Let Cindy Otis Teach You to Avoid Being Overwhelmed and Stay Focused

ThisOTYCD post originally appeared in July 2018. In the lead-up to the midterms, we’re re-running important posts. Please click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely daily posts.


Let Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and author, teach you how to avoid being overwhelmed and stay focused in a world where everything seems to be on fire.


Otis published an amazing thread on Twitter on June 28, 2018. Read it, save it, memorize it. We’ve reproduced it here, with the emojis removed. Scroll down for more info on Otis.


Today seems like the right time to do a thread I’ve been thinking about for a while on how to handle the seemingly never-ending deluge of depressing and disturbing news. My tips are based on my time as a CIA military analyst in which I dealt daily with disturbing content.


There are several risks to being overloaded with disturbing/negative content.  [We are replacing her emoji checks with numbers.] 1. Complacency – becoming so used to the deluge that it all starts to seem normal. 2. Paralysis – that is, being so overwhelmed, you can’t figure out what to do/how to move forward.


3. Crisis perspective – you get trapped in the Breaking News cycle where everything seems like a potentially world-ending crisis to you. 4. Depression/PTSD – you don’t have to be on the frontline of a war have either/both. Disturbing content is absolutely a trigger.


There are also serious physical consequences to living a negative content overloaded life. I had a colleague who didn’t know he had stage 4 brain cancer because the symptoms were the same as our very stressful careers–exhaustion, random fevers, stress, and dizziness.


So, what do you do? First, I strongly urge you not to ignore the news/current events. Ignorance is one reason we have this society. It won’t make the problems go away & contributes nothing to their solving. Now that that’s established, here’s how to make it easier to handle:


[Numbers from here forward are from Otis.] 1. TAKE ACTION. Volunteer for a food pantry, canvass for a political candidate, donate to a NGO, visit a sick friend. Seriously. Service of some kind in your community lets you be part of SOLUTIONS. You will see RESULTS when otherwise you’d feel helpless.


2. Conversely, for those who may take tip #1 to the extreme–know that you alone can’t save the world. Accept your limits. You aren’t a 7/11. You can’t always be open. At the end of every day when I reached my limit, I silently told myself, “I’ve done what I can today.”


(Note: Repeating that to myself did not stop me from feeling like I could have done more most days. But it was important to tell myself anyway because I am human. We are human. It’s good we *feel* things.)


3. RESEARCH BEFORE PANICKING. Easier said than done, but everything will seem like crisis/earth-ending if you don’t know what has/hasn’t happened before. If it has happened before, it’s can be hugely comforting to know how it was resolved and/or what might happen next.


4. GET UP & MOVE. Put the phone away, turn off the TV, log out of Twitter. Go for a walk, sit outside, get some coffee, call a friend. CIA is full of ppl walking the building with a colleague/friend. There’s a reason. Our brains & bodies need breaks from stressful content.


5. SET RULES. Because of my work at CIA, I had a rule–I only read fiction at home. I had enough reality at work. In the civilian world, I set blocks of time each day where I turn everything off–no news or social media. Let yourself recharge so you can keep fighting later.


6. AVOID DARK HOLES. (I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about that.) It’s easy to get sucked into the swirl of bad news. You watch a gruesome YouTube video and the next one is all queued up to play right after it. Focus on one issue at a time. Deal w/ it before moving on.


7. YOU NEED FUN. When there is suffering, war, despair, etc. around you, it’s easy to feel guilty when you have fun, feel happy, have a good meal with friends. You NEED these things. You will be better able to do good in the world if you let yourself have these things.


8. TALK TO SOMEONE. Often, we curl inward socially when overwhelmed w/ negative content. It’s a means of protection. One of the great things at CIA was that everyone else knew what you were going through. Whether it’s therapy or talking to your person, talking helps.


None of this is easy. I got burned out a lot in my career & many days recently, I’ve felt overloaded by the barrage. I’m sure you have too. But you and I can’t check out. We can’t give up & we need to stay engaged, but we can’t do that if we get overloaded. Keep going.


Shout out to who forces me to get out of the house when I start sounding especially doom and gloom!



