; I do believe people are good in general, but it’s a bit arduous when you live in a big chaotic city.
    Well, this whole WELTSCHMERZ series would be so great for my parents if they understood English. See, in their 60s my parents live as if they are in their 80s, you know that about Kazakhstani elders. I’ll maybe try to share the gist of some ideas from your posts.
    Anyway, thank you for writing. This is your legacy that I will be reading in detail with pleasure in years to come.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Nurken. It’s always good to hear from you. I saw a photo of you recently (FB, I imagine) standing in front of your class. How very good you look! I’m so happy for you. For my other readers: Nurken is on the cover of my Peace Corps memoir, though hidden a bit by so many others. Question for you: at the beginning of class, do you just choose where you want to sit or are the seats assigned?

      I do remember how you treat your elders in Kazakhstan. I think the biggest difference though is that in the US, someone in their 60s would NOT want to be considered an elder. They are too busy being busy. Woody is now 81 (which is the main reason his hearing has declined; something has to go after all those years) and is still teaching (online) and chopping wood and in general being active. Though he’s currently laid up a bit with rotator cuff (shoulder) surgery, which has a very long recuperation. PT starts in another month. In time for next season’s wood chopping to begin.

      Glad you wrote. Be well.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

      • Nurken Aubakir
        | Reply

        Everyone sits wherever they want, I, on the other hand, don’t get to sit 🙂 I can’t, I gotta move around the class and everywhere)

  10. Cheryl
    | Reply

    Hello Janet. Some of the best advice I’ve been given is ‘fake it til you make it’. A bit like what you’re doing when you’re smiling to strangers. I’m not sure smiling at strangers is going to always be the best thing to do (especially here in Russia where people just don’t do this), but smiling for YOURSELF works – I know because I’ve tried it. Get up in the morning and feel like staying in bed all day? Just get up anyway and PRETEND to be happy. 🙂 It works. I love your post, thank you. x

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah yes. I know “fake it till you make it well.” Thanks for the reminder, Cheryl. When my Kazakh friends were here visiting they ALL commented on how friendly we Americans were “on the sidewalks.” That would never happen in Kazakhstan, we knew. Culture is a curious thing. But I’ve noticed people are not as friendly here in the US as I once experienced. And I think it’s because we’re all feeling quite discombobulated. Scared, unsettled to be sure. Soviet citizens felt that too, I imagine. At least those not on the inside.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  11. Joan Z Rough
    | Reply

    Great post, Janet. I also try to meditate as often as possible. I try to be outdoors and in nature as often as possible. I spent just 5 minutes yesterday while it was raining, outside undercover, listening to a chorus of birdsong … some are returning already. It was heavenly. And I stay way from negative people.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Birdsong in the rain? Wow; I don’t think I’ve ever heard that. I’m in awe, actually. I just put my bird feeders out this past weekend; I’ve got one month until I must bring them in for the bear start to wake up about mid-March.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Coping with WeltschmerzMy Profile

  12. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    Walking, music and reading a good book… A winning trifecta for me! 🙂

  13. Pamela
    | Reply

    Love this post, Janet. We all feel that Weltschmerz and if we don’t “handle” it, it handles us into darkness and depression. Walking/dancing/yoga-ing are all exercises that I do every day (not all at the same time!) to help me feel good. After last night’s debate, I needed a long walk AND yoga today. (I turned off the debate mid-way, actually, and went for a walk. I don’t like bickering…) When I’m feeling useless or down, I pick up a pen and write. Always cheers me up, for some reason. And I escape into reading fiction every night.
    Music – ah, I wake up to classical music and keep it on all day, unless dancing to oldies but always goodies and a good jazz tune to get my hips swinging. I laugh as often as possible (dog expressions, kids’ expressions, a singing bird) and eat as slowly as possible. Not 32 chews per bite, but I’m always the last one to finish a meal. Makes me appreciate the food much more. Even chocolate tastes better slowly…. one bite at a time. xo

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