Mental Health · Short-term/Acute Illness

Ideas for Cultivating Peace and Joy, Even Right Now

I originally wrote this as a way of caring for the nurses on one of the units I serve as a chaplain resident. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are at the very front of the lines. We are perhaps the most acutely aware of how our bodies affect other bodies (and how others’ affect ours, if we are in a higher-risk group) during this time, and many of us are not working from home because this is when people need us the most. Many of us are scared, even if we don’t want to admit it, so I tried to channel my fear into helpfulness.

You are facing a lot, some of it expected and some of it unexpected. You are trying to figure out how to work during this time and how to keep patients calm when perhaps you aren’t experiencing as much calm in your heart as you’d like to be. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and stressful, perhaps even scary. Your feelings are valid. It can be hard to maintain strong mental health and resilience during times like this. Here are some of the activities I’ve discovered are helpful for me – perhaps they can be helpful to you too.

  • Each night, write down 3 things and 3 people you are grateful for. This is a technique from positive psychology that’s been shown to increase joy over time. My cousin and I text each other our gratitude each day as a way of holding each other accountable to this small habit and sharing this moment of positivity. 
  • Journal and let yourself feel your feelings fully. When we have to be calm presences for others when we don’t feel calm ourselves, it can be exhausting. When you go home, let yourself feel the feelings fully and then write them down. See if that can help you move through them. You may want a dialogue partner after you journal. I’m here for you if you need one.
  • Video chat your loved ones rather than just calling or texting them. This is an unprecedentedly lonely and isolating time. We’re not able to have as much physical contact or gatherings with people we enjoy spending time with. Some of our friends and family members are in isolation, either because they are sick or are afraid of getting sick. Being together, even virtually, is more important now than ever. Talk about your truths.
  • Pray, meditate, practice deep breathing, do yoga, have some silent time, watch “calming scenery” or cute animal videos on YouTube, discover a religious service online, or listen to instrumental music. Find some activities that slow you down and give you a kind of spaciousness that you don’t experience most of the day.
  • Watch mindless and (almost) drama-free television shows. I personally love cooking and baking shows like The Great British Baking Show and Sugar Rush. I also love Lego Masters and other building shows. Laughter is also really important right now, so if you have a favorite comedian, it might be a good time to watch one of their specials. I personally love John Mulaney. 
  • Enjoy free resources that are now online. Museums are putting up virtual tours. Music institutions are putting up recordings of operas and symphonies. Zoos and aquariums have more live animal cameras. More and more people are trying to build opportunities to learn and feel connected, even when we cannot be as connected as we’d like. 
  • As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Amidst a time when we’re frustrated that people took the last pack of toilet paper or box of frozen pizza, look for stories of neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. Think about the people who are dropping off groceries for their loved ones who are in isolation. Think about the people who are opening up their homes to other people’s children so that their parents can continue to go to work. Think about the video clip from Italy where people are singing together from their respective homes in order to provide a greater sense of community and togetherness. What is it that you can to do become a helper at work and outside of work?
  • Sleep. Really. Sleep extra. Nap if you need to. Lie down when you’re exhausted. Take good care of yourself and stay home when you don’t feel well. 
  • Go outside and move around. Keep doing some physical activity. It’s good for us. (We know the biological reasons why, but I know that it can be hard to practice sometimes, still.)
  • Avoid spending more than 20 minutes on social media or news sites looking up the newest COVID-19 information. You’ll learn what you need to know in other ways, and looking at the charts of its spread around the world and the country does nothing good for your soul.
  • Remember that you can only control as much as you control. You cannot guarantee that others will practice proper social distancing or isolating, even if you encourage them to. You cannot guarantee that others will wash their hands properly, even if you tell them how. You can do what you can do, and others may learn from your example.
  • Love and give compassion to others and yourself fiercely. 
Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash.

You are not alone. You are cared for. You are valuable. I am grateful for each of you. Hang tight.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

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