Check out these six ways to boost your mental resilience.
The General Conference Adventist Health Ministries (GCHM) director and associate director, Peter N. Landless and Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, respectively, invited GCHM associate director Torben Bergland, a psychiatrist, to be the guest writer for this month’s Health & Wellness column. Dr. Bergland’s expertise in the area of mental health is particularly helpful during this time of crisis and physical isolation.—Editors.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is “the most challenging crisis we have faced since World War II.” There’s no denying that this is a big one. Whether we’ll remain physically well or not, we’re all being affected in various ways. By now, most of us are carefully taking precautions to avoid getting infected ourselves and infecting others. But it’s not only our physical health that’s at risk. Our mental health is also being challenged. How do we manage our thoughts and feelings in this crisis so that we can get through this, and maybe even come out stronger?
Here are some tips:
1. IT’S A CRISIS. FACE IT.
Yes, it’s a crisis. It came upon us unexpectedly; it brings a lot of uncertainty; and it threatens things that are important and dear to us. It reminds us how quickly things can change. We never know what the next moment will bring. Only God does.
Minimizing or maximizing it isn’t helpful. Let it be what it is, not more, not less, according to the limits of our knowledge and understanding.
Take one step at a time. There’s no turning back, and there’s no running away. Remember, though, that it’s better to walk together. If one falls, the other can raise that person up.
A crisis brings out the best and the worst in us. Expect to see some of both in yourself and others. Therefore, be patient, kind, and compassionate with everyone—including yourself.
A crisis may be a turning point for better and for worse. Let’s harvest as much good as possible.
2. IT WILL BE DIFFICULT. ACCEPT IT.
Rather than a nightmare we wake up from, this is a reality we wake up to every day. We can’t make it go away. This is where we are right now, and we need to do our best in the midst of it and be supportive of others who are trying to do their best as well.
There will be negative outcomes. There will be losses. It will be stressful. It will take time. But there may also be positive outcomes.
Many will suffer physically, mentally, relationally, socially, financially, existentially, and spiritually. There’s no point in trying to persuade yourself and others that all is well; it’s not. But we can find help and comfort in one another and in God. It’s time to draw closer together.
3. IT’S A TIME FOR REFLECTION. WORK ON IT.
It’s time for a time-out. We live in a world that is so rushed and high-paced that every second is often filled with something. This leaves little time to think, reflect, meditate, feel, talk, and connect. As many things now stop, we need to slow down; to allow spaces to open up; to pause, question, evaluate, and reconsider. Don’t stuff open spaces with whatever is at hand. Allow reflection to enter. Am I living the life I want to live? What are the real values and priorities of my life? What is the truth about my life?
As the virus floods our countries, we may find our hearts and minds flooded by things totally unrelated, yet stirred up right now. Things from our past, our present, or our future. They may wash over us like waves. Or we may ride them when they come. But we have to be ready for a wave when it comes, and let the ride be as wild or mild as the wave that carries it.
Put first things first. Let your focus and your time reflect on what matters most in your life.
4. WHAT YOU DO CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. DO IT.
Love more. Despite the social distancing, stay socially connected—for your own sake and for the sake of others. By caring for others, you yourself will be helped.
Talk better. Have good conversations every day with people who mean something to you. If you’re alone, do it via phone or Internet. If you’re together with someone, set aside quality time for face-to-face and eye-to-eye conversations. And remember to talk with God. Maybe it’s time for some of those deeper conversations.
Make it nicer around you. Don’t wash just your hands. Wash your face, your hair, your body, your clothes, your dishes, your floors. Maintaining the exterior of things will help you feel better on the inside.
Move more. Go outside if you can, and move for at least 30 minutes. If you cannot go outside, get up and walk every hour, and do some indoor exercise.
Let the sun warm you. The sun not only brightens the sky; it also brightens the mind.
Eat better. Enjoy two to three meals a day, preferably together with someone. Don’t snack continuously. Dust off those cookbooks and try out some new recipes. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods.
Sleep enough. Go to bed early enough that you’ll wake up refreshed. If you feel like napping, do it only once before late afternoon, and for no longer than 30 minutes.
Laugh frequently. Humor is a good way to buffer pain and release tension.
Cry when necessary. Crying is also a good way to release tension and communicate to others that you’re suffering. Be compassionate with yourself and others whenever there are tears.
Don’t binge. Don’t binge on Netflix. Don’t binge on work. Don’t binge on news. Don’t binge on food. Don’t binge on anger or frustrations. Just don’t binge.
5. THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN THE PANDEMIC. SEE IT.
Don’t let the virus infect your entire life. There’s so much more to life and to the world than the virus. Be grateful for those things.
See others. Don’t get totally absorbed with yourself and your own situation. Many people are in need of an outstretched hand. Reach out to someone every day.
Things could be worse. All is not lost even if some things are lost.
6. THERE IS HOPE. EMBRACE IT.
This too will pass. Humankind has faced even bigger crises before and gotten through them. We’ll get through this one too.
As long as there is life, there is hope. As Christians, even in death there’s hope. We may suffer, but we need not despair. We’re not alone in this.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28, NIV).
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isa. 43:1, NIV).
If you’re worried about emptiness and boredom in the days ahead, these tips should keep you busy—and maybe even happy.