How will you continue to navigate this season?
March 8 was the first Sunday that many churches throughout the world went online for worship in an effort to avoid in-person worship during the outbreak of COVID-19. As of the date of this article, that was less than 150 days ago.
In less than 150 days, we have watched the changes in our world in altering states of disbelief and resignation. Disbelief that a virus could make this sort of an impact. Resignation that things we had hoped for are not going to happen. Disbelief that we are in a situation of higher numbers AND more unrest. Resignation that we as individuals have very little say in how things are handled.
It has been nearly 150 days since I first wrote on grief and the difficult season to navigate continues.
Impact On Caring Professions
For those called to caring professions (pastoral, teaching, mental health, medical professionals, etc.), these emotions can hit even harder because we feel them for ourselves and for those for whom we are responsible. We are facing temptation to fight back against them by keeping busy and producing more.
In the time when our world needs caring professionals most, caring professions seem most expendable.
I typically see this play out one of 2 ways for people in caring professions; the sprinting jester, and the workhorse with blinders.
Sprinting jester performs as required, in many different facets. In fact, they are often thrown into unfamiliar situations and expected to perform to their usual caliber, no matter the circumstance.
The jester is assigned the job of being aware of everyone’s emotions and to play off of them, engaging everyone in distractions. The sprinting jester will do all of these things at breakneck speed, hoping to continue to be needed enough that the monarch would not order their dismissal.
A workhorse continues to work the field in front of them, no matter the conditions. When they are put to their field, they work.
They keep themselves busy with what they can understand and focus on with as little emotion involved as possible. Their blinders help them to not get distracted by change or emotions, but they also prevent them from observing the changing landscape until the required change is directly in front of them.
It Is About Survival
Both of these categories are about survival. They are both valid responses to the same trauma, which also means that neither of them is wrong.
We are all in survival mode right now, because there is no other way to be. We still don’t know how to do this, which means we still don’t always know how to care for ourselves or others through this. Honestly, that is the problem. We are trying to muscle through this on grit or hustle alone, and not paying attention to our own needs.
The great lie of “hustle” is that it hangs our worth on productivity.
That attitude will steal our joy before we know it is happening because productivity has to look different right now. Everyone’s context is different, but there are some universal things we can do right now that will help us navigate this season in front of us.
Tools To Navigate This Season
Be clear about your motives.
Did you take on that extra role at work because “this can’t go on THAT much longer, right?” Now here you are four months later with extra work and the same, or maybe less pay. Did you decline to cancel that trip because there are people who make you feel silly for being concerned about virus spread?
Look at your current situation and be honest with yourself about the motives which took you there. Motives that are out of fear and guilt will not serve you well.
Listen to your body.
Your body is telling you so many things right now. Not able to sleep at night? Perhaps your brain needs greater challenges during the day. Are you sleeping at night but waking up tired? Maybe your sleep is not restful because you struggle to learn how to shut it off at the end of the day.
Listening to your body and understanding your own needs are key to you caring for yourself right now. If you’ve never done this, here is a simple exercise.
Sit upright but comfortable in a chair, feet on the floor with your leg muscles relaxed. Lay your hands in your lap or the arms of the chair, wherever they are comfortable. Now breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. As you continue to do so, really pay attention to your feet.
Are they relaxed? What do you feel under them? How are your calves? When you try to relax them, where else do you feel muscles responding? Let your consciousness rise up through the rest of your body to your mind, taking stock of every feeling and emotion along the way.
What is your body trying to say to you?
Be honest about your limits.
Hear me, friends, it is IMPOSSIBLE to measure your pre-COVID productivity with what you are producing now. You are not the same person you were. Every endeavor will take at least twice the effort now as it did pre-COVID, so stop holding yourself to that level of productivity.
The person who holds themselves or others to the same or higher level of productivity is the person who denies their own emotions and the emotional need of others.
Yes, it is hot. It’s summer. The sun wakes up parts of your mind that endless video chats put to sleep. Wear some sunscreen and a hat, drink plenty of water, and get yourself some sunshine.
When you find yourself scrolling mindlessly on a social media app, try this: S.T.O.P.
- [S]top scrolling
- [T]ake stock of what you are consuming
- [O]bserve your motives and what you are getting out of it.
Is it getting you to a better place? Helping you unplug? Is it out of boredom? Is it creating more of a trap for yourself and your guilt over productivity? Does it make you feel lonelier?
- [P]roceed. If it is making you happy or fulfilling a need, keep scrolling. If not, find another activity that will build you up. And let go of what other people say because you know you and you deserve to be cared for.
The thing that people need to understand now more than ever is that none of us are who we were 150 days ago. Use the methods to personally navigate this season. Give yourself room to grieve, take a break, change your expectations of yourself and others. Refuse the “hustle” mindset and invest in knowing yourself better than ever. If not now, then when?
Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida and operates Anchored Counseling. Kelly is currently taking new clients and can be reached via email. In addition to her work in counseling and the local church youth ministry, Kelly has been an advocate for youth involvement within the Florida Annual Conference of the UMC.