Otis posted a follow-up thread on June 29, 2018:


Wow. I woke up this morning to find my thread went viral & my inbox was full of messages from ppl. My biggest takeaway from it is that we’re all struggling right now. So, I’ve got a few quick things you can do RIGHT NOW to help survive whatever news dump we’ll get today:


1. Read this article by that includes tips from me on how to read the news like an intelligence analyst. It gets at my tip from earlier on doing research before panicking and talks about how to actually do that research. Knowledge = POWER.

(Here is the link she referenced:) http://www.realclearlife.com/media/6-rules-thinking-like-cia-analyst-beat-fake-news/


2. Schedule the time you’re planning to unplug today. Write it down so it is more likely to happen. Will you take a walk? Call a friend to talk about anything but the news? Take a power nap? Bake some cookies? Watch your fave trash TV show? Whatever it is, DO IT.


3. Look at who you follow on social media. Do you only follow people who perpetuate the crisis mentality? If so, add in some practical folks who provide actionable ways forward and context you need to know. is a must for Americans worried about politics.


4. Tell yourself as many times as you need to hear it today — YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU CAN DO THIS. WE NEED YOU WITH US. Take care, all.



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Take a Break Every Now and Again. It’ll Help You Stop Trump.

This OTYCD entry originally posted in June 2017.


For your own sanity’s sake, plan periodic breaks from fighting Trump and his ilk.


With so much going on, it might be tough to convince yourself to step away and rest. But you must if you want to fight Trump and the Republicans effectively. No, really. You’ve heard people say ‘This is a marathon, not a sprint’? It’s not a bunch of yap-yap. You can’t go the distance if you don’t slow down to grab some water every now and again.


You need to sit yourself down and plan these respites, and you need to commit to them. Blocking out one day a week where you disengage from the news and from social media to do something you like–be it hiking, knitting, reading, hanging out with friends, or binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer–put it on your calendar and don’t talk yourself out of it.


If you’re having trouble giving yourself permission to take one day off a week, then let us at OTYCD tell it to you straight:



“We, your friends at the One Thing You Can Do blog, are telling you, our faithful reader, to unplug and chill out completely once a week. We are giving you formal permission to do so.”



Print it out and tape it to your mirror, or your computer monitor, or staple it to your forehead–whatever it takes to get through to you.



If you won’t listen to OTYCD on this, follow Jen Hofmann on Twitter and subscribe to her Weekly Activism Checklist newsletter. She’s a fire-breathing evangelist for self-care.


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Ask Your State Legislators to Require Gun Owners to Report Lost or Stolen Guns

This OTYCD post originally appeared in February 2018.

Ask your state legislators to require gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen guns.


It seems ridiculous on its face, but it’s true. More than 36 states do not currently require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.


It makes sense to require gun owners to formally report losses and thefts. Timely reporting makes it harder for firearms to fall into dangerous hands. It can also help them get their guns back.


According to the center, the only states that broadly require gun-owning residents to report losses or thefts to local law enforcement authorities are:







New Jersey

New York


Rhode Island

The District of Columbia also has this requirement.


A few states have more limited laws.


Michigan specifically requires owners to report thefts, but says nothing about losses.


Maryland requires reporting losses and thefts, but only for handguns and assault weapons, not other types of firearms.


New Jersey is alone in imposing civil liability on owners who fail to report lost or stolen guns that are later used in a crime, and its law focuses on assault weapons only.



If your state is not listed above, or has laws that could be improved, please call or email your state legislators and ask them to write a bill to address this problem.


To find your state legislators, plug your address and zip code into this web site:



Once you have the two names you need, go to the web site for your state legislature and find the contact information for your state senator and state house rep.


Contacting your state house rep and state senator is different from contacting your federal-level reps. Calls and emails are equally effective, and you’re far more likely to get through to the actual elected official, rather than a staffer.



While cautioning that jurisdictions should consult lawyers when approaching this issue, the Giffords center cites several aspects that make for a good common-sense state law regarding lost or stolen firearms:


The owners should be required to raise the alarm as soon as possible once they learn their guns are lost or stolen.


The legal duty to report starts once the owner knew, or should have known, about the loss or the theft.


Those who lost guns or suffered thefts before the law took effect should be given a reasonable deadline for reporting those losses and thefts.


The law on reporting losses and thefts should apply to all firearms, not just assault weapons or handguns.


Owners should face civil liabilities for not reporting the loss or theft of a gun that is later used in a crime.


