5 Faith-filled Coping Strategies to Help During Social Distancing

posted by Bethel Care & Compassion | Mar 23, 2020

by Jessica Wallace

Have you noticed a spike in your stress or anxiety because of recent events? The news on COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, has us all in some state of anxiety, worry, or fear. Staying centered on Christ might feel harder these days, as you navigate a new normal, whether that is working from home, working from home while watching your kids, or you might have lost your source of income due to shutdowns of local businesses. It’s easy to worry. We are human and worrying seems to come with the territory. Thankfully, we serve an unshakeable God who is always present and always able. In light of the steadfastness of God, I want you to know that however you feel about your current situation is okay. Anxiety in a situation that is unknown and ever-changing is normal and expected. Many times in the bible, people are told, “do not fear” because, well, they were afraid. Fear, anxiety, depression, sadness - these are all normal human reactions to the sufferings of this world. God is not disappointed by your anxiety or surprised by your fear or sadness. In fact, God desires to draw near to you however you feel right now – what a wonderful invitation!

That sounds nice, right? Drawing near to God in your moment of need. However, if you are dealing with a completely unknown and overwhelming new normal and your anxiety is sky-rocketing, drawing near to God is often easier said than done. How can you cope with this bombardment of emotions enough to bring your requests to God?

Practicing Silence

One of the greatest secrets of those who walk closely with God is the practice of solitude. In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg writes, “the capacity to do nothing is actually evidence of a lot of spiritual growth…in solitude we liberate ourselves from the pressure of the world.” Finding yourself alone, working from home, social distancing from friends and relatives, this could be a time to practice solitude. Not soul-crushing solitude where you feel lonely and distressed and binge-watch your favorite TV show, but soul-freeing solitude where you connect presently with your soul and God to find rest. Remember, God rested after creating the world. How are you “resting” in this season?

Silence can be a great gift. Find a way to sit silently for five to ten minutes a day. Take some deep breaths, feel the air filling your lungs and then exiting through your mouth or nose. Try doing this on the front end of your prayer time. Just a few extra minutes of silence to connect with your soul, search your emotions, and rest before the Lord. Take it a step further and try some deep breathing exercises, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety, and improve the immune system (DiSalvo, 2017). One of my favorites is 4-7-8 breathing, breathe in for four counts, hold it for seven counts, and breathe out, pushing the air through pursed lips, for eight counts. Doing this several times a time will help you feel more present and able to connect with your own emotions and with God in prayer. Abide, an app you can find in the app store, releases daily scripture meditations that play along with soothing music, and the two-minute version is free.

Go Outside
Jesus often wandered off into the hills for prayer and solitude. We can connect with God through nature. What a blessing that we get to practice social distancing in March instead of January. Take a break and go for a walk. Move your work station outside for the afternoon. You always have talked about starting a garden, order seeds online and get to it! Find a way to be outside every day in God’s creation, whether it’s in your backyard, around your neighborhood, or at the park (practicing proper social distancing etiquette, of course). This can be a sanity saver with kids and you might just find yourself noticing things you wouldn’t have otherwise with little ones along. Take time to notice the twigs in the grass, dandelions that invaded your yard overnight, or watch the bugs march across the sidewalk.

Connect with Others
We were created for community. But how do you do community in the given circumstances? Social media might feel like an easy way to connect, but is it life giving and affirming? Working with a new normal calls for creativity. Close the social media app, stop reading the news, and call someone. Schedule a daily video call with a loved one. Drive by a friend’s house and call from the car, waving through the window while you talk. Pick up a coffee or take out and leave it on their porch while you chat over the phone or yell across the driveway. Start a weekly prayer video call with your friends or family. Many of our small groups are meeting online, including several of our Healing & Recovery groups. Now, more than ever, intentionally in connecting with others is so important. Get creative, stay connected. If you need someone to talk to, you can reach out to our Pastor on Call at (509) 378-7795 or you can email Dale Shaver, Pastoral Care Director, or Jessica Wallace, Healing & Recovery Coordinator and mental health counselor.

Practice Self-Care
Many of the strategies already listed could fall into the self-care category. Self-care is not all golf games and spa days, self-care is simply “putting yourself on the list”. You put loved ones on the list, such as children, parents, and friends. There are other people you take care of, but are you taking care of yourself? Did you eat breakfast? Get up and start your day with a somewhat-normal routine? The gym is closed, but maybe you can dust off that old bike in the garage. Here is a list of ideas for self-care activities that can feed your soul and increase your capacity to love others well:
  • Take an online course and learn something new
  • Cook a nice meal
  • Read a book
  • Stick with your morning routine
  • Get in physical exercise – bike, walk, find online workout videos
  • Dig into a new bible study
  • Limit social media and news
  • Find funny memes and send them to your friends and family
  • Keep your daily devotional time (or create a new routine)
Jesus took care of his own needs. He stepped away when he needed a minute and often participated in non-religious activities, like eating with friends, spending time with children, and parties with non-religious types. His ministry was busy, filled with meeting others’ needs. Jesus took time for self-care, and we should too. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but having a plan to take care of yourself means you will be in a better state of mind to love others well.

Be Grateful
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Gratitude might seem hard in a season of unknown. What can you embrace right now and be thankful for? Take a moment to think of three things you are grateful for, and then give thanks to God. One thing I’m grateful for is technology. I’m grateful for the ability to still participate in church every Sunday, even if my surroundings look different. I’m thankful for this unexpected blessing of extra time with my kids. I’m encouraged to see the church responding to this crisis locally and globally, serving and loving one another and those in need. Call someone up and tell them how you appreciate them. Start a gratitude journal and see how your perspective shifts. End each day with a prayer of thanks.

This pandemic can feel overwhelming and disorienting. We worry about the safety and health of our loved ones, the security of our jobs, and the unknowns of the future. All of that is out of our control. Thankfully, we aren’t in this alone. Last time I checked there were millions of Americans staying home and practicing social distancing. There are millions of Christians around the world praying and encouraging one another to be the church in this global crisis. You are not alone. Jesus is near. Reach out for help, call a friend, email me! We will get through this together.

References
Abide. https://abide.co

Ortberg, J. (2014). Soul Keeping. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

DiSalvo, D. (2017, Nov 29). How breathing calms your brain and other science-based benefits of controlled breathing. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/11/29/how-breathing-calms-your-brain-and-other-science-based-benefits-of-controlled-breathing/#e88568622219

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