Mental Health and Social Distancing: Practical Tools in Tumultuous Times
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2)
Our culture continues to change rapidly. As an Indiana stay-at-home order became effective Tuesday (3/24) at midnight, it is important that we, as a church family, consider its implications. Social distancing is no longer a recommendation for us. It has temporarily become a way of life. Short of trips out for necessities, no in-person connectivity with those other than our immediate family is likely for at least the next few weeks. Because of this, I believe it wise that we take a hard step back and consider our spiritual, emotional, and mental health and well-being through the lens of our faith in Jesus and his sustaining work in tumultuous times such as these.
Even in the best of one’s life circumstances, it is easy to slip out of a Christ-centered mindset, and into the mindset of the material world right before our eyes. If we are being honest, much of that material world is a pretty scary and uncertain place right now. These are unprecedented events in an increasingly unprecedented time with no fully perceivable end in sight. There has been no other event so extreme in nearly all of our lifetimes.
In isolated and anxious circumstances much less tense than these, it may seem God is distant; maybe even uninvolved. It is increasingly easy to be swept up in the intensity of this global dilemma and forget or neglect that we press on toward a heavenly goal of rest, security, and unending, confident love from an ever-present God (Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1-2). It is all too easy to remove our focus on the saving work of Jesus and live as though God is not sovereign or in control, or perhaps even that he is not real at all. Thoughts like these can shake our faith, and result in uncertainty—spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
While the number of positive COVID-19 tests and the number of related deaths draw attention each day, there are a number of other lesser recognized statistics that are becoming concerning as these events proceed. Namely, in countries where the virus has been prevalent for a longer period of time, issues such as hopelessness, depression, and anxiety/worry are on a steady rise. There have already been a number of confirmed suicides due to fear of quarantine. Those in the psychological community have begun to study similar, historical events (The Great Depression; World War II; the SARS epidemic) and the period of economic recovery that follows, and generating predictive models to discern the number of, as well as how to prevent a spike in, suicide(s). 1 What is undeniable is that we are seeing that this is having a tremendous effect on the global populace.
While not being alarmist, my goal in drawing this to our attention is to create awareness and vigilance. I hope for us to have a proactive culture of care in our homes and digital communities where, through the lens of our faith in Christ and the strength he provides, our church weathers this crisis with a minimally negative effect on our spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being. I assure you: this is a very real concern. None of us are immune to the effects of lengthy isolation. It is natural to go a little “stir crazy.” There are many, from pre-teens to adults, who already struggle with faith and the healthy tension it brings (Hebrews 11:1), as well as the emotional complexities of depression, anxiety, and fear.
In an effort to care for you and get ahead of this, I’ve put a series of recommendations together to help those of us who may be vulnerable to take proactive steps, as well as equip those of you (parents; spouses) who may or will be caring for those who battle in this way.
Most people, from children to adults, live a fairly routine life. Between scheduled school, work, extracurriculars, and church events like Verge, Awana, and Small Groups, our day-to-day life is fairly predictable. This routine serves us well in meeting our daily obligations and breeds helpful anticipation of what extra time we have for rest, leisure, projects, etc.
It is my strongest encouragement to you to form a routine. Do not completely disregard the former rhythms of life. Massive disruptions to one’s schedule are likely to exaggerate feelings of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. As such, keep as many components of your previous routine as possible. Where you can, build in a few enhancements to your schedule. Here are a few practical recommendations for you (and your family) to consider:
The more of these scheduling basics you can utilize, the more rhythmic and seamless this new normal will be, and the less likely it is that you or your loved ones will be left feeling disjointed, resulting in troublesome thoughts or emotions.
Finally, if you find that you or a family member, friend, or loved one are struggling, there are a lot of emerging resources for help in this era of social distancing. Reach out to me or another staff person directly. Or fill out this form. This confidential intake form comes directly to me. From there, Bethel’s Counseling and Care team will reach out to help equip you with the best counsel and resource(s) to meet you in your time of need. Please: do not hesitate to reach out.
Church family and friends – I cannot encourage you enough to heed these considerations. Think of them like proverbs: general principles that when applied yield a desirable result. It is these basic things that promise to make all the difference in our spiritual, emotional, and mental health in the days ahead. Know that you are prayed for and loved. May God bless your efforts as you apply these things in your home.
|↑1||“Will COVID-19 Make the Suicide Crisis Worse?” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/acquainted-the-night/202003/will-covid-19-make-the-suicide-crisis-worse|
|↑2||“The FOMO is Real. How Social Media Increases Depression and Loneliness.” https://www.healthline.com/health-news/social-media-use-increases-depression-and-loneliness|