(This article was first written to provide help during the coronavirus global pandemic of 2020)
A question on everyone’s mind these days (and in any time of crisis, quarantined or not) is how to deal with the sudden and dramatic change, the stress and anxiety, the fear and uncertainty, the disappointment and irritability, the temptation of unhealthy diversions, not to mention the boredom, in the midst of this new reality we are facing. How do I still live well when all of life has changed, and some are saying permanently.
The first thing we need to remember is that we are embodied souls. That is just a simple way to say that we are body and soul. We are both material and immaterial, visible and invisible. We are at least two-part beings. The material body and the immaterial self of the soul and spirit. The body is our world-consciousness, the Spirit is our God-consciousness and the Soul is our self-consciousness.
Human beings are not just corporeal or immortal, but both. Embodied souls. Body + Soul/Spirit = human being. That being said, there is nothing that is purely physical or that is purely non-physical. We are at the same time emotions, thoughts, will, determination, body, sensation, desires, and relationships. We are psychological, rational, relational, spiritual, physical creatures. Never one or the other. Always, congruently and simultaneously, while not always harmoniously.
Why the lecture? Well, if we are going to maintain our health while we weather this present global storm, we need to treat all of us. We are more than just physical beings, and more than emotional, or spiritual beings. You will not get through this well if you narrowly focus on one to the neglect of the others.
So, we are going to talk about this from several perspectives: the physically or external, and internally, cognitively, as well as spiritually, emotionally, and interpersonally. Much of this will be simple and expected but if you need to hear it, you need to heed it.
In this longer than usual article:
1. Bodily Self-Care – Inactivity, diet, exercise, play, example
A Not So Secret, Secret – Unprepared? Don’t despair!
2. Mental Self-Care – JIJO, connect intentionally, binge selectively
3. Spiritual Self-Care – Cut yourself a break, value a little faith, forget being tough, investigate what emerges from the shadows!
Interested? Keep reading below!
How to Deal with Your Emotions During A Quarantine &/or Crisis
By Pastor Kerry Krissel
1. Bodily/Physical Self-Care
Now listen closely for the next few minutes even though what I say is not going to be all that new and revelatory. Listen carefully because it will create the foundation we need to maintain the rest of our health. Let’s begin with our bodies.
Inactivity is going to lead to embodied problems unless the majority of inactivity is a good night’s sleep. Make sure you are sleeping a full eight hours at night. Conversely, avoid taking several naps during the day. Not only will this make sleep at night harder, but the inactivity has an effect on our emotions. It “feels” purposeless, meaningless, like your life has no significant reason if you sleep whenever you feel tired during the day.
Obviously, with that, you need to eat healthily and avoid snacks, especially if those snacks that are junk. Beyond gaining unneeded and unhealthy weight, it will add a sick feeling both physically and emotionally. Overeating or just eating too many foods that go right to your waist may end up making you sick physically. And again, that sick feeling is apt to pile onto your sick emotional feelings, especially if you are also inactive.
We are going to take this obvious and simple advice and extend it to the other parts of our human makeup. Listen well now and you will be ready for other steps to follow.
So that leads to the expected advice to exercise. I doubt I need to explain to anyone how important bodily movement is, in intervals is best, but even once a day is better than nothing. There is no excuse for not exercising unless you have physical limitations or restrictions. Just go outside and take a walk. Walk around inside if you must. I saw a video on Facebook of a guy jogging around on the roof of his house! Do not sit all day on the couch binging on Netflix or your streaming service of choice. Do not sit all day, or even more than an hour or so, in front of a video game.
The more anxious or depressed you are the more these strategies are important. Strategies like play. That is right, play. The more physical it can be the better. Challenge yourself on your next run to go further or faster if that is playful to you. Get out a board game and play with those trapped in the house with you. That will be less physical… unless you choose Twister! Social media is resplendent with ideas on this one so put it to some good use for once. Laugh, smile, love, and lighten up. Forgive my indelicate suggestion but when I said “love” I also meant make love, with your spouse. Look at each other, talk, connect.
