As the COVID-19 virus reaches most of our cities and towns, it’s important to step back and recognize the impact this ordeal has on our mental and spiritual health. As an educator, presvytera and also someone who is immune compromised due to recently completing chemotherapy for Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I’m acutely aware of the anxiety, stress and worry a pandemic of this proportion has wrought on many individuals and families.
When things feel unsure or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed. There is growing uncertainty and information (both good and bad) pouring in from every stream of social media and the news. It’s important to focus on the things we can control in times of uncertainty.
LET’S CONTROL WHAT WE CAN
PRAY – First of all, take time each day to stop, breathe and pray. This is the time for us to lean into our faith and allow the peace of God to settle in our hearts remembering St. Paul’s words:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
WASH HANDS – Yes, we don’t need gallons of sanitizer, just simply wash your hands with soap and warm water. (Say the Lord’s Prayer for the full 20 secs)
HEALTHY CHOICES – Now more than ever, it’s important to drink plenty of water, take your vitamins, get adequate sleep and make healthy food choices. Get outside, exercise and take a walk.
LIMIT CONSUMPTION OF NEWS – Hours and hours on Facebook or watching the news all day, will surely bring more stress and worry to our lives. Turn off the T.V. and limit screen time.
TIME: Time is precious. As many schools are closing, this gives us extra time with children and grand-children to engage and connect. Take advantage of this opportunity for meaningful conversations and activities. Download the Family Dinner Challenge questions and activate “Love at Lent” where children complete a special task each day.
RECOGNIZING THE IMPACT ON OUR CHURCH COMMUNITY: Our churches are not only a place of worship but a place of fellowship and community. Sadly, this pandemic is dramatically impacting our lives as we experience limits to public gatherings, even for churches. This is necessary to protect us all from the spread of this potential deadly virus – especially greatly impacting the elderly and those who are immune compromised. Check to see if services from your church are being live streamed. We can receive great comfort in hearing the hymns and prayers of the Divine Liturgy as well as our beautiful weekday Lenten services.
IF YOU ARE SICK – Stay home Do what is right and sit tight. To self-quarantine is the most responsible, unselfish and important thing you can do if you are not feeling well.
REACH OUT – Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Consider taking a meal or reaching out to someone who lives alone. Make sure you are checking in on parents, aunts, uncles and others who might need companionship. It’s important to gather together as community in smaller groups. It’s especially necessary to reach out to those in your neighborhood or church family who may not have relatives nearby. Go ahead, call someone and invite them to go on a walk. If you know an elderly person in a nursing home – especially where they are not accepting visitors -write them a letter of encouragement.
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
STAY IN THE PRESENT: Let’s challenge one another to not be worried about what might happen in the next two weeks or months. Stay focused on the present and being the best possible version of yourself now. As we take these daily precautions keep in mind – It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about us. If we protect all, we protect those at the greatest risk.
HUMILITY, PATIENCE and LOVE – May we put into practice the words of the Lenten prayer of St. Ephrem, “Grant me the spirit of Humility, Patience and Love.” Let us continue to humbly pray for one another, be patient in all things, and reach out with love.