We are individual people having a shared experience – we’ve all “been there, done that” …perhaps you’re “there” right now. Where? In that less-than-perfect place where day-to-day life is challenging, your calendar is unrecognizable, your self-care is suffering, you’re afraid of the COVID-19 virus, you’re missing the in-person connections with family and friends, and it just seems like you can’t catch a break.
You’re feeling stressed – you can’t seem to get good, restorative sleep, and your dog (if you had one) ran away from home. Perhaps you’re feeling like YOU want to run away from home! I’ve had days like that…boy, have I had days like that!
Sometimes, it just seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we HAVE to do, let alone tackle those things that we WANT to do…that call at our spirit, pull on our heartstrings, and help us hear the music of life, let alone those things that Spring is supposed to bring to mind – new life, new beginnings, and renewal.
It can be hard to stop the negative thought patterns that pop up unbidden and unwanted – the ones that make you frown internally (or externally), or that only serve to make you feel worse, and especially when we’re facing large-scale challenges like the one we’re living with right now.
Stress is a part of life – no one seems to have found a way to eliminate it entirely, but there are times when that “stress monster” can get completely out of hand. When life seems too hard to handle, it’s time to re-set your center, take back some control, and de-stress your life – even if only for a few minutes.
One way to de-stress and to get back your focus on what’s important is to take time to realize all the good things you have. More than just positive thinking, this practice encourages you to actively consider what’s good in your life. Perhaps you can create an affirmative statement that helps you realize what you have going for you.
The Meaning of Palm Sunday
Since today is Palm Sunday, I also want to mention a significant meaning for the day – Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter – it’s meant to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Palm leaves were laid on the path that he traveled to honor him.
It was the tradition that dignitaries did not cross over a dirt path but instead arrived with the highest honor. Jesus’ arrival over the palm leaves riding on a donkey symbolized his arrival in peace – that he was not coming to wage war, as warriors arrived on horses, not donkeys.
For us, Palm Sunday can signify our desire to welcome to the big changes that have taken place in our lives recently. We’ve had to change our normal routines, our ways of living, and our sphere of travel. We’ve contracted – staying close to home, limiting physical interactions with others, and pulling inward.
Finding Benefit in the Coronavirus Challenges
It’s not all bad, you see – some people are feeling the benefit of being able to work from home and cut down a stressful or time-consuming commute. Saving gas money is a good start toward focusing on the temporary benefits of a coronavirus shutdown.
We have more time in our days, now – taking travel out of our days can give you extra minutes, or even hours, depending on your route and destination. You can learn a new way of doing and being. You can leverage what you’ve learned in other areas to make parts of your life that seemed unrelated benefit from that knowledge.
My affinity for Zoom videoconferences and their increasing use in my life has been made immeasurably easier by the fact that I use Zoom every week for my classes at Starr King. Zoom is an old friend, and more familiar to me than to those who’ve had to ramp up their learning curve and teach themselves (or learn from others) how to use the program.
If you start your journey by putting your energy and time toward good things, looking for the opportunities to learn, to rest, to concentrate, to focus, you can begin anew to affirm (out loud) that you live a complete life – not one that’s incomplete or fractured.
Say it with me: “I live a complete life.”
Now if you’re like most people, there’s a little voice that you just heard after making that positive statement that said something to the effect of “Are you kidding? Don’t you remember all that stuff left on your to-do list, all the things you haven’t gotten to yet? All the stuff you said you WANTED to do, but haven’t finished? All the things that have been canceled, rescheduled, or postponed or just plain stopped? Whaddya mean, a complete life?”
Take just a moment right now, and internally tell that negative voice to “shut up”. Repeat our affirmation one more time, out loud: “I live a complete life.”
Did you notice how it’s impossible to think something negative and say something positive aloud? In the interest of preparing for a new season and for rebirth with the coming of spring, we can bring more positive into our lives and throw out the negative.
Stating positive affirmations out loud is a coping technique I’ve used over and over again to disrupt a negative train of thought and give yourself a break from the negative feelings that often come along with negative thoughts.
Are you a person with a big, giving heart? Perhaps you’re a volunteer, who, pre-coronavirus – spent a good deal of your day or your week focused on the needs of others. Congratulations – you should be proud of yourself for being that helping hand – but given the changes that have happened and continue to be in force in our world today, you also have to know when to step back and focus on what is important to YOU.
