Finding Peace in Times of Uncertainty
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
These are interesting times, aren’t they? To feel in control of the situation, I tried to learn everything I could about COVID-19 and coronaviruses. Unfortunately, this was not a good thing for me to do. I was watching TV news at all hours of the day and night and keeping my eye on the constantly changing graphic that showed cases and deaths worldwide and nationally. I was looking up things on the internet, including all of the research studies I could find. I was looking at postings on Facebook—some informative and some simply false. I was not sleeping because I was either reading or watching things about COVID-19 or worrying about what I had just read or watched. I guess the best way to put it is that I was obsessed with it for a while. You may not have gone to the extremes that I did, but nearly everyone who I have talked to has expressed fear about what is happening—When will I be able to go back to work? When can I see my family again? What has happened to my retirement account? How am I going to be able to pay for next month’s rent or groceries or medication? Will I get sick? Will someone I love get sick? Yes, these are uncertain times.
There are things that we can do to reduce the anxiety, worry, fear associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of these are from personal experience and some are things that I have learned from others.
Turn off the TV
You don’t have to stop watching TV completely, but try to avoid non-stop viewing of the 24-hour news channels. Set a limit for how much time you will watch COVID-19 related stories and stick to it.
Limit social media exposure
It is easy to get wrapped up in a social media platform like Facebook. Please know that not everything that you read on social media is factual. I still look at it, but I only look at things that make me happy.
Watch a movie
It is great to get lost in a good movie. It can help you escape from what is happening in the real world.
Read a book
Books can take you to another place and time. I have many books stored on my Kindle that have been waiting to be read. I have also discovered Audiobooks and have found that I enjoy them.
Get enough sleep
Getting restful sleep makes you feel better, strengthens your immune system, and prepares you to take on the challenges of the day. Develop a bedtime routine that works for you. Examples include: no screen time (TV, e-reader, computer, phone) after a certain time in the evening, take a warm bath before bedtime, no food within an hour of bedtime, use lavender essential oil on your pillow or in a diffuser to relax you, listen to comforting sounds (rainfall, ocean waves, babbling brook, white noise) at bedtime.
Getting a breath of fresh air can do wonders. I have never seen so many people outside as I have these past couple of weeks! Go for a walk, sit outside in a chair, go for a ride in the car and roll the windows down, do some work in your yard.
You can exercise inside or outside. It feels good to get the blood pumping. Don’t exercise? Consider just going for a walk to the end of the block. I have seen several online sources that are hosting virtual exercise classes that you can take part in—everything from yoga to Zumba. Find what works for you.
Eat healthy foods
At times like these, it is easy to turn to comfort foods—ice cream, chocolate, bread, bakery products…you get the idea. Try to limit the amount of these foods as much as you can. Pick up fresh produce when you go to the grocery store!
Return to a hobby that you haven’t had time for
I have some watercolor supplies in a cabinet that I haven’t touched for some time—since I am at home most of the time, now is the time to try it again. Don’t have a hobby? Find something that interests you. There are tutorials on just about anything that you can imagine on YouTube—crocheting, knitting, woodworking, painting… Give it a try. Maybe you’ll find something that you love.
Use the internet to help you
I have been amazed at all of the things that are available on the internet for free right now! Have you always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel? You can do it online! How about Anne Frank’s house? Yup, you can take a virtual tour. Have you always wanted to learn Spanish? You can find a free site online to help with that. Have you wanted to visit NASA? That’s right—virtual tours are available. Was it your dream to get into Harvard or another prestigious college? You can take free online classes from Harvard and several other colleges. Then you can tell people you took classes from Harvard!
Connect with someone else—by phone, FaceTime, e-mail
Stay in touch with family and friends. Check on your neighbors. Arrange for a FaceTime call with your grandchildren or grandparents. You can call me if you’d like!
Find things for which to be thankful
On the days that I go for walks, I find three things that bring me joy and for which I am thankful. For example, one day it was crocuses pushing up through the earth in someone’s yard; kids laughing and rolling down the hill in their yard with their dad; someone who left chalk messages along the trail, “Have a nice walk!” “Shine” and several others. You don’t have to go outside to find things to be thankful for—just look around your home or in your memories.
I know this is last on my list, but it is the most important. Give your worries, your anxiety, and your fears to the Lord. He wants them! He is willing to relieve you of the burdens you are carrying. He is the one person that I will allow to take control.
A Prayer for Our Uncertain Times
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.
Fr. Michael Graham, S.J.
Question of the Month: In what ways can emotional stress affect your health in other areas of your life?