Thrive Through the COVID-19 Season
By: Carol Montgomery, MFT
I really believe that time is a gift. How we steward that gift can make it feel like a stocking full of coal or something incredibly positive and life-giving.
How about using this time to attend to the other parts of the “self” we often don’t have time for? Let’s think about controlling the controllables. When things feel out of control, it is helpful to remember there are things in our power.
First, it is so important to learn how to just be still and content, so I don’t want to encourage another type of pressure to be busy. However, structure tends to be good for us. It sort of keeps the guardrails on the highway. Here are just a few of the millions of ideas out there that might strengthen different parts of the self. Find ideas to try, set a timer for five minutes and get started because action creates motivation (not the other way around).
The physical self. I love that so many people are out walking. Make personal walking goals for each day. Walk faster, longer, earlier, etc. Even if it is raining, bundle up and enjoy the cool crisp air for a walk around the block. You can lift weights with all those cans in your pantry, watch yoga or workout programs on YouTube. Ride a bike, jog, or walk the dog. Drink more water, try new recipes, and take care of the temple. How about a home spa day? Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Create a daily schedule and stick to it.
The emotional/mental health self. Most therapists are offering “telehealth” or “telemedicine” meetings so you don’t have to miss valuable time there. Self-help books are online, on Amazon and other bookstore retailers, and most likely on your bookshelf. If you haven’t already, watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to see how an emotionally and spiritually healthy person responds to life. Fred Rodger’s peacefulness allows him to be present with anyone and everyone no matter how much chaos is around him. His ability to show self-respect and respect for others, regardless of situation or age, results in his leading without others feeling controlled. Take steps to increase your emotional intelligence. You can journal, write letters you don’t send (and then shred them), ask for forgiveness, and practice being truly present with others and yourself (mindfulness). Check your breathing and slow it down to practice staying out of the fight/flight/freeze side of the nervous system. Identify and regulate your emotions. Do some “plank removal” (Luke 6:42). Keep an eye on your thoughts so that you can correct catastrophic thinking, all or nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, fortune-telling, or any other distortions. And be sure to laugh. Find some comedy to watch or listen to.
The spiritual self. One of my favorites is The One Year Bible where you are provided with daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm, and a Proverb. (Feel free to ask me how I journal and pray along with my reading plan). Or pick a book of the Bible to read very slowly, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal a daily inspiration or direction from the Living Word. Use your life journal, pull a devotional or bible study book off of the shelf. Practice a new spiritual discipline like listening prayer, fasting, intercessory prayer, meditation, or scripture memorization. Read a Christian classic from one of the greats like C.S. Lewis or Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The relational self. Who is on your mind that you haven’t had a chance to call, text, email, or write a letter to? Do it! Have you had a chance to check on your neighbors? Who can you bless?
The academic self. What have you been curious about but never had the time to pursue? Watch documentaries, research a topic of interest, begin learning a new language or instrument? Free tutorials are readily available. Read some of those books you’ve heard are fantastic.
The creative self. This is a limitless category that is often neglected when we are busy. Write, paint, sketch, design, redecorate, sew, knit, stitch, quilt, bullet journal, gardening, photography, make balloon animals, woodworking, refinish or build furniture, cooking and grilling, build a model something, tinker with a motor (a small unplugged appliance, not necessarily your car), or make playdough! Download a playlist or tune into a radio or Pandora station you love. Music is such a gift. Scents are also one of the quickest ways to change a state of mind. Find what you like, i.e. cinnamon, citrus, flowers, fresh linen and visit that pleasant fragrance often.
The vocational self. What will make you a smarter, better, more efficient employee? Beef up the resume? Reach out to a mentor or offer to be one. Work on a new certification, watch a continuing education video, read leadership books and blogs, or listen to podcasts.
The recreational self. This is the playful and maybe competitive part of you. Play some games inside and outside. Practice dribbling the basketball, corn hole, bocce ball, your golf swing or putting, play cards, or Yahtzee. Have fun.
The financial self. Is it time to organize your finances? Take a financial planning class, write a new budget, think of new ways to be generous, organize receipts track spending, research investments, establish or update a trust or will.
The external self. Think about the spaces around you that could use a little attention…that closet you have been meaning to get to, the garden you intended to grow or refresh, that room you’ve been wanting to paint, organize tools or utensils, dust or clean, or a fence that needs attention. Detail your car or do that for someone else. How about that garage? Make your spaces what you want them to be.
Remember, find ideas to try, set a timer for five minutes and get started because action creates motivation (not the other way around).
Start new habits and design a life that reflects the person God created you to be.
Stay safe and healthy,