by Christine Sine
Yesterday was the third Sunday of Lent and for most of us this season has not turned to how we expected. COVID-19 has upended all of our plans for church suppers, quiet gatherings with friends and retreat days away.
At a time like this it is easy to focus on our fears and what makes us anxious and vulnerable during an epidemic. Some of us are closer to the hot spots than others. Tom and I live in Seattle which seems to be the epicenter of the outbreak here in the U.S. at this point and I know how easily we can get consumed by the daily counts and inadequacy of testing. However it seems to me that it is not just the our testing that is inadequate. Our commitment to our self-care and the care of our families and communities is inadequate too and that contributes to our fears and anxieties.
Over the last week I have found myself asking three questions that I think all of us need to engage in at this season.
What Are You Doing for Self Care?
What Are You Doing for Family Care?
What Are You Doing for Care of Others?
I had planned to write a single post about this but I realize there is so much I want to say that I decided 3 posts were needed – so this is the first and the others will follow on Wednesday and Thursday as we already have a post scheduled for Tuesday.
What Are You Doing For Self Care?
It is so easy for us to focus on the negative during a time like this, but looking after ourselves means taking a good chunk of time to focus on the positive.
- Begin the day with gratitude. – In the midst of this challenging time we all have much to be grateful for. Some my gratitudes are for the blessings I mention below but as well as that I am grateful for a strong immune system, for good health that will hopefully protect us from the virus, and for a flexible lifestyle and for the resilience God has given us to adapt. I grateful for a strong faith and deep trust in God. What springs to your mind today that you are grateful for?
- Count your blessings every day. Tom and I frequently remind ourselves that we are probably amongst the top 1% when it comes to financial stability. As well as that we have a warm and comfortable home in a beautiful part of the world with spring flowers bursting out around us. We have friends and family who love us, a strong community here in the house and so much else to not just be grateful for but to recognize as blessings from God.
- Surround yourself with “at home” items. What are the items that make you feel safe and secure? This is particularly important where our souls are concerned. Do you have a favourite place in the house, an armchair a few sacred items that make you feel comfortable and safe? Return to these as often as possible. A sacred item like a small cross that you can carry in your pocket and hold onto when you feel most vulnerable can also help.
- Establish empowering rituals that relax you and provide stability for your spirit and soul.
- Breathing exercises – this is a good place to start the day. You might like to use the prayer above or find one of your own. Some of you might like to combine this with a yoga exercise that can further absorb your stress and help you relax. I love to sit in my sacred space each morning take some deep breaths in and out and use this prayer (or one of our breath cards) to help center me and bring me into a place of quiet and safety.
- Make time for contemplation. Ana Lisa De Jong’s The Gate to Heaven: Poems for Contemplation is a great resource that she has made available for free in the Godspace store. This tree of contemplative practices gives us good idea of how broadly we can interpret the concept of contemplative prayer. It is usually a prayer that focuses on one word or phrase that is repeated throughout the prayer. This form of prayer mimics a meditative, centering practice. Many of the psalms, like Psalm 136 have a contemplative nature to them. The purpose of contemplative prayer is to draw us close to God and make us better able to hear God’s voice by eliminating distraction and reducing anxiety. Breath prayer is one form of this practice. If you don’t know what contemplative prayer is, this video with Father Richard Rohr gives a good introduction.
- Read the scriptures and/or a good devotional or meditative book and/or listen to your favorite hymns and songs, each morning. Reading the scriptures is a great way to relax ourselves into the presence of God and remind ourselves that no matter where we go and what happens to us God is still with us.
- Maintain as much normalcy in your daily routines as possible. A few late mornings sleeping ins because you don’t have to go to your workplace might be fun, making a habit of it will, in the long run be detrimental to both your physical and emotional health. So get up, get dressed and make this seem like a normal work day.
- Don’t allow yourself to obsess about the bad news. Look for good news stories that give you hope and encouragement. There are a lot of them springing up out there. Here is one that gladdens all our hearts from Sienna Italy where people are caught singing together across empty streets.
- Get plenty of exercise. Most of us are not confined to our houses yet, though we probably don’t want to visit the local gym so here are some suggestions.
- Go for a long walk each day and for added benefit make it an awe and wonder walk and do a little re-wondering of your world. Getting out into nature is one of the most therapeutic and relaxing things that all of us can do so make sure that you do that.
- Develop a home exercise regime. I have a ten minute regime of stretching and muscle strengthening exercises that I do 3 times a week. It is perfect for a time like this and the internet has a plethora of these to choose from.
- Start a garden. This is a great time to experiment with a little gardening – plant some seeds, start them inside if it is too cold to get outside yet. Have some fun.
- Get plenty of sleep. Without sleep we get irritated and anxious. Exercise, a good diet and relaxing contemplative practices all help us to sleep well.
- Get creative. Is there a creative pursuit that you have not had time for? This is probably a perfect time to give it a go. Maybe you are a budding artist, musician or writer – take some time to be creative and have some fun with it. When I asked about this on facebook a couple of days ago a couple of people mentioned The Gift of Wonder and reminded me that it is full of creative ideas. So this might be a time to pull out your copy out and try some of the creative exercises you have not had time for until now. And don’t forget these creative tools:
- Get out, play and have some fun – Play is a wonderful way to destress ourselves. I talk a lot about this in The Gift of Wonder but I know that it is still hard for adults to get out and play but this is in many ways a heaven sent opportunity to do just that.