by Karen Lehman, President/CEO of MHS
The new year provides us with a symbolic opportunity to re-set how we care for ourselves and others. It’s a time to develop new resolutions for the year and consider changes we want to make. This year in particular, in the midst of a pandemic, there is a heavy physical and psychological burden that this situation has over us. There are so many ramifications of living in and with an ongoing pandemic.
In an effort to be careful, my world has narrowed greatly. Reducing personal interactions, eliminating travel, keeping mostly to my home and office, my sense of community is no longer the same as it used to be. I feel so much loss in the personal connectedness that I have taken for granted. I wonder when and how we will be able to advance to a new sense of normal?
I am also struggling with the changing season. In “normal times,” the coming of winter would not impact me as it has this year. As the daylight has shortened, bringing with it more hours of darkness, and the weather has turned damp and cold, it adds an additional layer of gloom to this not so optimistic outlook on life.
Clearly, it’s not healthy to live in a prolonged state of loss and anxiety. I can’t change what is going on with the pandemic and the changing seasons, but I do have control over what I choose to do with my time and priorities. I don’t like to feel hopeless, yet know that just saying “pull yourself together” doesn’t automatically make things better!
Facing these personally challenging times, I did some research and have tried some new habits. I pulled together a list of things that are working for me — some things that I’ve been doing for a long time and needed to re-boot, and other practices that are new. I hope this list may be helpful to you as well.
- Acknowledge and name how you feel. Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Be honest with yourself. Make it a daily practice to write your feelings.
- Take time each day to thank God for the gifts and blessings God has given you. Expressing daily gratefulness, either in your journal or verbally in prayer, is a way to remind yourself of all the good that exists in your life.
- Spend time daily in prayer and meditation. This can be done by journaling, writing your own prayers, reading prayers, and/or just sitting quietly. Read from an inspiring book, listen to meditative music, light a candle and surround yourself with comforting things as you take time to be quiet.
- Keep a list of all the things you need to do. Without a physical list, I feel overwhelmed and anxious. Prioritize the list and set reasonable deadlines, complete tasks that are easy and quick and schedule time for larger tasks. Mark off what is completed. Update the list to remind yourself of your achievements.
- Be consistent about sleep, exercise and eating. This may take compromise & negotiation with loved ones, especially if their schedule is different than yours. Healthy eating, regular exercise and sleep have a significant and positive impact on your outlook on life and well-being.
- Find someone to share your thoughts and feelings with. This is a trusted relationship with someone that can support you. Seek professional help if needed, through EAP programs or your pastor – someone that can support you.
- Find daily joy! Do something that is fun and brings you joy each day. Eliminate or minimize negative and sad input, especially before going to bed!
In closing, I share an excerpt from Joyce Rupp’s book, Little Pieces of Light. “The questions of darkness can gift us with a willingness to live with insecurity and to find deeper joy in the things of life we so easily assume will always be there for us. In a sense, the darkness forces us inward. We can try to sit the darkness out, or withdraw into ourselves, or get completely absorbed in life’s constant pressure of activities. A much more healthy and growthful option is to be open to the darkness that is present, listen to it, hear what it has to say, rather than trying to just survive with it or attempt to boot it out the door as quickly as possible.”