Today we welcome Hannah Chittick.
Emerging from Lockdown: Emotional Health and Well-being
I felt stirred to write about our emotional health as we come out of lockdown. Is anyone else finding this phase has its own distinct challenges? It’s not the same as lockdown, nor is it a return to any kind of the ‘normality’ that we knew before the pandemic. The boundary lines keep shifting and there are still so many questions left hanging unanswered, about how life is going to look as we live alongside covid-19.
How are you reacting to this time of lockdown easing? I use the word ‘reacting’ because it’s not always a straightforward, easily recognisable emotion, e.g. sad, happy, angry.
What if our emotional reaction manifests itself, not in a feeling that we can identify, but in a sense of agitation and perhaps physical symptoms such as exhaustion, foggy headedness, restlessness, weird heart rhythms, mysterious aches and pains? Are we even aware that these symptoms may be related to our emotional response/process?
I ask this, because despite my own previous experience of working within community mental health -it has taken me weeks to understand that what I have been (and still am) experiencing through this time, is my body’s response to the lockdown easing phase.
I think sometimes as Christians we can feel ashamed to admit how life really is, especially if it’s not looking like we’re doing great and conquering all. Satan has a shame agenda to keep us silent and therefore separated in our relationships to others and to God. This is exactly what he did in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened and they hid away from God, ashamed of their nakedness (Genesis 3). But God did not withdraw from them, he was still looking for them. Then He clothed them with coverings (the animal skins) that he made. It foretells the story of Jesus Christ, a life sacrificed for us, to clothe us and cover us.
The truth is that this side of heaven, we’re all on a journey and, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” because we are clothed in his righteousness (Romans 8:1, NIV; Isaiah 61:10). So, with this as our basis, let’s be free ask, listen and share our experiences in this time. There is no shame, and it may help us to recognise what is going on and bring us reassurance that we’re not the only one feeling out of sorts right now.
I have found coming out of lockdown stressful and anxiety provoking! The thought of my kids returning to school in September is rather overwhelming at times. Others of you may be experiencing relief that lockdown is over, or restlessness at living in a weird limbo time. Some will be dealing with bereavements or loss of job or income.
I am mindful that no one person has the same journey, nor will they react in the same way because we are unique in the way we perceive and experience life. But we can ask, listen and share -and if we’re unsure how to respond to someone’s honest answer, simply say: “I don’t know what to say, but can I pray for you?” and then invite the Holy Spirit to come.
This season has brought incredible God given opportunities to connect more deeply with our fellow human beings. To ask open-ended questions (e.g. “How are you doing right now? What are your experiences of this time?”) and to break the ice by sharing our experience too. Often, we can set the tone through our own honest sharing, then others feel safe to share their reality with us.
I’m not just talking about doing this within our church family or with relatives and friends, but perhaps we’ll have opportunities to outreach and connect more deeply with colleagues, school-run mums, with people! In her book ‘Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love and Lead’, Brené Brown states that vulnerability with one another is the only way to build deeper, closer relationships (and that’s coming from a Professor with years of research that point in an unarguable way to the power of vulnerability).
I have had the privilege over these last few months, of being in a couple of church-based zoom meetings where everyone shared very honestly about how they were doing, both men and women! It was medicine to my soul. It is so important to connect in this way. It can not only help to build-up the church body, but it’s also really good for our emotional well-being. It brings to mind the poetry of Psalm 133 (NIV):
“How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.”
I love this: “For there the Lord bestows his blessing” -and a promise of life! So, even with less meetings as a church, let’s not disconnect this summer. We all need a time of rest and refreshment, and in taking those opportunities to ask, listen and share how we are all doing, this can be a key part of helping us to find emotional health and well-being through this time.
Thanks Hannah, this is so helpful.