We carry the pain of the world in our back pockets.
Mobile screens keep us up to date with our friends and with world news. Now with Covid-19, our digital connectedness and personal isolation are leaving many people anxious and troubled.
But there are ways we can move away from anxiety and stress. And ways we can help others too. Read on.
A troubled mind
Uncertainty about the future, the stress of losing pay, worrying about personal health and the whole family living at home for long periods, can lead to boredom, increasing frustration, an increase in domestic violence, and for some people, anxiety and depression.
But there are ways out.
Avoiding stress and guarding mental health
I am not a doctor, so I cannot give medical advice. If you are experiencing a problem, you need to seek proper help. (A few sources of help are listed here.)
But I can report what the experts are saying about coping with the present time, things that may help all of us.
- Follow hygiene advice (e.g. wash hands, keep distance, wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces).
- Keep to a balanced diet.
- Keep active (walk, run, cycle, whatever).
- Avoid increasing smoking & drinking.
Manage exposure to media
- Avoid too much information – find one trusted source & read it once per day.
- Avoid speculation & rely on reputable sources of info.
- Avoid negative social media and media.
- Stay connected with friends & family.
- Share how you’re feeling with loved ones.
- Don’t sensationalise, make assumptions or jump to conclusions.
- Focus on things you can do to manage stress.
- Stay calm yet cautious.
- Show compassion & kindness to others.
Actively manage your wellbeing
- Strategies might include connection, generosity, sticking to your values, a daily routine, looking for possible benefits in your present situation.
- Take notice of things that make you feel good.
- Find ways to relax & distract.
Returning to normal
As we begin to move back to “normal”, some people will need to practice ways to avoid their anxiety returning or increasing – move back into our relationships slowly, mindfulness, exercise, sleep, etc.
Spirituality can help
- Practices like prayer, meditation, mindfulness and showing compassion are very helpful in handling anxiety & depression. Belief and spirituality can also provide a support network.
- Spiritual practices can help attitudes & behaviours to evolve positively. They can help us learn to quiet and calm ourselves, and feel more hopeful. We can learn to stay in the moment, feel a sense of purpose, connect to the world, and lead a healthier life.
- We can see problems differently – e.g. an opportunity to learn & grow.
- Anxiety is often caused by self-centredness, which in turn creates more anxiety. A solution is a higher power, higher purpose or God (who is both). These give meaning & purpose despite suffering. (This is the basis of 12-step programs.)
Be a source of hope and help
Christian spirituality can be a strong source of these benefits, via hope, prayer, peace, acceptance, God’s power, a sense of purpose and a strong support network.
Just do it!
Churches can minister to their surrounding community, especially those doing it tough.
- They can offer good practical and personal help, including providing many things that assist with peace of mind. They will generally have resources and networks that facilitate this.
- They can also offer spiritual support, both personally and in making their activities and services interesting, attractive and available.
It seems that many people have been responding to these opportunities. Many who haven’t been near a church for years have received practical help. And statistics show there has been an upsurge in interest in the christian faith:
- large numbers (25%) in the UK watching online religious services, especially younger people (33%), and many “attending” for the first time,
- many people are praying about the virus, one in 20 in the UK have started praying where they didn’t before,
- an increase in sales of Bibles and religious books,
- all this has seen a much greater positive than negative effect on christian faith.
Churches which have an ethos and a track record of serving their communities will probably be more effective at this time, and are likely to find new interest among people who haven’t previously felt drawn to christian faith.
I have been impressed by the people at Gas St Church in Birmingham, England, who have cared for their community so well they have been commended by their Prime Minister and their local Mayor. And their online services (as in the opening photo) are lively, attractive, well-prepared and fun – and apparently welcoming new visitors and new converts.
In Australia, Georges River Life Church is one church I know that is offering both practical and spiritual help.
Make & give
- Make and give care packages, kids craft packs, cooking meals.
- Donate money and items to foodbanks and charities caring for the vulnerable.
- Keep giving blood, as the need will increase and donors will decrease. assisting with bills.
- Collect and provide emergency non-perishable food.
- Regularly check in by phone with people who are isolated or struggling.
- Send an encouraging text message to any of your friends who are medical professionals, and offer to help their partner or family.
Give time & help
- Take time to visit, play games or lead a fun activity for isolated families and children.
- Set up technology for older people so they don’t miss out on church over live-stream.
- Cut grass. Do shopping.
- Offer to help single parents with childcare needs: drop off a meal, a box of nappies or puzzles for the kids.
…. to service workers, posties, staff at supermarkets and petrol stations, and to God.
Is this the beginning of a new thing?
Some see a bigger picture in all this. They think it is changing the church, as power shifts downwards and the gospel reaches outwards.
May it be so.
Mental health and wellbeing
- Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Mental Health Foundation (UK).
- Mental health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Lifeline (Australia).
- Coronavirus: Mental health advice for those with virus anxiety and Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health. BBC News (UK).
- Coronavirus lockdown made many of us anxious. But for some people, returning to ‘normal’ might be scarier. The Conversation (Australia).
- Finding Self-Worth in a Pandemic and Coping with a Pandemic. The Quest for a Good Life blog (USA).
- The Next Pandemic Crisis Is Mental Health. Foreign Policy (UK).
- Mental health suffers under the lockdown. Guardian.
Spirituality and wellbeing
- 4 Powerful Ways Spirituality Can Ease Anxiety and Depression. Psychology Today (USA).
- The Spiritual Cure to Anxiety and Depression. Thrive Global (UK).
- The impact of spirituality on mental health: A review of the literature. Mental Health Foundation (UK).
- The Science of Happiness during COVID-19. The Quest for a Good Life blog (USA).
Things to do
- How Can My Church Help the Community in Crisis? Practical and Financial Ideas. Radio 103.5FM (Australia).
- Churches serving communities in a variety of ways during COVID-19 pandemic. Jackson Progress-Argus (USA).
- More Brits turning to prayer during COVID-19 lockdown. Crux (UK).
- Coronavirus: ‘It’s just anxiety, anxiety, anxiety’. BBC News (UK).
- British public turn to prayer as one in four tune in to religious services. The Guardian (UK).
- The Most Lonely and Isolated. The Quest for a Good Life blog (USA).
Graphic: Gas St Church online.