(Also in this weekend’s bulletin)
HINTS ON HANDLING
- It’s alright to feel anxiety and stress given the pandemic’s threatening and unpredictable nature. It’s a perfect recipe for stress. So it’s normal to be sad, stressed, confused and scared. It would be more worrying if we were not.
- The challenge is how to manage the stress and anxiety so that they don’t cause physical illness, such as headaches, stomach aches and poor sleep.
- Stress and anxiety are not the same thing. Stress is a reaction to an external trigger like bad news. Anxiety, frequently caused by stress, is a deeper, often longer-lasting mental health condition.
- The constant reruns in our heads of worries such as “what if we can’t get to the bank?” or “what if there’s not enough food?” need to be interrupted. These can be called “circuit-breakers”: for example, talking to friends and family, listening to music, reading fiction, gardening, meditation, cooking and embroidery. We each need to find our circuit-breakers!
- It is important not to be a “news junkie” by being obsessive about what’s on the news about the pandemic. You could, for example, take the decision to limit how often you look at the news to once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. This way, you stay informed but limit the damage that can be caused by constantly feeding on bad news.
- Try and respect the social distancing but also overcome it by keeping in touch in new ways. In Italy, people are singing across the square to each other from their balconies! Try and use the new media technology. Avoid giving up and saying, “I’m too old to learn that.” Get help as best you can. Learning something new is a good way of de-stressing, too,
- Keep an eye out for those you know. People’s vulnerabilities can emerge at times like this, so keep an eye out to see if someone you know suddenly starts smoking or drinking or engaging in other risky behaviours.
- Don’t bottle things up. If you need to cry, then do it, preferably on the shoulder of someone you love. If you need to express your anger, try and sit down and talk it out: why am I angry? What can I realistically do about its causes? How can I transform it into something positive and life-giving?
- Affirm your spirituality. In the Christian tradition, the people of God has faced plagues and pandemics before. Just look at the Psalms. Many of them are laments! As such, they deal with life experience of the kind we are experiencing now. Our faith brings its own lens through which to see the pandemic in perspective.
- Be compassionate and forgiving. It seems obvious to say this but anxiety and stress can lead to barriers going up. Avoid them. Don’t shame people who are infectious with the virus. Affirm the mental health needs of the elderly, who may be dealing with high levels of worry.
- Be kind to yourself. Be easy on yourself and you will be available for others. This may not be the ideal time to go on a diet or clean out the files or read the history of the world. To offer comfort to others, this is the time to take comfort in the books, food and routines we enjoy. Be open to new perspectives. Older people may have much to learn from younger people just now. Keep in touch with family and friends.
- Keep things in perspective. While we must realistically face what is before us, it will pass.
(A summary of remarks made by Sister Maryanne Loughry, a Sister of Mercy from Australia, in an article in “Global Sisters Report” of the National Catholic Reporter, 17 April 2020)