Requiring owners to report losses and thefts swiftly should be a condition of receiving a state gun license or registration, and failure to report losses and thefts soon after discovery should be enough to justify yanking those permissions.



FWIW, federal law does not require individual gun owners to report–but it does require firearms dealers who suffer thefts or losses from their inventories to speak up. Right now, we at OTYCD feel it best to ask you to focus on getting state-level laws passed to fix this problem.




Visit the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:




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See a January 2018 PBS Newshour transcript that notes in passing that 39 states do not require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns (scroll down a little):




A note: We at OTYCD intend to nurture and encourage the movement sparked by the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by devoting one post at least every other week to gun safety-related issues.


The reason that the NRA has a death grip on Congress, and in particular, GOP Congressfolk, is that NRA members get off their asses and call if there’s a whisper of a muttering of a hint that a law might pass that could impose even the slightest imposition on ownership of guns in America.


That’s what the politicians are afraid of. It’s not just that some of them get metric buttloads of money for their campaigns from the NRA. Those who embrace the NRA’s outlook pounce on their phones and berate their representatives the instant they think their beloved guns are under threat.


So, yes, it’s on us to shout back.


We have to adopt the tactics of those who support the NRA.


We have to call our representatives often to make it damn clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and we want common-sense gun safety laws.


OTYCD will start out with one weekday post every two weeks, at minimum, that has to do with improving gun safety and pushing back against the NRA.


We do this in honor of the Parkland victims, and all victims of mass shootings in America, and everyone who has been fighting to change our laws on firearms all along.


If Trump finally bows to the will of Congress and imposes the sanctions against Russia for messing with the 2016 election, we will switch to devoting one post per week to these issues.


Honor the victims of the Parkland shooting, and all other shootings, by stepping up and calling your reps about common-sense gun safety laws, and by supporting politicians who have low grades from the NRA, and voting out those who do the NRA’s bidding.


#NeverAgain. For the love of all that is right and good, Never Again.


Join the Postcards for America Page and Keep Fighting Trump With Postcards

This OTYCD entry originally posted in March 2017.


The OTYCD page on joining #TheIdesOfTrump–the effort to bury Trump in postcards on March 15–is the most popular in the young blog’s history.


Seeing as you all have such an appetite for sending postcards, we’re doing a post on one or our favorite Facebook activist pages: Postcards for America.


Its main goal is to encourage you to send postcards to your members of Congress about your fears and concerns. But it also alerts you to other postcard campaigns and suggests legislators who might benefit from receiving great wobbling piles of postcards that tell them they’re wrong, or in some cases, exquisitely correct and in need of thanks.


Apply for admission to the Postcards for America Facebook group:



Please note: Postcards for America is a closed group. You can apply to join and you will have to wait for an administrator to approve you before you are admitted.


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Check Out Political Charge’s Series of “Seven Issues Guides” on the Democratic Presidential Candidates for 2020

Check out the Political Charge blog’s series of Seven Issues Guides on the Democratic presidential candidates for 2020.


The Political Charge blog is a must-read and worthy of a daily visit, as we’ve told you before. It has embarked on a series of Seven Issues Guides to help you all sort out which Democratic candidates for president stand where on issues that matter to you.


Those issues are:


Healthcare (Pro-choice is covered under this heading)


Climate Change


Civil Rights


Gun Reform


Voting Rights


Economic Inequality


Foreign Affairs



As we prepare this post, Political Charge has released guides on:


Kirsten Gillibrand


Cory Booker


Pete Buttigieg


Elizabeth Warren


Julian Castro


Amy Klobuchar


Kamala Harris



See the Political Charge blog (the subscription button is at the lower right, at the bottom of the page):




Follow Tokyo Sand, author of Political Charge, on Twitter:




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Support Spread the Vote, Which Helps Citizens Obtain IDs

This OTYCD entry originally posted in July 2017.


Support Spread the Vote, an organization that helps citizens access the ballot by obtaining IDs that their states require.


Republicans have noticed that they are more likely to win when fewer voters turn out. For this reason, they have embraced anti-democratic (small d) moves such as placing restrictions and qualifications on access to the ballot. Requiring prospective voters to present specific forms of identification is a favorite of theirs.


Voter ID laws suck, and they constitute the modern version of a poll tax. It hits the poor, the working class, the elderly, the young, and minorities particularly hard.


