In the midst of these stressful and unprecedented times, I find myself oscillating between wanting to make good choices for myself and living in “survival mode.” Trying to juggle 2 kids under the age of 3, while working full-time from home, pastoring in 2 different church communities, and re-enrolling in seminary (to fulfill ordination requirements), has felt like a lot in this time.
I am having to cook more meals, do more laundry, and sanitize/clean way more than ever before. I am feeling the pressure of “being productive” in ministry while structures for church work are rapidly changing. I am dealing with more middle-of-the-night wakeups, toddle meltdowns, marital stress, financial setbacks, and increasing levels of grief over all the ripple effects of coronavirus. And yet, I continue to think about all those who do not have many of the luxuries and privileges that I have, those who are vulnerable and suffering, and I can feel overwhelmed by the suffering and even guilty fo complaining.
After a very tiring day yesterday, I had a moment at around 8pm where I genuinely wrestled with whether or not to exercise, do more work, drink wine and watch Korean dramas, or go to bed. (I chose the wine and K-drama).
But as I thought about all the ways that it feels hard to cope, I was reminded of the various tools that God has given me, over the years to care for my own soul. Rather than feeling the need to take on a bunch of new disciplines or set a bunch of new habits, I am returning to the things that have been proven resources for me over the years.
A FEW RESOURCES FOR SOUL CARE:
- Daily Examen: While it may feel hard to take time for this, spending just 5–10 minutes daily in reflection can help keep me grounded and actually remember what each day held. Take time to name what you are grateful for, where you close to or far from God, the consolations and desolations in each day. Daily Examen can be a helpful practice for this, and it’s helpful to do it at night at the end of a day, or first thing I the morning as you look back and look forward. I have been doing this at the end of the day, while pumping before bed. For more on Examen you can click here.
- Daily Prayer: In these times, it my feel hard to find the words to pray. There’s so much to pray for, it can feel overwhelming. Praying the Divine Offices, at set times in the day, using prayers that have been prayed by the Church universal over generations, can be helpful for this. Do it before each meal. Light a candle as you pray. Set a regular rhythm of prayer into your day, as moments to pause and reset. I like to use the Celtic Daily Prayer resource, or Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours. You can also use this covid-19 daily prayer calendar by Dominique Gilliard.
- Weekly Sabbath: While it may feel strange to take a Sabbath if you are working from home or you are unemployed at the moment, making space (even in these unique times) to cease from work, to rest your soul, and to reconnect with God is even more important in this time. As a parent with two small kids with no child care currently, it may seem impossible. But Michael and I have tried to keep our usual Sabbath day (Friday) and split the day so that I can observe Sabbath time in the mornings and he can observe Sabbath time in the afternoon. Even if for a few hours, it’ been nice to turn off my phone, journal, and go for a long walk outside to reflect and pray. I’ve also been trying to eat a nice meal and savor it. Here’s a short and simple Sabbath guide.
- Express grief: This past week, our church actually talked about the season of grief that we are in, collectively. This article was helpful for naming the reality of grief, but we also took time for people to write down the things they are grieving in this time. You may use this grief journaling resource (and adapt it as needed). Take time to say the things you are grieving out loud, and pour salt into water as you read each one, as a symbol of your tears and lament. Physically break something (in a safe and contained place). Find a safe person to actually cry with. Know that all of our lives have been changed or impacted in some way, so take some time to name and express those realities.
- Move your body. I am generally a very stiff, sore, and inflexible person. In this time, I am realizing the importance of movement, so I am trying to walk daily. You may use that time of walking to pray and intercede, or you may just try to be present as you walk- noticing what’s around you, the smells and sights you are observing, and how your body feels. Here’s a walking meditation guide from the Franciscan order that is helpful. I’ve also been doing yoga, using Youtube channels (I have been enjoying Sara Beth Yoga). Take breaks every hour, just to get up, shake out your body, and stretch. If you’re a parent, you can do some movement using online worship videos or kids’ yoga. We’ve had this song and this song on repeat in the mornings and have done lots of Cosmic Kids Yoga.
- Practice Mindfulness and Breathing. This is an area of growth for me. I do not have a regular practice of mindfulness or breathing. But in the past, I have used the 4–7–8 breathing technique as a way to ease stress and focus on breathing. My friend who is psychologist has shared practices of mindfulness using the 5 senses, as a way to be present to the moment by engaging different aspects of your body. Sometimes, I like to just light a candle and sit for a few moments, just being still and watching the flame. I have also used the Centering Prayer app to set times to just sit, be present, and center myself on a particular word or image. You may also check out the Headspace or Calm apps.
While this may all feel like a lot, even more me, I am trying to not to make “goals” or “lists” of things to do, and instead am trying to turn to these practices like tools in a tool belt in these times. I certainly have made unhealthy choices in this time (so much cookie and spam consumption for me!) but hope that we all can turn to simple tools that give us life and breath amidst the chaos.
What rituals or rhythms have been helpful for you in these times?