It's no mystery that there's a lot going on in our worlds today. Racial unrest. Political upheaval. Virtual learning. Oh, and a continuing global pandemic, too. We are inundated with information, unconsciously tasked with the duty that society puts on us to form an opinion about it, and then called to ruthlessly defend our perspective because goodness knows you just have to take a stance on everything right now. Is it any wonder our souls are weary? It isn't shocking that we can literally feel our bodies shutting down.
After the events of last week, I thought long and hard about how to process heavy doses of media and information in a way that nourishes rather than ravages the soul. Here we share four steps for how to process in a pandemic when your soul feels too tired to do anything but weep.
One of the best ways to begin processing what is happening in the world around us is to simply step back and observe. When the media comes at us rapid-fire, we can feel immediately compelled to lash out and formulate an opinion without first garnishing all of the facts. In the first moments of a crisis event (where we are not active but rather passive participants), it can be necessary to simply to step out of social media and away from our phones, and simply make our own personal observations about the situation as it unfolds. To formulate an objective evaluation, we might start by simply stating the following four W's. Who does the crisis involve? What is happening? Where is it occurring? Why is it happening now? You might also consider how this impacts you on a personal level. News flash. Not everything that happens in our society has to merit a physical, spiritual or emotional response from us. We can give ourselves permission not to respond, or to not respond just yet.
While you are making these observations, consider checking in on your body, mind and spirit. How are you physically feeling? Is there tightness in your chest? Is your stomach in knots? Is your brain feeling clouded by the fog of uncertainty? Do you feel close to or distant from God? As my favorite yoga instructor says, "Notice what you're noticing." Take a step back and glean what you can not only from your environment, but from your physical and spiritual being as well.
Not everything that happens in our society has to merit a physical, spiritual or emotional response from us. We can give ourselves permission not to respond, or to not respond just yet.
After taking time to make our observations, we can now begin the process of naming what we are experiencing and how we feel. Journaling is a great tool to utilize. You might consider jotting down the four W's mentioned above. Identify the who, what, where, and why. Then, next to each one, name an emotion that you feel in response. For example, if you are watching a march for women's rights, how does your own identity in relationship to this group make you feel? You might name an emotion such as optimistic or proud. Where the event is occurring might evoke a different response. Perhaps if the march is in Washington D.C. and you live in San Diego, you might feel helpless or even envious in response. At any rate, once you "notice what you're noticing," write it down and name your thoughts and feelings as an additional means of drawing your own personal conclusions about the crisis event.
Once you have taken adequate time to name your thoughts and feelings, you may find it necessary to plan for self-care. If you feel angry, worried, ashamed or burnt out, those are all emotions that may require next steps in order for us to stay healthy and integrated as individuals processing a crisis event. For instance, if the news is making you angry, a form of self-care might be instituting a social media detox over the course of an evening or several days. If you feel worried, you might draw upon scripture to guide you and ground you in God's loving kindness as you process through any anxiety that may exist. Self-care can be not picking up the phone to process the event with your neighbor, going to bed early, a long bath or a good book. It might be saying no to a prior commitment or changing up a lesson you had intended to teach the next day in class. Don't limit yourself here. Listen to your body, mind and spirit and ask God to reveal to you what you need most.
If you feel angry, worried, ashamed or burnt out, those are all emotions that may require next steps in order for us to stay healthy and integrated as individuals processing a crisis event.
Pray and Rest
Remember that in God's kingdom, there are no surprises. There are no "unprecedented" events. Once you have allowed yourself to make your own observations, name your own thoughts and feelings, and institute appropriate self-care, give yourself permission to give this to God and trust him to handle the rest. Just as under-processing our emotions can be unhealthy, over-processing what is happening around us can be detrimental to our overall health and well-being as well. Let go and let God. He's got this and He's got you.
Linger a Little Longer:
1. Which of the aforementioned steps is the most difficult for you as you process the current pandemic or other events that are occurring around you? Where do you find your greatest strength?
2. Consider a practice of daily journaling as a means of self-care. How could naming the four W's and identifying a corresponding emotion help you process what is happening in our world at this time?
3. How do you feel after reading this post? Do you feel encouraged? Frustrated? Empowered? Alone? Practice noticing what you're noticing in your body, mind and spirit at this very moment. Make this a habitual check-in during these long pandemic-riddled days.