Recently, I've found myself a bit stressed. This has not been unexpected- my husband is retiring from the military after 32 years, we are preparing for my daughter's shower and wedding, and I am excitedly setting up my own private practice. But now, with Coronavirus interrupting the normal, life has been thrown into complete chaos; the bit of stress I am feeling can quickly take me back into a daily battle with my anxiety. Questions like "what color of purple will best match the shower theme of lavender?" have been replaced with ponderings such as "can we even have the shower?" "Will one of my girls, healthcare workers, contract or carry this awful disease?" "Do we need to change the wedding date?"
One of my favorite authors/clinicians is Dr. Curt Thompson. I love his research on the brain and mental health, and last week I was privileged to enjoy an hour webinar that he was invited to speak on, "Overcoming Anxiety in the Era of Coronavirus." (link below) He spoke about the brain's connection to anxiety and shared his thoughts of connection to others as a way to limit our mental health struggles. Even in a time of isolation, there are ways to boost our well-being.
Read through the following list and determine which you are willing to incorporate into your own daily life:
Begin each day by immersing yourself in Scripture, prayer and worship. With your usual routines of work, school and relationships being disrupted, it will be easy for the activity of your own, isolated mind to be that which you pay the most attention to. When that happens, anxiety and rumination are free to do their thing. Instead, allow this to be a time in which you give God even more opportunity that usual to have access to your heart and mind.
Practice, especially, reflective/contemplative habits. As part of the beginning of your day, include time for meditation prayer and/or simple exercises that you can find here https://curtthompsonmd.com/reflections/. Take three minutes at least three times each day to breathe slowly.
Call or video chat with at least 2 to 3 others whom you love each day. If possible, call different people each day. These can be helpful and effective even if brief.
Inquire how others are feeling; but be sure to tell them your genuine feelings as well. It will be easy to ask others, but perhaps less so for us to tell others what we feel. One of the ways we give others a sense of purpose is by giving them the opportunity to comfort us.
When connecting with people, refrain from conversation that blames others or merely complains about what others are doing wrong or not doing right. This type of conversation tends to be traumatizing in and of itself, and only heightens our anxiety.
Limit the amount of news you consume. Instead, unless you are busy with work at home, make it a practice to read good literature or engage in creative work (see No. 8).
Refrain from social media scrolling. Indulging in this only enhances our anxiety while making us more distractible, whereas refraining from it creates space to direct our fearful attention to God and others.
Plan for artistic endeavors. Whether this is on your own or with family members, plan to spend some time each day if possible engaging in creative activity. This could be as simple as playing games with family members, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, or learning a new skill online. Actively practicing creative endeavors prevents our becoming anxious and strengthens our emotional resilience.
Food. It will be easier to eat poorly, but out of anxiety and our schedules being upended. Plan for three meals and healthy snacks; but resist the temptation to graze and/or binge in response to boredom.
Physical Exercise. Ideally, plan to go for a ten-minute walk two to three times a day. When isolating to our homes, our immobility tends to prime us to be more anxious. More frequent physical movement, if only for brief periods of time give us a greater sense of agency and protects us against anxiety.
Sleep. Plan to get a healthy amount of sleep, and plan to put your phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Be sure to turn off all screens at least one hour before you retire for the night. Instead of screens, again, make plans to read. (See No. 12)
Keep a daily lament/gratitude journal. At the end of each day make a habit of handwriting a brief lament about what has been hard about your day; and then list at least three things the day offered to you for which you are grateful. Plan to share these with one or more of the people with whom you will be in contact the next day.
Plan for regular, weekly communal worship and teaching with your community of fellow believers, via either an online platform or small gathering (fewer than 10, keeping proper distance, and only in accordance with local guidelines; should your community recommend more stringent quarantine, by all means obey those recommendations). We need contact with the worshipping community in which we are fed the bread of life. We become what we pay attention to, and we pay attention to what we hear from those with whom we are most deeply connected. In this time of disintegration, we need to be as closely in touch as possible with the family of faith who will help us remember the story in which we believe we are living. A story that at the end of the day is not determined by a pandemic. It is determined by our Lord Jesus.
Challenge yourself to complete these each day as you are home. Which ones are most beneficial to you? Which ones are a struggle?
Find some Rest weary one,
Check out Dr. Thompson's site and webinar: