If you stop and think about it, life is all about change and how you adapt to it. You change your clothes daily; you change your bedsheets less often and you change your residence even less. Some changes we choose. These changes are often easier to adapt to. Some changes happen to us and are, by nature, harder to adjust to.
A couple of weeks ago, a sudden change took hold of the entire world. This sudden loss of freedom and ability to function normally in our daily lives caused inconveniences for some and severe trauma for others. However, these changes impact you, as a grief counselor I recommend the following survival tips to transform your personal outlook. May they give you hope and a guide until our shelter in place is lifted.
Tip 1: Reestablish order with a new daily routine
When we are in a crisis, we cannot deal with anything emotional until we have our basic physiological needs and safety needs are taken care of. These include things such as shelter, safety, sleeping, exercise, eating, and routine. If you need support with shelter, safety or food please reach out for help! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Our leadership team will do our best to connect you with a resource.
In addition to reaching out for support reestablish order in your life with a daily routine. Consider this:
“There is a huge body of scientific research to explain the mechanism by which routine enables difficult things to become easy…As we repeatedly do a certain task the neurons or nerve cells make new connections through communication gateways called synapsis. With repetition, the synapses strengthen, and it becomes easier for the brain to activate them” (McKeown, 2014).
Try this! Investing in creating a routine will allow you to have the time and mental strength to take small steps toward being emotionally healthier. Daniel had a routine of praying three times a day. Consider taking this opportunity to grow in your prayer life and time in the word. For example:
- 8am wake up
- 9am facetime mom while having breakfast
- 10am read my bible
- 11am work in my garden etc.
Tip 2 Reset your Expectations by Casting Your Cares on the Lord
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). I know this may seem obvious, but many of us skip over the “cast your cares” part of this verse and wait for God to “sustain” and “not let us be shaken.” We need to remember that it takes our action of casting our cares on the Lord in order to receive this beautiful promise of being sustained. Take a cue from David who calls out to God whenever he faces trouble.
Try this! Write down all your “cares” onto different pieces of paper. Read each paper out loud as you pray and cast them at the Lord’s feet. Throw them away to symbolize that you are free from thinking about them anymore as they are no longer yours. Don’t stop here! When we cast our cares we must replace them with something good.
Tip 3 Remember Your Foundation by Meditating on God’s Character and Promises
There is a reason that the practice of mindfulness has become so popular…because it works! Fear and anxiety can keep us from enjoying the presents that we find in the present, the gifts that are available to us right now. Did you know that mindfulness comes from the Bible? The Bible calls this practice meditation. It is putting into practice Philippians 4:8-9.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
As we refocus our thoughts on the excellent or praiseworthy things, we must move from our thoughts (verse 8) into our actions (verse 9). Reflecting on what is good is the beginning of doing what is good.
Research shows that people who keep a gratitude journal or express gratitude verbally grow a significant increase in happiness and a reduction in depression. Anything we feed with our energy will grow. It may seem artificial at first, but when we deliberately cultivate gratitude, we will gradually become grateful people. It is okay to start small (Siegel & Bryson, 2013; Southwick & Charney, 2012; Leaf, 2012).
Try this! Write down at least 5 things that you are grateful for each day. When the week is over, read your list to yourself aloud.
Tip 4: Renew Your Identity from a New Perspective
“Bend your head straight down and see how it impairs your viewpoint. With your head in this bent position, you can only see yourself. Your eyes get focused on you, your limitations, your circumstances, and your lack of resources, and you feel like a victim, defeated and overwhelmed” (Reimer, 2016).
Dr. Reimer uses this exercise to help show the readers of his book Soul Care that when we focus on ourselves the outcome is feeling like a victim. If your eyes are fixed on yourself, your circumstances start to look very defeating. Therefore, we must stop looking down and start looking outside of ourselves, start thinking about ourselves less. David sees the same giant the Israelites see and believes that God CAN handle Goliath. Try to look at the giant the way David did for just a moment and see if your emotions follow your new perspective.
Try This! Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, create purpose during your home time. What is one thing you always wanted to do but never had time to accomplish? This purpose will become a welcome distraction during feeling isolated and will cultivate a grateful heart within you. Take small steps toward your new goal such as getting more sleep. For example:
- Set up a regular calming bedtime routine with a bath and soothing music.
- Go to bed by a set time.
- If you are having a hard time falling asleep, journal, pray and lay for at least 20 minutes before returning to reading. Then try to sleep again after 30 minutes or when feeling drowsy.
Tip 5 Restore Hope for What is Ahead
Our brain activates the same neurons whether we are actually experiencing an event or we are just imagining experiencing it. This means that, at a certain level, our brains do not know the difference between an imagined event and reality. For this reason, let’s create a mental picture of you successfully navigating this time of confinement.
Try this: Let yourself dream. Ask yourself, when I get through this time of social isolation what 10 things do I most look forward to? Let’s set our dream of the future in a location where we can remember to pray for our nation’s health and have hope for our futures. After praying make sure to then realign your focus to the gift of the present moment. Resume the daily routine you created and try to accomplish one small step toward your goal during this home time.
Having supportive practices and people around you will give you the encouragement that your experience is normal and that you are not alone. Reconnection with God and others is one of the most important aspects of self-care and resiliency.
Try this! Connect with friends and family even over the phone, email, letters, Facetime or skype. You can also find support online through Facebook groups. I want you to have FREE access to all my Facebook Live “RESTORED” teachings about grief and loss - available immediately, no purchase required.
I pray this over each of you today, “May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…may the message of Christ dwell among you richly…may you experience singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, may it all be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17).
Excerpted with permission from “RESTORED: A Self-Paced Grief Workbook for Your Journey from Loss to Life”, by Marilyn Willis, copyright Marilyn Willis.