Timely articles on mental health issues and spirituality
As I sit down to write this, the world is counting down the days (or even hours and minutes!) until we say goodbye to the year 2020. Perhaps many of us are actually saying “good riddance” to a year that has seen so many challenges?
Wherever you find yourself, a new year typically brings about the sense of a fresh start, or perhaps renewed purpose. But, what about the year 2021? Are things really going to feel that different once the ball in Times Square has dropped and we officially turn the page in our calendars? It’s a tricky question. There is hope and encouragement in the fight against COVID with the vaccine being approved and distribution happening. But let’s face it, we are bringing some serious baggage with us from 2020 and we may not feel “up” for setting resolutions, goals, or intentions as perhaps we normally would. Here’s the thing....if this is you, it’s okay! And, dare I say, to be expected. We have, collectively, spent the last 10 months surviving a global pandemic after all.
When humans experience significant stress, we go into “survival mode”. When this happens, our brain sends a signal to our body to produce stress hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. God gifted us these stress hormones as a protection. When we encounter a danger, the release of stress hormones in our body enacts the fight or flight response, which allows us to effectively respond to the situation at hand. But what about the chronic stress we’ve experienced in a year like 2020? No...the smoke alarm hasn’t been going off for 10 straight months, but we have existed at a heightened state of awareness and arousal for an extended period of time now. We are weary. Those stress hormones aren’t going to just go away because there is a new date on the calendar.
So, as we enter the new year and you ponder where to focus your energy, I challenge you to consider the following. This may not be the time to set lofty expectations for yourself, or others around you. Maybe you will run a big race, make big gains in business, or finally break that habit. Maybe you will excel in school or on your sports team. And, if those things happen, that is wonderful and to be celebrated! But, if those things don’t happen, that’s okay. Just getting through the days right now in a physically and emotionally healthy place is a really big win! Perhaps the dawn of 2021 is a time to slow down, embrace the hope of a new beginning, and focus on recovering from the stress of this past year.
Don’t go it alone in 2021. Even though we cannot be physically close to one another yet, we can still be present for one another in many other ways. One of my favorite quotes by Shannon Adler says, When “I” is replaced by “We”, Illness becomes Wellness. Reach out, connect, simplify, get outside, rest, pray, create, read, seek counsel, dig into the Word. Remember the Sabbath. Send the note, make the call, take a walk, cook a meal, put down the phone, dial back your media exposure. Get back to basics in 2021. Connect with God, your own health, and with one another in the ways that you safely can. The rest will come with time. Right now, focus on how you can be kind to yourself and others as we move toward recovery with the hope of brighter days ahead.
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. -Romans 8:25
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
Laura Dempsey is a licensed social worker and therapist with nearly 20 years of experience counseling children and families.