Some lack the documents they need to obtain ID, and cannot muster the money needed to hunt down those documents. Some can’t get the time off work to stand in line at City Hall or the DMV to straighten things out. Some are college students, whose college IDs are not generally accepted, and who receive conflicting information about where they can vote (home or on campus).


Enter Spread the Vote. Its mission is to help people get the documents they need to access the ballot. According to its numbers, 21 million people lack a government-issued photo ID, and 31 states require some form of ID to vote.


By helping Spread the Vote, you help expand the pool of eligible voters and defeat bullshit obstacles thrown up by Republicans who find it easier to frustrate citizens rather than develop ideas and policies that people would want to vote for.


Spread the Vote is and has conducted state-specific projects in Virginia and Georgia, but its scope is nation-wide. Please encourage their good work in whatever manner you can.



See Spread the Vote’s webpage:




Ask for its help with obtaining an ID so you can vote:




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Action Alerts · Call Your Senators · Senate Bills, Federal · Uncategorized

Call Your Senators and Tell Them To Vote NO On Mitch McConnell’s Attempt to Reduce Debate Time For District Court Nominees to Two Hours, April 3 Edition

Update April 3, 2019: The vote on this is still due to happen this week. Please continue to call your Senators to oppose McConnell’s motion, and please spread the word about this bullshit move by him and urge others to call their Senators, too.

This is going to be the OTYCD task until McConnell backs down or until this is a moot point. Also please stay on calling all three of your Congressional representatives to demand the release of the Mueller Report in full, unredacted form to them, and a version with the fewest possible cuts to us.

On the off-chance you didn’t hear about it, MoveOn will be holding a second No One Is Above the Law protest if Attorney General William Barr fails to deliver the Mueller Report by Congress’s April 2 deadline.

These protests will be held Thursday, April 4, at 5 pm.


Find the protest nearest you here:



Important: Don’t just go back to the same place you went for the November 2018 protests that MoveOn called for when Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Matt Whitaker as acting AG.

Check the link above and make sure your nearest protest is happening at the same place. Not every group that participated in the November 2018 event is able to join this one. And there might be other groups hosting events nearer to you this time around.


Original text of this post follows.


Call your Senators and tell them to vote NO on Mitch McConnell’s attempt to reduce debate time for district court nominees to two hours.


OTYCD note: Please keep calling all three of your Congressional representatives and demand the release of the full, unfiltered-by-William-Barr-or-the-White-House Mueller Report. But this flared up on March 28, 2019 and requires urgent attention.


Since Trump entered the White House, Senator Mitch McConnell has been shoving through judicial nominees with the fervor of a contestant grabbing cash in one of those booths with paper money flying around in it.


He keeps throwing aside norms and tradition to greedily serve his borked goals. Each of these terrible far-right nominees will sit on the bench for life.


It is truly absurd how many he’s managed to cram through already. Something like one in 10 serving federal judges is a Trump appointee already.


We have warned you about this problem in the past and encouraged you to call to oppose the ongoing train wreck.


We’re already in a position of having to add many more judges to rebalance the judicial branch once the Dems gain power again.


Now McConnell wants to reduce the debate time on judicial nominees from 30 hours to two.


Yeah. You read that right. And it’s just as bullshit as you think it is.


McConnell wants to hold a vote on the rules change next week.


We at OTYCD are asking you to call NOW to urge your Senators to vote NO HELL NO.


We need to scream loud and long over this, until the GOP backs down or until the point is moot.


You should call whether or not your Senators are on the Judiciary Committee, but it’s extra-important for you to step up if they are. See the list of Senate Judiciary Committee members here:



Celeste Pewter, who is always on top of everything, has your script:


Script for S.Res 50.  You: Hi, my name is [name]. I’m calling from [zip code/street address].  You: I’m calling on Senator to vote NO to S.Res. 50. There is no reason to change current rules when it comes to presidential nominees, particularly when it comes to district court nominees.  You: This is clearly a partisan resolution, further evidenced by the majority leader’s refusal to allow amendments.


After you call, please show your appreciation for Celeste Pewter in some fashion.


You can follow her on Twitter: @Celeste_Pewter


You can tweet about calling your MoCs, using the #ICalledMyReps hashtag.


You can follow @ICalledMyReps on Twitter.


And you can subscribe to her peerless newsletter, It’s Time to Fight:



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