Updated: Sep 21, 2020
How did we end up here? Life was trucking along, then all of the sudden, the world basically closed. It is as if all of humanity is on a big bus (seats are 6 feet apart, of course) traveling a winding road with no direction.
How can we use this time as an opportunity to do something different? To look a bit deeper. To throw off some things. To draw near to God and to others (even in social isolation)? Here are some ideas...
*Breathe! It is amazing how often, in times of stress, we forget to really breathe.
Set a timer through out the day and take 4-5 deep breaths.
*Use some time to do a Spiritual Retreat...brainstorm and get creative with the "how to".
*Be gracious in your expectations of yourself and others. This is a new journey.
Everyone is experiencing this. It is a pandemic.
*Take some time to ask others some basic questions:
"How are you?"
"What is most disturbing or disruptive to you?"
"What is bothering you most right now?"
"What are you enjoying?"
Really listen to their response. Do not interrupt. You are listening for understanding.
Let them know you heard them by repeating what you heard.
Share where you are/ your answers to those questions.
*Find out the needs in your community or group, and look for the areas you have gifts or skills.
You are experiencing this; you are part of the "everyone".
*Prayerfully consider what 1-3 things you can control and want to be true of you during this season. Write them down somewhere and revisit them often-especially in times of stress. You might say something like, "I want my responses to be kind...I want to listen well to those I interact with..."
* "Look under the hood". Emotions do not drive us and they do not identify us, they are like the indicator lights in our cars. They let us know something is going on. "Fear" may be flashing.
Do I have unmet needs?
Is there pain in my life?
Am I operating out of false beliefs?
Do I have sin to confess?
Jesus, the Great Mechanic, says, "Come to me..." Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. Take the time to really look and see what is flashing and what is beneath the indicator; look at it, give it to Him, and let Him restore. Sometimes it is a minor adjustment. Sometimes you may need to sit and wait with Him.
CHECK YOUR PLAYLIST
*What are you listening to?
When I was growing up, we had cassette tapes. We would load up these tapes with our favorite music, pop our mix tape in the boom box or tape deck in our cars, and listen to our heart's content.
We all have our own mix tape- things we say to ourselves when we mess up, when we are alone, when we try something new, or when we feel anxious. Some of these tapes we have worked hard to put aside or throw out all together. In times of stress, it is easy to default to old patterns and lies or focus on anxious thoughts.
Jesus tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Him. To do this we have to slow things down (seeing a theme?) rather than just react and try to throw it away. To capture something, to see if it is a friend or foe, and make it obedient takes time.
Ian Morgan Cron has a tool I have found helpful (and somewhat adapted). It is called SNAP. Snap is a tool to help mentally reset. This is especially helpful during times of stress.
STOP- and take 4-5 deep, prayerful breaths. Get out of cruise control and be present in the moment.
NOTICE- your surroundings and how you are connected to them? Are you in a good space or operating according to the "old tapes"?
Cron says, "Whatever you discover, make sure as you notice or observe what you’re feeling, thinking, and doing in the moment that you do so with compassion! No labeling, analyzing, criticizing, or trying to fix anything. Your job right now is to simply notice, nothing else." This helps us look deeper, rather than just push aside what is at the surface.
ASK- What am I believing right now? Is it true? What does God say about this? How would my life change if I let go of the false belief/believed what God says?
PIVOT- Now that you have slowed down and really looked at what is happening, you are more able to make a healthy choice that is in line with the truth.
Set a timer and do this throughout the day. It only takes a few minutes! (Bonus: Doing SNAP helps with the first point of SLOW DOWN)
BE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR R.E.D.S.
I became aware of the acronym REDS while participating in a critical incident stress debrief training by Safe Place Ministry.
*REST- Sleep hygiene, routine, and SABBATH are just a few ways you can rest, but they are each important! It is tempting to work around the clock since working from home means I have online access ALL THE TIME. The truth is, you may not be operating at full capacity right now. We are in a pandemic. This is normal during times of stress. So give yourself and others grace during this very weird time. Pay attention to if/how your sleep has changed.
*EXERCISE- it releases endorphins, helps with cortisol levels, expels energy and stress.
Look for ways to get some sunshine. Vitamin D helps our immune system!
People are getting really creative with the way they take walks if they cannot get outside.
*DIET- As much as you are able, feed your body food that will nourish it.
Pay attention to your eating. Are you overeating? Forgetting to eat? These can be signs of stress.
*SOCIALIZATION- Find ways to LAUGH. Reach Out! Don't assume you are a burden or that people are too busy/don't want to hear from you. Zoom, text, email, phone call, Skype, FaceTime, DM, Whatsapp...there are so many ways to connect. People are finding creative (and kind) ways to connect with each other. I bet you have witnessed a few.
The point is to move beyond thinking about all you cannot do, to thinking about what you can. Get creative. Brainstorm! Make a huge list of every possibility, no matter how outrageous, and then try something you like. If it doesn't work, try something different. You are a person with purpose, creativity, and resources.
And then remember grace. You are not going to do all of the things, everyday, all day long.
In times like these, you may feel alone, but the truth is we are all in this bus together.