Article first written for First Presbyterian Church
Last week in this column, I wrote about the stress of a pandemic and the idea that resilience is the ability to withstand and bounce back from such stress. Resilience is about coping with and overcoming stress. There are a number of practical things that you and your family can do to better cope.
As I said last week, finding our hope in our connection to a heavenly father who loves and cares for his children is primary. It is that loving father who tells us to focus on managing today and surrendering the worry of tomorrow to Him. Today belongs to me, tomorrow belongs to God and He WILL take care of it for me.
Further, He tells me to think in healthy ways. There are certain “cognitive errors” (unhealthy thinking) that will add to our stress. These include “probability overestimation” (thinking something is more likely to happen than reasonable); “catastrophizing” (imaging the worst possible outcome), and “all-or-nothing thinking” (seeing things only in extremes). Taking these thoughts captive and replacing them with truth can help to reduce stress.
There is very clear research into exercise and mental health that shows that regular exercise is effective in improving mood and decreasing stress and anxiety. Exercise is like many other things that we try to build into a habit. It is difficult at first, but can become comfortable and even enjoyable when it becomes a regular part of life. Maybe a good thing that can come out of this time is that you become more regular in exercise. Oh, and maybe you focus on its close cousin healthy (balanced) eating. God has created us to function better emotionally, relationally and spiritually when we are care for our physical bodies.
Lastly, stay connected socially. Yes this can be done consistent with social distancing. Get creative here. Parents, find different ways to connect with and enjoy your children (games, projects, the arts, etc.) Be intentionally about reaching out to friends and neighbors. Many are using technology to do so. To fully enjoy relationship connection, you must intentionally be in the moment. Let go of the distraction of future worry. It will wait for you.
The truth is that you can manage stress instead of it managing you. The key is a confidence built upon a solid foundation of connection to God, who is our hope and strength in times of trouble.
Thomas Barbian, Ph.D.
The Christian Counseling Center of First Presbyterian Church
1500 Lady Street
Columbia SC, 29201