Posted in anxiety, faith

Surviving the Pandemic – Dealing With Anxiety

jochabed
Jochebed, Mother of Moses. Circa 1883. Marble. Franklin B. Simmons

We have more than the pandemic to be anxious about today, with protests and riots going on. Anyone listening to, or reading, or watching the news has plenty to be distressed about.

There are three stress responses, flight, fight, and freeze. Freezing is reflexive, a kind of temporary paralysis. When it comes to flight or fight, we choose one or the other. We have to be in a healthy place where we can think rationally about our response. 

I used to have a dream of being chased by a bear. Suddenly I would turn around and face the bear. The bear stopped running and eventually slinked away from me. This has always been a sign to me. If you can’t outrun your enemy, face him.

  • The first thing I do to relieve stress is to get a comprehensive understanding of what is happening. Knowledge tends to be equipping. I listen to a lot of sources to determine what is going on.
  • The very thing I do to alleviate stress, also causes stress and I need to know when to take a break to calm myself, so it follows that I need to know what calms me. What are calming activities for me that I can do safely? Over-eating or consuming anything that alters my mental state is not what I recommend. This is a time, when, more than ever, we need to have optimum health and be mentally alert. How well we cope depends a lot on whether we can calm ourselves.

I once heard advice in a parenting seminar by Al Friesen who explained that we all have an angry “bear” inside us that rises up from time to time and wants to dominate. It is up to us to keep our “bear” in its cage. If we let him loose to do as he pleases, he can do a lot of damage.

I think it was wise to draw attention to the fact that we struggle with destructive emotions and that there is actually another part of us that can exercise control over these emotions. We are not helpless.

  • Next I ask, What can I do to change the situation? The first answer is always, pray. Many times this will calm me. I have seen remarkable answers to prayer. Even if I had not, prayer is a way of aligning with God’s purposes. If I don’t know what to pray, I simply say, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • My secret weapon is reading the Bible. Does anyone ever ask why communist China is so intent on eradicating the Bible? The Bible is a source of strength. The image above is a carving of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. She dared defy the Egyptian edict that Israelite male babies be destroyed and as a result her son delivered a nation from slavery. The Bible is filled with admonitions not to be afraid. It reassures us that God, who created us, will also watch over us, protect us and bless us. There is a condition, however. We must seek truth and righteousness. The God of the Bible is the enemy of the wicked. We can take comfort in this.

The Bible also does another thing for me. It tells me it is no strange thing to be hated for choosing the good. There is no better example of this than the story of the crucifixion of Christ. People who do good can expect to face opposition. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told Herod that it was unlawful for him to take his brother’s wife.

  • I also read stories of men and women who prevailed through incredible hardship and opposition. While some caved under pressure, others, in the same circumstances, prevailed. We can choose suicide. We can choose escape. We can choose a slow form of dying through addictive behaviors that ruin our health and erode our mental capacity. Or we can choose life. To choose life is difficult and requires courage. It is my firm belief that each person is born with a potential to make a difference. Each life has value. The enemy of our souls wants to steal from us our sense of worth and significance on this earth.

I can’t be sure I would choose life if I didn’t have faith in a living, active, caring God. We are in a battle with a real spiritual adversary that wants us to despair of life itself. We cannot afford to give in and allow him to silence us and make us ineffective and destroy us.

The “politically correct” and “cancel culture” people have been after me for generations, only I didn’t have a name for them back then. Two or three years ago I had an all out confrontation and I was in the grip of fear. I took a few steps back and evaluated how I was going to move forward. I knew I had to move forward, but I needed to take time and decide the best way for me to do this.