For God’s sake turn off the constant intake of news about the coronavirus. That is most likely the opposite of fun and uplifting. Watch if you must for fifteen minutes—the news cycle repeats about that often—and then shut it off. That may be the best thing you could do for your state of mind. You will not miss anything because they will repeat it in under fifteen minutes.
Even with my earlier request for you to stay with me, about now you are ready to stop reading, either to go make love with your spouse or because you have concluded that this is not going to be any help. But before you do, ask yourself this, “how much do I love those who are trapped inside with me?” By now that may not solicit the response I am looking for because you may be about ready to kill someone you live with! But if you start to take more deliberate responsibility for the state of your psyche, you are serving others by demonstrating how they too can care for themselves and ward off anxiety and depression. Caring for yourself is an act of loving service to others. Now, watch this…
Not So Secret
Here is a secret you probably will acknowledge as obvious as soon as you hear it. You manage your inner and outer life in a crisis the same way you manage those things in a non-crisis. The way to not lose your cool when troubles hit is by not lose your cool when the mundane hits. The way to win the battle in the moment of temptation is to prepare for it before the temptation comes. The way to respond in godly fashion in the unexpected moment of attack or when on stage and under the lights is to practice godly habits when off the stage of life, when the lights are down, and when there is no attack. The way to be true to God in the spur of the moment is to remain true to him behind the scenes. This is one reason why establishing healthy daily rhythms is so critical. Crisis does not make heroes; it exposes who is already the hero and who is not. A crisis is a stage upon which the hero shines and the unprepared fail miserably.
You manage your inner and outer life in a crisis the same way you manage them in a non-crisis.
Not So Prepared?
Some people are just now realizing how personally unprepared they are for a worldwide pandemic. While we are thinking or saying or posting all manner of unkind, impatient, and critical things about the lack of preparedness of our local and national leaders and institutions, we are just as unprepared ourselves to live through this kind of thing. We all know that professional or any serious athlete trains for game day. Great preparation with mediocre talent wins the day almost every time against great by unprepared and untrained talent.
The Biblical writer Paul says it this way…
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (NLT)
For Paul, every step was a critical one. It was either getting him ready to compete or was the race itself, both equally serious. It is like he did not see his training as shadowboxes but as if it were the real thing, a real fight. He used disciple—or routine, habit, rhythm—to prepare himself so that no matter what life threw at him he was ready to contend for an eternal prize. He trained his body to do what it should. He is talking about muscle memory. He was very careful that his preaching to others was backed up by personal experience and not hypocritical teaching.
In other words, he was careful to practice what he preached. Every step had a purpose, the in-race steps, and the out-of-race steps. It is in the mundane that we prepare for the crisis. It is in the everyday duty that we prepare for the occasional, maybe once-in-a-lifetime, call to duty.
It is in the mundane that we prepare for the crisis.
Unprepared? Don’t Despair!
Some of us find ourselves more prepared for this stressful season and some less prepared. If you are discovering that you are unprepared and under-trained for this current “race,” do not despair. No matter which camp or where we fall in between, your training begins now. Every fight is also preparation. The field of play or battle forces us to add to that valuable muscle memory. The scars we earn from being less prepared, or simply inexperienced, represent lessons we learn for the next time, be it the mundane everyday duty or the next call to battle.
This example Paul gives, along with the suggestions I already shared from a physical perspective, they are the template that we can use for every other area of preparation or training in our life. So let’s return to where we were a few moments ago and take the suggestions for staying physically well and apply them to our thought, and by extension or feelings.
If you are discovering that you are unprepared and under-trained for this current “race,” do not despair.
Let me quickly interrupt our chat. If you would like to talk to someone about questions or struggles this article surfaced for you, go to the Two Rivers Counseling Center’s website and look around. When you are ready, click the “Get Counseling” link. Or go directly to the “Get Counseling” request form HERE. If you are not local to upsate New York and cannot come to my office, we can always make a virtual appointment through using social media to connect face-to-face. Now back to our discussion.
Now, sit back, put your brain into gear, and think along with me for a few more minutes.
