Guest post by Rev. Dr. Jacky Gatliff, Care Ministries Director, and member Michael Drake
Apart but together, we have entered new territories as we struggle to manage our lives during these unpredictable days. We have learned to socially distance ourselves from neighbors and during necessary trips to the grocery store, all while ensuring that our family and friends are safe and supported.
We have found new ways to worship with our Christ Church family and have become adept at connecting with each other through Zoom calls. While we recognize the opportunities that technology provides to all of us—no matter the age—we also know that a face on a screen is but a small reflection of the person we know.
It is not a news flash that life is completely unfamiliar right now.
While giving attention and energy to all of these demands, there is a good chance that we will push aside and forget to take care of one crucial thing that impacts us every moment whether we know it or not: our own mental health.
How we were created
When God created us in His image, He did so in such a way that we would be able to be fully present and respond to Him, to each other and to our creation. When Jesus was asked by the religious leaders what the greatest commandment was, He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37) We know that Jesus would not have commanded us to love the Lord our God in such a way if we had not been able to do so.
God cares about all those things that make us who we are. During these days, we have discovered and attempted ways to care for our heart and soul. A walk around the neighborhood or attempting to follow an online exercise class makes us attentive to our physical strength. (And if you aren’t doing this, check out our own Family Fitness & Wellness Director Jan Averwater’s suggestions here.)
Yet, we probably are not giving the same attention to keeping our minds healthy.
Now is not the time to pretend that you are not being challenged. Now is the time to be honest and say this is hard, really hard. Now is the time to honestly say to ourselves and each other:
“I’m completely distracted.”
“What day is today?”
“Not sure what I did today, but I’m just so tired.”
“Resilient? I thought I was, but now, not so much.”
And your personal: “Fill in your blank __________________.”
While there are many excellent resources flooding social media right now, Care Ministries, along with the guidance of Christ Church member Michael Drake, would like to offer you a few thoughts and resources we believe you will find helpful today or in the days to come.
LEARN to really listen and empathize
There is some reassurance in knowing that we are sharing together in this experience. No one is moving through these days without a sense of loss, disappointment, real grief and confusion. You now have permission to abandon your previous go-to of talking and advising others who may be experiencing such things. “Fixers” are frustrated because nothing can be fixed. Rather, we get to learn, really learn, what it means to simply listen and empathize.
If truth be told, most of us only learn to listen and empathize when other options don’t work. Now would be that time. Watch this three-minute video, Brene Brown on Empathy (kid friendly!), and share it with your family.
GUIDE your mind
Who would have thought that living each day “safer at home” would actually not feel so safe after all? There are several ways you can guide your mind to focus on what you are experiencing.
AWAKEN to what is taking place in you and with those you care about. If your child, adolescent or spouse is difficult to be around right now, realize there is a good chance they are simply expressing what you are also feeling.
ACKNOWLEDGE whatever is going on right now. What is going on in most of our minds is that we just don’t know what is going on. When can you and your kids see friends in person? You don’t know. If you don’t know what the summer plans will be when you are asked, just be honest and say you don’t know. That’s just the beginning of what we don’t know.
ASSESS and name what is going on that is causing you to struggle. Are you tired from the screen time and Zoom calls you had today? Are you feeling the weight of disappointment that graduations, end-of-school-year celebrations, baby showers and weddings have been cancelled? There is no need to hide your sadness.
BUT– and this is important – name a goodness that is around you because it is certainly there.
ADJUST your expectations and acknowledge what you are able to offer, or not offer, a person or situation. Lower the bar. Now, lower it again.
LEARN the not-to-do list
We are mental list makers whether we know it or not. At this moment, a good day can be measured by what we do not check off our mental list. Others will thank you if you care for your mind by recognizing:
- Those places that have no due date and are not pressing. Everybody’s calendar and projects have been disrupted. Extend real due dates out further as much as possible. The presentation that was scheduled for May either will not happen or will be a simpler version.
- What is not a priority in the current season does not dismiss its value. It’s just that priorities in this moment have changed. Read Your Only Goal Is To Arrive to learn more.
- Substantial or harmful time wasters will be mind-draining rather than mind-encouraging. You know what things are toxic to your mind and which ones are not. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:8, MSG)
REFRAME your mind
The Apostle Paul understood how our minds are connected to our heart, soul and strength: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God… be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV) It is worth noting the verb tense for “renewing.” Our minds are actively and continually being transformed and renewed in the present moment. Our minds are transformed toward God when we:
Wake up to others and the world around us. If you are social distancing with family members, ask yourself and be attentive to what might be going on in them. Wake up to others if you are social distancing alone. Choose to call someone each day to make a connection. “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Lean on others for help because we were not created to go it alone. Let someone know that today is difficult and you will need their patience and grace. There is a good chance that tomorrow will feel different and you can offer the same in return. God’s purpose has always been that we are to share life together in the good days and the difficult ones. “Carry one another’s burdens; And be kind and compassionate to one an other, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:32, CSB)
Let go of the outcome because if you are learning anything right now, it is that you really are not in control. What a relief to let go of the need to make things happen according to your plan! Here’s the really good news: the One who loves you and knows you inside and out is holding all the details of your life in His gracious and merciful hands. He is the One that is holding it all together and determining outcomes both big and small (Colossians 1:17).
Adjust the lens to see as God sees. It is far too easy to allow the latest news briefing to shape our perspective. It is no surprise that whatever we hear about the daily reports keeps us confused. But we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), which means that we simply see our circumstances differently. Remind yourself of what you know to be true of God at every moment and not what you feel to be true about God at any given moment.
Friends, these are not the days to be grabbing for supposed strength. This is when you get to freely say to yourself and to others, “Right now, I’m just weak, and that’s a good thing.”
We have the words of the Apostle Paul to give us both a reality check and cheer us on. You have known these words, now you get to live them.
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. … For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT)
A prayer for these days
I ask You to mercifully protect each and every one of us—my family, my friends. Lord, calm my mind, still my heart, help me to hold on and by faith to know that none of this came as a surprise to You. None of it. In fact long before this virus even started, You knew what today was going to be like and You know what tomorrow and the next week and the next months are going to be like. So just hold all of me—all of us—in Your hands. Protect us, help us to be wise. Bring to mind over and over, Your promises that remind me that Your love toward me is steadfast and will never cease. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
The Christ Church Care Ministries Team can be reached at (901) 261-2106.
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Living Well Network: anxiety, depression & risky drinking