  • Each of us must take a moment to assess the situation. This is what a first responder will do at the scene of an accident–assess who can be revived, what can be done to help those who can survive, and what should be done first.
  • It takes faith to believe there is an appropriate action for you to take. Initially you may simply need to go up on a mountain by yourself, figuratively speaking, and clear your mind. You may need to get your own personal vision. It could take awhile, possibly years. At various points you will find yourself engaging, in big and small ways, in a battle for truth and life.
  • Support your family. Support those nearest to you. Don’t neglect them. Make space for them. You are the only person in that unique relationship of brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, son, or daughter. Or maybe it is a co-worker, boss or friend you need to support, as well. Imagine a world where everyone took care of their family. Make these close relationships as good as you possibly can.

These are things I prioritize. It is vital for us to learn how to remain calm and composed. We also need to know how to find our way back when we get off track. Remember, calm, rational heads will prevail.

And finally….

  • Know your adversary. Know what they stand for. Get a clear picture. Face the fact that we have a real enemy that seeks to destroy all that is good.
  • Embrace faith. I cannot see a way to win this battle without help from above. We need a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, and to be able to comprehend the “exceeding greatness of HIS power toward us who believe.” (Read Ephesians 1)

We will find courage and strength if we are convinced that we have a purpose and a vital role here on earth. This requires clarity about our beliefs and priorities.

Do the difficult thing. Take action, small or great. Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos, suggests we start by making our bed, daily.

Regroup after battle. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to get it right the first round. Get up, shake off the dust, and start again. Another day means another opportunity.

Posted in Communication, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Home, Love, Marriage & Family

Surviving the Pandemic – 12 Good Things That Have Happened

condo

Good things that have happened because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown:

  1. I’ve slowed down to think. I feel like I have more room to think. It’s like the bookends of my life have moved out. They were pressing in on me. I have more space now. I can take my time, and it’s alright. I’ve been forced off the high speed treadmill of my life. I’ve opted out of the rat race–the crazy habit of busy, busy, busy. The “busy” was in my head. My brain has found a lower gear, now, and I like it.  More “frames” have been added to the movie of my life, stretching out the scenes. It’s not flash/flash to the next scene.
  2. I’ve arranged my house the way I like it. Each room and the balcony give me joy.
  3. With my husband being home, he has learned what it is I do as a writer. He has seen my rhythm and grown to appreciate it. It took awhile for me to ignore him and go about my business. But we settled into a groove of sorts.
  4. I’ve reassessed my role with my grandchildren. I’m taking a more long-term approach and planning games and activities that will not only entertain but prepare them for the future once we can be together again. I’m also realizing that there are stories of my past I need to share with them. Most importantly, they will learn by watching how I interact with them and others and how I live my life.
  5. My husband has learned it is possible to “plan” a once a week grocery shopping trip instead of just hopping over to the grocery store when we need something multiple times a week.
  6. I’ve learned to “tame” my compulsion to go out and I now have a greater appreciation for the activities I am able to do outside the home.
  7. We cut out eating cakes and cookies and ice cream, for the most part, and are consuming healthier food on a daily basis.
  8. We prioritize going for daily walks, even if they are short.
  9. I understand my husband better as a result of being together, working on projects and talking. For example, when I was videotaping his children’s music videos I only suggested improvements when it was absolutely necessary. Otherwise I would suppress his artist instinct.
  10. My husband calls his parents more frequently now and they appreciate it. Previously if we called more than once a week they would be surprised and think there was an emergency.
  11. The biggest conflict we’ve had as a couple has been around watching and listening to news and commentary, and talking about reports. My husband has a much lower tolerance level and over the weeks I’ve learned to adjust. Sometimes I watch when he is not around, or even suggest he go for a walk while I watch. I’ve reduced the amount of conversation time around certain subjects. Our children, like me, want to talk, so we’ve had to modify our conversations around their dad.
  12. I’ve consciously tried to add humor to our days and this has made life more fun.
Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith

Mostly Ignoring the Pandemic

deep pink flowersI’ve poured myself a cup of tea. I’ve watered the flowers on the balcony and finished a few other morning chores. Now I’m ready to sit down and write a little.

