Hello dear friends!
I thought we all might take a brief, mental health break. With all the recent changes bombarding our lives and affecting the very fabric of our society, many of us may be finding anxiety creeping in even closer than our housemates. It can feel as if normal has sailed off into the sunset and life as we know it is upside down. We are juggling kids, work, marriage and toilet paper rations in the same, small living space while trying to keep some semblance of sanity. Life is crazy, but we are all in this together.
As someone who has wrestled with PTSD for years, I thought I might toss out a few tactics I use when managing life-overload:
Just breathe – When the rising tide of chaos comes in and threatens to steal your cool, STOP. Literally stop everything, close your eyes and breathe. Slow inhale, fast exhale. Try this 10x. Allow yourself to come back in touch with your body and your heart. Talk to the Lord. Don't try to make it ok; it's probably not ok. He is our 'ok'. Is there something going on in your world that you can do? Start there.
Take care of yourself – That next chore or phone call can wait. Make sure you are fed, watered and tended to. If something is causing more stress in your life, minimize its access to your heart and mind. We may all need to practice a bit of social distancing from news and social media. Amidst all the new, try to find a new rhythm and stick to it. Like children, we all do better with a schedule. Sneak in a few minutes of alone time when you can. You cannot successfully help others if you are in crisis.
Extend grace, both to yourself and others – We are all learning. We are all in a new place with unsure footing. We are going to be making a few mistakes we wouldn’t normally make, and we may not be as productive as we hope to be. Be kind to yourself and to others. If you see or hear someone being hard on themselves, reach out and remind them what a gift they are. None of us can do this on our own.
Ask for help – Let’s make a deal. How ‘bout we all assume we aren’t going to get through this without one another. It is ok to need help; don’t wait to ask for it. You probably aren't the only one with that question or need. Our gentle, kind Father knows our needs, but He never tires of hearing our voices. As you reach out to others, remember He is our primary source and Provider, not humans and not the government. Lift your requests to Him and flex that muscle of faith. Believe He holds you and entrust your needs to to Him along with all those you are responsible for. Receive His peace and practice abiding in that place.
Intentional Gratitude – Start and end the day with a list of things you are grateful for. Be sincere. Honestly try to picture life without one of those screaming children you have or the spouse you nearly gut-punched today. Zoom out (like a camera lens) and allow yourself to see the big picture for a few minutes. Remind yourself how beautiful life is.
Communication – One of the best things you can focus on right now is good, positive communication. We have the ability to communicate in more ways than just words. Think about your next phone call. They cannot see your smile, but they can hear it. You might be one of the few people they come in contact with today. What do you want to leave them with? That you have needs or that he or she has value and God loves them?
For those of us that have a history of life turning itself upside down, there can be an added bonus of old emotions compounding the present-day issues. Take a moment to read this quote from Austin Channing Brown:
“And it just occurred to me. This pandemic could be bringing up any moment in your life during which you felt a complete loss of control. I wasn’t dreaming about that crisis because it still bothers me. I was dreaming about it because it’s another time when I just felt lost, helpless, unable to wrap my arms around the situation and establish some control.
If you find yourself revisiting past traumas that don’t seem to be connected to the pandemic at all – know that you are not alone. You are not over reacting. And you’re not regressing. You are remembering.”
So, whether you are dealing with stress from present-day events or present and past, be kind to yourself. Sometimes current events can draw up old wounds and you don’t recognize it or even know why. It is ok to be who you are, where you are, even if it feels irrational or over the top. Sometimes it’s just the survival part of the mind saying – “This feels too familiar! We’ve been here before let’s not do that again!” But we don’t know what the future will bring. Often the most beautiful things come out of the most tumultuous times.
When emotions get overwhelming try giving yourself some space to process your feelings with the Lord – they are real, but they might not be the truth. You can write down what you feel and then define the truth (Scripture helps!). I FEEL out of control. It FEELS like [really bad past event] is about to happen again, BUT the truth is I am safe at home with people who care about me. The truth is Jesus is holding all things together (Col 1:17).
If you have a pastor, therapist or trusted friend, don’t be ashamed to share what you’re experiencing. You don’t have to go through this alone. You are loved.
If you feel you need more help here is a cool resource – Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741. When you text this helpline, you’ll be connected to trained counselors for individualized support.