This isn’t selfish or self-centered – not at all. If you don’t take care of yourself, if you don’t focus on what’s important to you, you won’t have anything to give to others. You can’t fill others or fulfill your purpose if your tank is always empty.
Take some of the downtime that is a gift of our current situation to make sure you’re restoring and taking care of yourself.
My daughter and I have been taking walks every morning – something we either didn’t or couldn’t seem to make time for when we were both running out of the house to get to our jobs and appointments.
With less commuting time in both of our schedules, we’ve rediscovered the blessing of mother-daughter time, and I know I’ll be sad to change that when things go back to “normal.”
Parents – no matter what age your children are, I’m willing to bet that in your family life, you and your partner or spouse cater to the needs of your children. Whether you’re a parent of human children or a pet parent or a feather baby parent or a fur baby parent, they depend on you to provide for them, support them, and love them.
It’s a role you take seriously, as you should. It’s also a role you are loved for – and you deserve to be loved for all those that you support and assist and help raise.
Time for Yourself Is Essential
You must also recognize that time for yourself is essential. You MUST acknowledge the importance of satisfying your own needs – for rest, for sustenance, for time alone, for joy, for laughter, for silence, for music – for so many other things that make life worth living. If you feel like your life is off balance, know that its okay to pull away from current concerns and find your center.
When you feel a desire for renewal, it may come as a “still, small voice” at first – please take the time to listen to that voice. Ignore that voice long enough or often enough, and it may show up as a SHOUT or a physical crisis that you can’t ignore.
I let my loved ones know that I need a time out. I am happy to have a family that understands the need for balance and glad that they’re willing and able to let me take some time for myself.
Today, I commit to having a balanced life, focusing equally on those I love and myself. I make time to strengthen my own well-being and renewal, knowing that taking care of myself enables me to be all I can be – for myself and those I love.
Boost Yourself into A Renewed Life
Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this, and I’ve got some ideas to choose from that you can adopt and put into practice; use them to put mental and physical burnout behind you and boost yourself into a renewed life as Easter approaches.
- Clean up your diet. When you’re feeling burned out, it can help to eat a healthier diet. Junk food creates more stress and load for your body to deal with, so take it off of your shopping list. Cutting back on your calories and providing quality nutrition to your body will make a positive difference, and you’ll move into the season stronger, leaner, and happier.
- Get more sleep. Working harder or longer isn’t a solution for your burnout. Sometimes, the best option is to call it a night a couple of hours earlier than normal and get some extra rest. Allow yourself to sleep in on the weekends if you need to. Take naps. Rest helps – and just because you are working from home, that doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7.
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is the last thing you need if you’re feeling frazzled. Caffeine stimulates your body and your mind. It can create more challenges than it solves. Take advantage of your lighter schedule to wean yourself off of caffeine slowly to reduce symptoms of withdrawal.
- Meditate. Meditation, listening to relaxing music, praying, or anything else that relaxes your mind can be beneficial. Avoid ruminating over the challenges in your life. Your brain doesn’t get a break unless you create one, so take a break!
- Spend time with people you genuinely like. This has been shown to be one of the best ways to recover from mental burnout. Spending time with someone that makes you smile and feel relaxed can be the best medicine. Discover – or re-discover things about your loved ones that may have gotten lost in your prior busy days. Use some of your time to dive deep and ask deeper questions.
- Evaluate your life. Consider how you can make the best of this situation. Do you need to make some changes at work, a different job, or a more satisfying relationship? Could it help you to speak to a professional? What needs to happen to turn an admittedly difficult situation into an opportunity for growth?
- Laugh. Laughing will always make you feel better. Who’s your funniest friend? Set up a phone call or a Facebook live to connect with them. What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen? Can you rent it or watch it online? How can you make yourself laugh? A night of laughter can provide a mental reset and create a better mood, giving us a more positive view of the challenges that life has handed us.
Taken too far, burnout can become a serious issue. There are many mental and physical health issues that are caused, or made worse, by stress.
We can all benefit by managing our physical and mental health, and making action to care for ourselves a priority. If you’re feeling burned out, take it seriously. Do what you need to do to feel like yourself again. Address your mind, body, and spirit, because as sung by gospel great Hezekiah Walker, “I need you to survive.”
Amen. Ase. Blessed Be.