Covid-19 has monopolized a lot of life over the last few months. It is a disease that brings overwhelming uncertainty. From fears surrounding contracting the virus yourself to family members who are in ‘high risk’ demographics to
interruptions in routine and the known, there are many additional stressors during this time. In the midst of these
varied stressors, we can all be susceptible to similar emotional reactions.
- You may feel:
Fearful—There is so much uncertainty about the virus itself and how it is spread. Activities and travel have been limited as many have been asked to remain sheltering in place. Unemployment is at an all time high, causing those that are still employed to wonder about their own job security. The sense of insecurity and isolation is highlighted by the depths of fear in the unknown.
Fear is often expressed in:
- Feeling helpless– So many of the decisions being made that affect us directly are out of our control.
- Anger or Lashing out– Often the reaction in the attempt to control our fear, whether directed at
others, the organization, or God.
- Feeling numb– Often the resulting defense mechanism of our feelings of helplessness as we start to
distance ourselves from the deeper feelings of fear.
Shame—The fear that you feel may lead to guilt and shame, after all, we are Christians. If we just had enough faith we wouldn’t fear, right?
Grief – This pandemic has brought with it a lot of loss. Jobs, social connection, and life itself are all things that people have lost in this time and grief is a part of any loss.
Isolation – Don’t be surprised when social distancing feels like disconnection.
Excited—Some people see this as an opportunity and can even feel a ‘high’ from thinking about how God will use this time. Taking advantage of the opportunity or need?
All of these, and many others, are normal reactions to very abnormal circumstances. But how we respond to those reactions, as followers of Jesus, should look different.
1 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
We have a unique opportunity to share the hope that we have in Christ in this time of turmoil. As time goes on, the world will start to ask questions. We, as the body of Christ should stand out in our response to those questions.
This document is meant to put together some practical tips for not just coping, but really thriving through this uncertain time in a way that is an example of Christ to the world.
- Begin with Prayer:
Your perseverance through this pandemic and your adaptability to whatever the world my look like next relies heavily on your relationship with God. Do not underestimate the value and power when Christians unite with one voice in prayer.
Start with your inward prayer practices of confession, meditation, worship, silence, reflection, and alone time with God. View these disciplines not as task masters but as allies in living out the abundant life.
Then, turn your attention outward.
- God’s healing and sustaining power in containing the spread of infection.
- God’s protection for vulnerable populations– the poor and the refugee, the elderly and the chronically ill.
- God’s discernment and wisdom for our government and organization leaders as they make decisions that have vast and far reaching impacts.
- God’s guidance and leading for scientists and doctors as they work to develop treatments and vaccines.
- Acknowledge the challenges:
Be honest in speaking out the reality of the struggle that you are facing. Your specific situation is unique to you. Resist the temptation to compare, minimize, or “fix” your own challenges or those expressed by another. Be willing to simply be together and present in the difficulty.
Work to name emotions that you feel. Recognize the sense of feeling overwhelmed and powerless that crisis can bring.
Give yourself permission to grieve the changes and things that that may have been already lost, or could potentially be lost in this season: travel plans, work projects, school activities, ceremonies (weddings, graduations, funerals), business
opportunities, income, etc.
Then, breathe deep and release these challenges and laments to the Lord. He is willing and able to hold all these things in His hands.
John 16:33 “ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Exercise is highly beneficial for mental health and recovery, even in some cases comparable to psychotherapy and/or pharmaceuticals . Exercise has the effect of regulating stress chemicals and purging toxins from the body. Find a way to break a sweat every day.
- Follow your local laws and government recommendations, but get outside if at all possible, even if it is only in your own yard, on your porch, or by an open window.
- There are many “exercise at home” options, including apps and online workouts. Even yard and house work can help to get your heart rate up and muscles moving.
1 Corinthians 16:20 “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Becoming inwardly focused and narcissistic is a real danger for everyone in this time of apprehension and anxiety. We need to avoid the “look out for number one” attitude. This kind of thinking flies in the face of the Gospel. The commands of Christ are not put on hold for a virus. Many generations have had catastrophes, plagues and violence that have changed their circumstances and caused fear. The Gospel has remained, and our command as Christians is still to share the hope that we have. Find a way to help your neighbors. Share resources, and stay connected from a distance. When Christians deny their calling to love their neighbor it always leads to feelings of helplessness and lack of purpose.