2. Mental Self-Care
I just told you to be careful that you are not too inactive or oversleeping, even though you can, to watch your intake, to not make yourself sick, to exercise, to play, to connect with others. Now, do the same simple thing mentally. Have you allowed your mind to become lazy? Are you listening to all the talk about this pandemic and just believing everything you hear? Are you letting your emotions flip flop from fear when that is announced, over to hope when that is called for, back to anxiety when that is rampant all around you, over to cynicism along with that group, and over to trust in God when you are reminded to do that? If so, two things: 1) Take a stand that is grounded in a Christian world view, and 2) Engage your cognitive capabilities.
So one, Read your Bible, read, watch or listen to addresses on our current crisis from various biblical positions, square them with what you have found in the Word, and decide where the truth is. Then stand there. Mentally. Engage your mind, or exercise it, then once you have found the right and true place to fall out, keep your mind at rest. Do not under or over-exercise your thinking. When you do exercise your mind do not let it run wild or without purpose. Discipline your mind by directing where it takes you. When you rest your mind, do not do it lazily or irresponsibility or unbiblically, do it in peacefully, calmly, with faith in God.
Take care that you do not feed junk to your thought life. JIJO! Junk in, junk out. Feast on what is healthy thinking and that will give rise to a healthy feeling.
Philippians 4:4–9 4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (NLT)
Among all the great advice about how to think—he also suggests that we are careful who we connect with. Paul had first brought the hope of the Gospel to the Philippians and was their spiritual father. They knew, loved, and trusted him. So he tells them to be careful to only follow those who are a good example. Those who are good models to follow. Who’s life to mimic. Elsewhere Paul clarifies this challenge when he tells the Corinthians to follow him as he follows Christ, our ultimate example (1Corinthins 11:1).
So, have you deployed your mind in an effort to find human examples—as well as Christ’s—in the midst of this crisis? Who are you following, both on social media but also in your thought life and in the conclusions and opinions you are making? Not just “can they be trusted to tell the truth,” but can they be trusted to believe and obey THE truth, the true One? Who are you connecting within this season? Quarantine yourself from some sources by plugging into only people and outlets that are worthy of your attention.
2 Corinthians 10:3–5 3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (NLT)
Here is more training, more discipline. We have to seek out and imprison proud and rebellious thoughts and false arguments, and teach them to bow to the truth and the King. We are forced to quarantine our bodies, and I just suggested that we quarantine ourselves from unhelpful people and sources. Now I call you to quarantine your ungodly, unbiblical thinking also. For as your mind goes so goes your emotions. Garbage in is what we think but the garbage comes out as the emotions that our thinking has produced. And it is not just wrong thinking you want to wage war against. Is it morally pure, theologically pure, is it honorable to be thinking, does it honor others, is it thinking that should be admired and mimicked, are they thoughts that are lovely?
Do not let your mind wander aimlessly. This includes what you binge on. Are you watching shows about conspiracy theories governmental cover-ups and such things and then wondering why you are anxious and on the edge? Are you gorging yourself on shows with all manner of relational tension and betrayal and sexual perversion and then wondering why you are depressed and grumpy or stimulated? Are you watching home shopping channels or browsing through online shopping sights and feeling poor, indulgent, greedy, and wanting to do some retail therapy to feel better? GIGO. Be vigilant. Carelessness in this season may just be your worst enemy. Do for yourself mentally those same kinds of things that you know are healthy for you physically.
Carelessness in this season may just be your worst enemy.
3. Spiritual Self-Care
There is a huge positive here that I have already alluded to. When you do with your mind the good kinds of things that you do with your body to maintain health, much of that is what you should do spiritually to maintain spiritual health. The areas overlap. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. When you do something healthy for one, you are showing health to the rest.
