Holding Steady During Quarantine
Considerable research has gone into providing charts, graphs, and diagrams of how we can “flatten the curve,” keep hospitals from being overloaded and prevent a health care catastrophe in our community.
All of this has been very necessary, valuable, and appreciated. Social distancing seems to be working well. In multiple cities and communities, there is a “breaking point” in the health care system that we have been trying desperately to avoid. It is directly tied to available hospital beds, physicians, ventilators, ad protective gear.
However, I would argue that there is another breaking point that needs to be addressed. It is the psychological and emotional breaking point of individuals who are living in complete fear, working at home, homeschooling multiple children, paying mortgages and bills, and trying to keep their heads above water.
I want to address this challenge from my perspective as a pastor and community leader. All human beings have four essential categories of needs: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented stress levels onto all of us.
Physically, many of us are not exercising and find ourselves eating obsessively for comfort. Sleep can be more challenging when we are afraid, and so is maintaining a healthy routine. Alcohol consumption is at an all-time high. Happy hour starts very early at many houses.
Mentally, we are all exhausted. The future is uncertain, life has been disrupted, and there is an overload of data, statistics, and projections. Psychologically speaking, many people are spent, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
Mental health is a serious concern in this environment. Humans beings are social creatures and do not do well with this level of disruption and isolation. Remember, our culture had a loneliness epidemic before this started. Emotionally, we are all over the place. One day we find a glimpse of peace. The next day, kids are driving us crazy and school is canceled for the year.
It is very rare for somebody to stay emotionally consistent in an environment like the one we are in. Just check out social media.
Emotional intelligence is a challenge in normal times, much less in a time of extended quarantine. Marriages are being stressed to the max. Spouses can take out their stress on each other. Counselors will have their hands full. Spiritually, many are lost.
This type of event has never happened in our lifetime. If you don’t have a prayer life or some type of consistent spiritual discipline, now is the time to develop it. Spirituality is not necessarily the same as religion. Spirituality is concerned with matters of the soul, and temperament.
Reactions matter. Prayer matters. Surrender matters. We cannot control this. Simply put, these are not easy times for anybody. Some personality types are handling this far better than others.
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Nicholas Petrie titled “Pressure Does Not Have to Turn into Stress.” Petrie argues, “Pressure is not stress. But the former is converted to the later when you add one ingredient: rumination, the tendency to keep rethinking past or future events, while attaching negative emotion to those thoughts. Of course, leaders must practice reflection – planning for the future or reviewing past lessons – but this is an analytical, short-term process, with positive fallout. Rumination is ongoing and destructive, diminishing your health, productivity, and well-being.”
The article also cites the health problems directly tied to stress and worry. These are real without a pandemic, but especially true right now. Many people get to place where they feel like they are about to “lose it” because of everything that is going on, and because uncertainty abounds.
Nervous breakdowns are real and can upend life. Perhaps now more than ever, self-care and empathy for you and your family is absolutely essential!
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