I’ve been mostly ignoring the coronavirus pandemic these past weeks. It’s as though I think it’s run its course and has taken up enough of my life. However, it is still around, and I am reminded when I go out. This week I went to Fabricland and needed to wear a mask to enter the store, after waiting in a line outside.covid signsWe made some changes in the bedroom and now I am eager to clean up a few boxes that are still sitting on the floor, so that I can see the new look. The boxes contain files from the last few decades which I need to go through and sort and organize. This is not my favorite task. That’s an understatement. I wish a fairy would just swoop down and touch it with her magic wand and the job would be done. But instead, I will have to toil through it.

As I was thinking about this I looked outside through a crack in the open door to our patio and saw a hummingbird lingering above the petunias in our hanging basket. It was so lovely and reassuring. God cares for the birds and the flowers and he will care for me.

Earlier I couldn’t find my phone. I looked everywhere and then I said a little prayer and immediately I saw just the edge of my phone peeking out from under a blanket on the sofa. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had exactly this experience when I’ve looked for something. Almost before my prayer is spoken, I have the answer and I find the thing I am looking for in an unexpected place.

It doesn’t happen every time. When I don’t get an answer to my prayer, or don’t get the answer I want, all I can do is wait and see what will come next. Last week I exhausted all the places I could look for an item. My husband suggested it might be in our storage room which is in the underground parking area. He went to look, and sure enough, it was there. All the praying and looking I could do would never help me find it until I went down there.

I’m forever trying to discover the reasoning or logic behind answered and unanswered prayers. There isn’t really a formula, I’ve learned. It seems this whole process is about just that–the process. In other words, what happens as a result of asking and seeking.

I don’t know if anyone else has this kind of personal experience around finding things, but for me finding things when I need them is really important. That is why I don’t want to throw out my papers. One day I will need to find something I have in those boxes. For example, yesterday I found a selection of songs I wrote before I was married. As I looked through the songs I noticed that they were in the wrong sequence in the notebook. The songs were dated a few years earlier than the entries before them. I must have copied them from notes, at a later date. It occurred to me that the New Testament books, recorded around 80 AD, were most likely also a collection of notes taken over years and compiled at a later time.

On Sunday our son and his wife were over for a BBQ. For the first time, ever, my son sat down at the piano and began to play around on it. He probably sat there for half an hour. He’s a computer programmer. Maybe he thought he could unlock the code to the piano. Or maybe he’s creating a piano app. I’d love it if he persisted but of course I didn’t urge him, because some things are so delicate you can destroy them if you talk about them.

bear treeWe went for our customary walk after dinner. It’s precious how our son and his wife have made a point of inviting us out for a walk every weekend since COVID-19 began. At first it was a “distancing” walk. Now we are more relaxed.

We video-chatted with our other son on Saturday. Our youngest grandchild has learned how to drive a bike this past month and yesterday he showed off how he could ride a scooter, lifting one leg. It’s not quite like being there, but it’s so fun to be able to share these moments. They had a few fireworks for that day–the 4th of July–and lit a some small ones for us.

Last Monday a friend invited me to go for a walk in a local park. It was a gorgeous day. The rest of the week we had rain, so sunshine this weekend was especially appreciated.red maple close upThe news continues to disturb me when I read or watch various reports. I don’t write much about news on this website but use my tinafriesen.com blog for occasional commentary on news.

This morning in my Bible reading I read about King Solomon building the temple in Jerusalem. Does anyone else ever think about God’s design? I think about it all the time. Not only the plan for the tabernacle and the temple, but how everything else in nature works together so perfectly.

We finally received a long awaited personal update from Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life. It sounds like he is finally on the other side of an unbearably harrowing experience trying to get off of benzodiazepine. Incidentally, thinkspot has an interesting, and somewhat disturbing, for me, June 15 article entitled, Why People Hate Jordan Peterson so Much.

Although there are objections to the Bible, most people accept the teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If the world only lived by these words.