It seems like every week and every month we’re exposed to (bombarded with?) new Awareness Campaigns. The internet has connected and educated us with ever-increasing speed and depth. Because of awareness campaigns we know more about brain injury, the need for clean water domestically and throughout the world, the importance of net neutrality, and how to support people with cancer. We can take action and be a part of causes that we care about.

It can also be overwhelming. It can be tough to choose what causes to support and in that deluge of need, we may choose to support nothing. Or we burn ourselves out supporting everything. Neither of those outcomes is desirable.

So how do we balance self-preservation with the desire to be good and helpful in our communities and beyond? I suggest a two level consideration of awareness, considering your world first, so you can be more useful to the rest of the world second.

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Be aware of your world

Where you hold tension or feel pain in your body.

If you always have a dull headache, or your knee hurts, or you don’t sleep well, that’s a problem. You cannot be at your best at work, with your family and friends, or in your community. Take a moment to assess how you feel, maybe keep some notes in your calendar for a few days, and see if there are any nagging issues slowing you down.

Be aware of ways to improve how you feel

When you isolate an issue, think about how you fix it and who can help you do that. Wellness doesn’t have to be an expensive, time-gobbling production.

Maybe a few minutes of guided meditation at night could help you sleep better or a massage and some stretching could improve the headaches. When you feel better, you’re more able to contribute to bigger causes.

Choose your cause in the bigger world

What cause moves you? For some, being a Den Mother or Little League coach is really important. For others, giving to a more global cause is key. There is no right or wrong, it’s just a personal decision.

It’s great to be creative here, too. Your priority may be to help a niece afford college or regularly help your best friend the kindergarten teacher prep for wacky arts and crafts with her 30 students.

Or maybe you feel your best contribution comes from being really great at your job and having time just for your friends and family. Causes needn’t be big organizations or structured to make a difference.

Make your actions match your priorities

If you decide that giving to a global clean water initiative or coaching a team is the most important cause to you, your actions should reflect that. This step involves a mental audit of your time and money. Maybe a cheaper gym membership will leave you with enough money to cover your niece’s books, or ‘catching up’ on fewer tv shows each weekend will clear the schedule for time with friends.

Full, happy lives come from conscious decisions about where we focus our time and efforts. It’s easy to get swept into the overwhelm and find yourself spread too thin, feeling like nothing you do makes an impact.  A few minutes of awareness could make big improvements in your everyday life and happiness.

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