A former CIA analyst tweeted out advice for coping with depressing news. It went viral.

As a former CIA military analyst, Cindy Otis has faced some incredibly difficult situations.

"For most of my career as a CIA military analyst and manager, I was around negative or disturbing content," Otis writes in an email. "It was my job to look at security issues — such as political instability, war, and terrorism — in foreign countries and help senior U.S. government officials think through what they could do about them. It was important in my career to find ways of coping with the deluge of information so that I could be useful to the federal government while still maintaining my humanity."

Photo courtesy of Cindy Otis.


For Otis, who's also a lifelong disability advocate, checking out of politics has never been an option — but she's found a balance.

She also knows that not everyone has her background or training.

With more and more of us feeling dismayed by the 24-hour-news cycle — do we talk about anything else anymore? — Otis decided to share her knowledge to help other people.

She released a tweetstorm of how to handle depressing news and not only still be able to function, but persevere.

It went viral.

First, she validated the fact that being inundated with negative content is bad for our minds and our health. ‌‌

Then Otis provided ideas for action. She says she wanted to help people make progress without giving in to the instinct to shut down. Finding a balance maintaining awareness and action and still caring for yourself is tricky.

"I wanted to chart a pathway forward for people to work through those feelings so they can still take action," Otis says. "Ultimately, I hope it will keep people from checking out. Ignorance and apathy are two key things that got our country to this point."

You can't be "checked in" all the time. Getting overloaded won't help move the needle of progress.

Finding balance is key.

For Otis, a part of that balance is not following the president on Twitter. "Being outraged at each new tweet from him sucks up valuable energy," she says, "when what we need to be worried about are things like the chipping away of our government institutions, lack of action from the GOP to prevent foreign inference in our country's affairs, and shifts in government policy on everything from the environment to immigration."

But we also can't just focus on the negative, she emphasizes. There's so much progress being made and so many ways for everyone to get involved in the change we want to see.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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