Cut Yourself A Break
Here is another caution that may seem strange to you but is one reason you need to connect with other spiritually mature people in a time of crisis like we are presently in. Do not expect to have the faith of someone who has been trusting Jesus for 30 years if you have only been working at it for 3. “Well if I were more spiritual, I should be able to… Fill in the blank.” I talk to people all the time who get all discouraged because they are not as strong as someone else who has a lot more scars, many more hours on the practice field, way more time on the battlefield of life, and consequently way more spiritual and mental memory muscle than they do. If the enemy cannot distract you with blatant godlessness, he will discourage and condemn you with the accusation that you are not spiritual enough. That is just how he rolls.
If the enemy cannot distract you with blatant godlessness, he will discourage and condemn you with the accusation that you are not spiritual enough.
Value Your Little Faith
Two points here. One, do not underestimate the potential of a little faith. Your faith may be small but self-condemnation is not necessary because with just a pinch of faith you can trust God to move huge mountains. You may be not as experienced as another in living through such disruptive crises as we have before us, but a little faith expressed in the right person activates all that “right person’s” help. That connects perfectly to my other point…
Forget Being Tough
Second, reject the encouragement to be tough or just hang in there. You do not have this! But your God does. It is too great a weight for any human to carry. Do not be tough, be weak.
Paul mentions a struggle he faced, designed to keep him humble, that he asked repeatedly for God to take away from him. Here is what God said to him…
2Corinthians 12:8–10 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT)
The circumstance is not identical, but the tactic is still applicable. Tell God you do not have this and look to him to display his strength in your life. Rejoice that you do not have this, whatever “this” may be! Why? Because when you are weak—it opens up the way for God to be strong—then you are strong. Do not bemoan that you do not have as much spiritual memory muscle as the next guy, rejoice if you have but a little faith because we have a God who loves to respond to just a little faith!
Investigate What Emerges from the Shadows
One last encouragement and then we will wrap for now. This is something I challenged my family with this past Sunday as we chatted virtually right before we participated in the Sunday experience each at our own homes. In times like these, the unusual circumstances with uncommonly high levels of abnormality and tension, we have a unique opportunity to grow closer to God. In these moments, the increased levels of stress and fear and worry trigger things that in the normal rough and tumble of life we are able to keep locked away or at least in the shadows. Hidden and suppressed but not dead and gone. Things we may never uncover otherwise but that still exert influence and manipulation on our life from the secret of their hiding place.
But now, in this wild and not so wonderful season, we struggle to keep them hidden. They are emboldened to creep out of those shadows and apply even greater pressure on us to bend to their devious and evil will. We no longer have what we need to keep them at bay because we are expending so much effort on other things that the crisis forces us to manage. But right here is where they may just overplay their hand. By creeping further out into our lives than usual and showing themselves, they are no longer flying under our radar. We may even be shocked by their presence or the things they suggest or how much sway we are inclined to give them or how much destruction they impose.
By creeping further out into our lives than usual and showing themselves, they are no longer flying under our radar.
When this crisis drives you to thoughts, emotions, words, fears, anxiety, reactions, diversions, temptations, or conclusions, that you would never usually entertain, take notice. Right there you have the potential for a God moment. That flash of awareness is a great opportunity and potentially a great treasure to you. Do not brush by it or sweep in out of sight or blow it off. Investigate. Ask the Spirit of God to shine an illuminating light into the dark corners of your soul where the godlessness that you are encountering, still remains. Determine that this season will be a victorious one. Vow that for everything God reveals you, you will bend a little lower under his kingly sway so he can do what he may with yet another part of your life that he does not yet own. Ask him to show you what is behind what is surprising or uncommon but suddenly present in the given circumstances. Take what this life offers up and put it on the altar as a sacrificial offering to God.
If You Need It
If you cannot get things under control in the troubling season of life you are in, I encourage you to get some help. Get the help you need to do the necessary discovery required to get to the bottom of it and root it out of your life. If you would like to talk to someone about questions or struggles this article surfaced for you, go to the Two Rivers Counseling Center’s website, and look around. When you are ready, click the “Get Counseling” link. Or go directly to the “Get Counseling” request form HERE. Someone will be in touch with you shortly. If you are not local to upstate New York and cannot come to my office, we can always make a virtual appointment through social media to connect face-to-face.