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Mental Health and the Coronavirus Pandemic: Tips to Nourish Spirit, Soul, and Body

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By Dr. Lisa Steiner, Wellsprings Counseling Center

Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Anxious. Inconvenienced. Interpersonally stressed. These are some of the descriptor words that I have recently heard from residents in New York/New Jersey during the Coronavirus pandemic. From parents who are now homeschooling; to families who have never spent this much time together at home; to individuals who have lost their jobs; to couples who are looking to the other to pick up the extra responsibility, the Coronavirus pandemic has clearly pushed many of us past our limits. In the midst of this, many Christians are wondering, “God, how come You are allowing this?”

Could God be bringing all of us back home for a higher reason? Could He be like the goldsmith who turns up the heat to reveal the dross in our lives that needs to be removed by Him? Could our jobs have become the wrong emphasis of our lives such that we lost the focus on our family? Could God be preparing us for revival as more people are seeking Him during this pandemic? Could we be experiencing the intensity of end times? Regardless of the “why” this is happening, it is essential for us to focus on “how” can we successfully navigate through this. How can we leverage this storm to fly higher like the eagles do?

As we follow the “stay at home” order and the local government guidelines on how to protect ourselves during this pandemic, we need to remember that we are three-part beings (spirit, soul, and body), and we need to actively nourish all three. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • For our spiritual care, most churches are now live streaming their weekly church services and then storing them on their websites. Our choices of Christian messages to listen to has now expanded exponentially. Use this time to tap into these plentiful resources.
  • Regarding our body care, a simple walk around your block can do wonders during this season. Breathing in fresh air can be refreshing, and exposure to the sun allows our bodies to produce vitamin D. For more rigorous exercise, do a Google search on “online workouts 2020,” and you can pick routines that fit your family’s needs.
  • For soul care, we need to tend to our minds, emotions, and free will. Philippians 4:8 provides us with an eight-point gatekeeping guideline for our minds. We are to think on things that are: (a) true; (b) honest; (c) just; (d) pure; (e) lovely; (f) good report; (g) virtuous; and (h) praiseworthy. When a thought contrary to these eight guidelines enters our minds, 2 Corinthians 10:5 exhorts us to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” In counseling, we call this process “thought stopping,” where individuals are encouraged to visualize a red stop sign when distressful thoughts enter their minds. “Thought stopping” is coupled with “thought replacing,” where negative thoughts are replaced with encouraging beliefs. Romans 12:2 reminds us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Meditating on Scripture is an excellent “thought replacing” resource. During this pandemic, we want to stay informed through reliable sources like local government authorities. However, we need to balance this with avoiding too much exposure to upsetting news that discusses the pandemic repeatedly.
  • Our emotions usually follow our thought life. If our thoughts are sad, we will feel depressed; if our thoughts are scary, we will feel fear; if our thoughts are positive, we will feel happy. Then, our feelings are the fuel that ignites our behavior. Therefore, our self-scripts contribute to how we feel. Self-scripts usually come in three flavors: (a) I am; (b) I can; or (c) I will. Use this time to stop and replace your negative self-scripts with positive ones, such as with the following Scriptures or thoughts: “I am a child of God”; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”; or “I will trust in God during this pandemic.” When you find yourself emotionally flooded during this pandemic, take time to unwind and remind yourself that these strong feelings will fade as you meditate on something positive.
  • Free will is our ability to act with our own discretion. Our actions will be fueled by how we feel, which is based on the thoughts we have been thinking. Our actions then trigger the people around us. This means, if one family member focuses on the care of their spirit, soul, and body during this pandemic, s/he can positively influence the atmosphere at home. During this pandemic, connect with others who are calming, and avoid individuals who catastrophize.

Some of us who attempt to implement the above may realize that additional support is needed, especially if we have a loved one who has been negatively affected by the Coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines on stress and coping during the Coronavirus pandemic:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is providing a Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. If you, or someone you care about, has thoughts of harming self or others, call 911. Furthermore, many professional counselors (including ours at Wellsprings Counseling Center) are available via teletherapy—mental health services that are provided from the comforts of home via technology. During this pandemic, most insurance companies are providing the same coverage for teletherapy as they have been for in-office counseling.

Dr. Lisa Steiner, Ph.D., LPC, LMHC, is the Leader of Wellsprings Counseling Center, LLC.