Maintaining Your Marbles During COVID-19

If you are anything like me, you are starting your days looking for your “marbles”—those elements of clear thinking, emotional steadiness, calm relational clarity, and clear purpose that normally anchor your mental well-being. Yet now we are socially separated with multiple barriers to our normal modes of communication and relationship maintenance.

Weeks ago, we could walk down the hall, respond to questions face-to-face with colleagues, and, importantly, use our social and emotional IQs to read one another’s responses to our communication. We could add a moment of “blowing off steam” or even “taking a breather” along with the actual business of sharing ideas and strategies. We were able to shake a hand, hug our children or grandchildren, share a meal, and worship together under the same shelter. Not now. We’re experiencing isolation.

Anxiety: Social Isolation’s Consequence

A major effect of the social isolation that has enveloped us is anxiety. The separation meant to assure our physical health is taking a definite toll on our emotional and relational well-being. The resulting anxiety is not just the fear of what is real and immediate but also the concern and rumination of what could or will be coming in the future. We do not know what the world will be like as we emerge from the pandemic. I suspect we don’t know how our work or vocations may be altered, how our financial stability or relationships will have changed, or how our personal or faith families might function in a new season of public health etiquette.

We were not built to be isolated: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Jesus was a fan of team ministry: the apostles after Christ’s ascension, Paul and Silas, Timothy and Titus, the Church family. Through the working of the Spirit, the members of the Body of Christ are brought together to live in communities of emotional peace and harmony: families, friendships, congregations, and ministry teams.

Self-Care: Taking Time to Serve Yourself Too

How are you doing during the pandemic? Are you still joyful and calm; or are you uneasy? Might it be time for a little mental health self-care? Not selfish care, but good personal attention to the way we are mentally fit. Consider the following tips to stay sharp, active, effective, and calm, which will help with anxiety:

  • Take care of your body—Stay active; build in daily exercise. Walk, ride a bike, lift light weights for thirty minutes at a time or split into ten- or fifteen-minute segments.
  • Eat nutritionally—Keep your diet to 90 percent veggies and fruits, with red meat limited to one or two servings/week. Choose colorful plants as each color provides special nutrients vital for your immune system. You should be eating eight to thirteen servings (handfuls) of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Rest—This helps your body and emotions. All of us need seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. Your digestive tract, heart, lungs, immune system, and brain are all reset and rebalanced with good nightly rest, supplemented by a few breaks or siestas during the daytime as well.
  • Maintain friendships—Text, email, call, and six-foot-distance converse as often as possible to strengthen relationships. If there were sensitive or hurt feelings, now might be a great opportunity for some confession and forgiveness. Be curious about your friend (or spouse or child). By inquisitive listening, you might realize that you are seeing a conflict from different points of view. Be kind in hearing and forgiving. Invite the Holy Spirit into that conversation. Be there for others.
  • Limit media consumption—Try to reduce the amount of pandemic coverage you are consuming to only five to ten minutes per day, max, and make sure your news sources are legitimate (CDC, FDA). Focus on things you can control, not those you cannot.
  • Maintain a routine—Be consistent about when you get up, eat, and go to bed.
  • Stay in the Word—God speaks to us directly in His Son, Jesus, through His Word. God heals us (physically, emotionally, spiritually) in His Word, so utilize amazing resources for devotions, prayers, and singing the faith to stay connected to Him.
  • Track your mental health—It may be that you are really slipping into an underlying clinical depression or anxiety disorder. If you have a previous episode(s) of depression or anxiety, reconnect immediately with your mental health provider for guidance and medication if necessary. Don’t allow things to spiral out of control. Use your family or a close friend as a sounding board because they probably know better than anyone when you’re “not yourself.” Be proactive and preventative!

Mental health is an integral component of whole health. The mental bone is connected to the physical bone is connected to the spiritual bone. They each affect one another. Intentionally care for your whole being. Be a good steward of your health.

Scripture: ESV®.

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Written by

John D. Eckrich

John D. Eckrich, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist in St. Louis, as well as founder of Grace Place Wellness Ministries, a recognized service organization of the LCMS that is focused on the bodily, mental, and spiritual wellness of professional church workers. He is an author and nationally recognized speaker on health and wellness. His book Family Wellness: Raising Resilient Christ-Purposed Children will be published by CPH late this summer as a wellness resource and textbook for families.

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