Consider a Weekly Mental Health Check-Up
Australia’s Black Dog Institute has created a helpful 6-point check-in to help us regularly evaluate our mental health as this pandemic continues. This article also contains a template and other resources. We invite you to give it a try.
Some St. Lukers Share What They are Doing for Their Mental Health Right Now
Dan Laird’s Whole Health Tips
- Keep to my usual time/routines – sleep, meals, exercise
- Put down the phone and turn off the TV except for normal early evening programming
- Get outside to gardening or for a walk at least an hour each day (weather permitting)
- Daily Office – spend at least 30 minutes a day in prayer, reading the BCP Morning, Noon, or Evening Prayers
I try to focus on the notion that something that seems small can have a big impact in bringing joy to my life. Kind of like a eucharist wafer! I go for a short walk a few times a week. I have started using the Headspace app to meditate. I take warm baths. A small effort can go a long way.
When I find myself lost in “if only” and “what if” thinking, I practice shifting my thoughts to “what is.” Focusing on those things for which I am thankful in the here-and-now moves me away from anxious ruminating. The second thing I do is remind myself that God is effective in things as they are.
I’m trying to re-learn to focus on the things that really matter. We are building legos as a family activity. We are taking daily walks. I’m napping when I can. Overall, I’m trying to listen to my body. If I’m tired, I rest. If I have energy, I try to get things accomplished. It has really become about family, friendships, and our time together.
Daily prayer, meditation and mindfulness practices are very important to me (actually, at any time) but especially in the current times. Being outside is also critical and feeds my soul. Whether it’s hiking, gardening, even mowing. The more physical the better! I even pray and work on my mindfulness skills during these times.
Five and a half days a week, I go out to to work in an essential service. As an intern, I’m not quite a worker and I’m anything but essential. As incoming work slows, people tell stories and laugh at jokes. Several of the people have known each other for decades. Despite the conviviality, I am reminded of how the other half lives.
Each day, I try to spend some time on a long-term project like a puzzle, gardening, or a craft project. Some days, I enjoy playing games with the family. Other days, I need to find a way to spend some time alone. And I remind myself often to be as gentle with myself as I would be to a friend.
Worried about Coronavirus?
One symptom of coronavirus we all have: WORRY. Worries, doubts and anxieties are normal, at times even positive, until they begin to negatively affect our lives. Going through all the “what if’s” and worst-case scenarios doesn’t help and is future oriented – something we cannot control. This can actually increase your chances of getting sick with any virus and can exacerbate existing health problems. Certainly, we can all follow the hygiene guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Feeling empowered and taking action are good antidotes for worry but that does not mean it all goes away. Here are a few tips for dealing with your worries over coronavirus.
- Get moving! Formal exercise is great but not always possible. Go for a walk, do housework, chair stretches and exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR – look it up, it works!).
- Talk to someone. This could be someone you are close to or a professional. Just make sure it’s not someone more stressed out about coronavirus than you!
- Avoid the news.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Humor! Science has proven laughing is good for our health and is a great distraction.
- Be in the present using mindfulness. Again, this doesn’t have to be anything formal. Pay attention to what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. If you are performing a physical activity, pay close attention to the movement and what that feels like. Maybe even describe it out loud.
- Take a few deep breaths. You may be in a place where that is the only option in that moment: in the car, a meeting, church.
Ultimately, we are in God’s hands. The best place we can be! So the last tip you can practice: the Serenity Prayer.
References: HelpGuide.org, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, How to Survive Coronavirus Anxiety: 8 Tips from Mental Health Experts @ Today.com
May is Mental Health Month
Introduction to the Ministry
We are reviving a ministry at St. Luke’s and here are some reflections after our first meeting. Labels and language: all of us move in and out of different environments with their unique vocabularies. During our small group meeting of those of us interested in exploring what mental health issues and resources we might want to make known to the wider congregation, we realized that the labels and language used to describe this field has expanded and evolved. Are we talking about mental illness, mental health, relational health, behavioral health, alcoholism, drug addiction, substance abuse, substance use disorders, mental retardation, developmental delays, or intellectual and developmental disabilities?!! It’s pretty overwhelming.
Then we began to talk about the fact that it’s ALL healthcare, and all healthcare is about behavior change. So, if someone has a new diagnosis of congestive heart failure, a longstanding diagnosis of hypertension, and the recent loss of a lifelong partner, will we not want to take into consideration the whole of it, i.e., what resources/connections might be the most helpful in the immediate situation? What longstanding behaviors will have to change to accommodate these new and dramatic elements in a person’s life?
Since thinking about this totality was exponentially overwhelming, we thought it best to begin with a narrower scope, and focus specifically on mental health resources, continuing to explore what language (behavioral health?) we want to adopt, and what actions (resource list, NAMI Walk, small group education opportunities, etc.) we might want to take.
To our minds, the evolution in general is from either/or thinking to both/and thinking about health: the mind/body dichotomy has been a burden since the early stages of medicine over the past hundred years. Reuniting and expanding them—mental/ emotional/ physical/ spiritual—allows for richer, multidimensional engagement with one another. In my community health center, the overriding goal is to engage our patients in long-term healing relationships. And even when they don’t follow our recommendations, we still want them to come back again. And again. And again. But isn’t that exactly what God invites us into every day?
Our health ministries group, with the current focus on mental health issues, will meet for the second time on Wednesday, March 4th, from 7pm to 8pm in the Kramer Room. Anyone interested in participating is radically welcomed (!) to attend.
Dale Healy, Rebecca Porter, Phillip Bass, Jan Freeman, Helen Svoboda-Barber