We, as the body of Christ, have a unique opportunity in this situation. The world will start seeking for purpose and meaning with questions of “Why?”. Hebrews 6:19 says “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…”. Be ready to share the hope you have as the Holy Spirit brings opportunity.
- Find a way to help your neighbors or colleagues– do they need assistance with any repairs at home? Food or prescriptions picked up? Meals delivered?
- Think through who might need a daily or weekly phone call– are there any in your community that may be particularly isolated or alone in this time? Can you set aside a specific time to check in with two or three
- Do you have tangible or remote resources that you can share as an encouragement to others?
- Set manageable goals for productivity:
It can be tough to feel like you are getting anything done. Work projects will certainly look very different and it may be hard to feel like any progress is being made. The programming that we signed up to do may be
discontinued. It may be difficult to know how best to plan work for the future in such a rapidly changing dynamic.
Set small daily goals where you can tangibly see a conclusion and accomplishment. These seemingly small things will set the course for your own personal productivity.
- Make your bed – this may seem pointless, but this, and simple tasks like it, provide a sense of stability and a measure of accomplishment.
- Get dressed – If you find yourself working from home, it may be tempting to hang out in casual clothes all day, but you will feel more productive if you treat the day like it’s not vacation. Dress as if you were going to get something done, and you will accomplish more with your time.
- Create a top five daily to-do list with two larger goals (still accomplishable in a day) and three smaller goals. Work to check off your “five” list each day– and give yourself grace on the days that you can’t.
2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
- Balance your intake of the latest news:
It is important to stay updated on new information in this wildly changing environment. New recommendations and predictions are coming out by the minute. However, it is important not to become obsessive over the news. Set a couple of intentional times each day to check the news. This will not only help your mental stability, but will also allow you more intentionality to engage with the margin of time that you have been provided. It will help you to filter out the misinformation (of which there is plenty) if you have your trusted sources that you intentionally and specifically go to.
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
- Eat healthy and stay hydrated:
With the changes in routine, there is a temptation to change eating habits as well. As long as you are able, maintain a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and protein. Your immune system will be stronger for it. In addition, check on your neighbors – especially those in ‘vulnerable’ population categories. Be sure they have what they need to eat. We may not be able to get out to our normal set of beneficiaries, but we can still look to those close to us.
- Avoid negative coping mechanisms:
Denial: suppressing emotions is not only unhealthy, it is dishonest to yourself and those that care about you. Admit when you need help and seek it.
Withdrawal: Even when we are forced to keep a distance, we still need community. It is how we are made and it is a part of the image of God in us. Be a part of community.
Distraction: While there may be nothing wrong with a little distraction, overuse can create habitual and addictive behaviors. Stay engaged with life, even if it’s hard.
1 Corinthians 6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
- Find ways to reach out and stay connected:
We are created for community. Those that are isolated from community will feel feelings of disconnection and loneliness. With recommendations and requirements for physical distancing, it will take some creative thinking to stay in touch.
- Employ technology – Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp video, Facebook messenger video, Facetime, and others are available. Make use of these – especially the video options.
- Be intentional to communicate more than you used to. Everyone is feeling disconnected, and when there is a lack of communication with so much changing moment by moment, your brain will fill in the gaps. Often this speculative information does more harm than good. The enemy loves to divide, and he won’t miss the opportunity to whisper untruth into the voids.
- Be present with one another:
This will take a variety of forms. Some of you are working from home and not in physical contact with any of your colleagues. Others are bound to a compound together and still others have seen little change in the normal routine yet. For some, being present will mean through a computer screen. For others, you still have the freedom to be physically present in some way. In whatever way you can, be together. Share the load of stress and anxiety that this season brings. Talk to each other. Press into relationships. Accept the struggle of a brother without judgement, and encourage each other. Watch for stress reactions in your brothers and sisters.
Christ promised us that He would never leave us or forsake us and so this what we can model. To a world that is responding in selfishness, withdrawal, or violence, they will know we are His disciples if we have love for one another.
John 15:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Do not neglect your local church. Remember that churches are facing the same instability and changes in this crisis. Many are taking on new costs in their attempt to continue the spread of the Gospel remotely. Pastors are working additional hours as they learn unfamiliar technologies and staff are carrying the additional weight of attempting to keep in touch with members with phone and video calls.
In addition, the weekly reminder that many need to spark their financial participation with the church is missing. It may require extra effort for you to give but know that your church needs you now more than ever.