Maybe it’s having the kids home full time. Maybe it’s the threat of no more meat, milk, or toilet paper. Maybe it’s the never ending messages about covid or the constant changes that accompany the virus. I’m not sure about you, but corona seems to own my time these days. It used to be meetings and the schedules of my children that owned my time. These days it is leading a team through constant change while managing expectations and needs of my family. I’ve spoken with a handful of other leaders and parents about the issue and I’ve heard a common theme as we’ve shared. Feeling suffocated, feeling guilt, feeling exhausted, and feeling like there is no peace. Trouble is, these are thoughts and feelings we had before corona, so what’s the difference? I’m guessing it has something to do with control. We can’t control this.
Several years ago my husband and I were on a cruise down in the southern Caribbean and, like many newlyweds, we saved a few bucks by going at the start of hurricane season. About day three the winds picked up and the announcement came, “We’re going to steer around the hurricane, but we will still feel the affects of the winds. Please return to your cabins until we’ve safely passed.” After a couple of hours my husband and I went on a search to find Dramamine. If you’ve ever been on cruise, you know the hustle and bustle that often accompanies the common areas. Instead, we found a ghost town on the promenade deck, and perhaps more disturbing was the shiny gray duck tape they’d used to secure things in the walkways, doors, and on everything not already fastened to the floor. It was like we were moving, but it wasn’t our house being packed up. We returned obediently to our 10×10 room only to watch the waves splash over the top of our balcony, and all the drawers in that tiny room slide out and onto the floor. My husband went straight for the bed. It was the only thing secured in the cabin. I tried to stand, but ended up sitting on the floor, with my back propped against the bed. My husband was already feeling the effects of the Dramamine, and I was sitting there angry. The least they could do was to tell us how long this was going to last. I picked up the phone because I wanted an answer…
Fast forward to today. We’ve been quarantined to our homes until we’re told it is safe to come back out, and we want answers. We want to know how long this will last. If we can predict the timeline then we can hold our breath. If we can find answers then we can solve the problem. We are strong enough to white knuckle our way through this if we just have a timeline and some answers. Trouble is, we don’t have answers, and we don’t know how long. We’re out of control, and we don’t like it.
Some turn to Netflix binging during this time. Others turn to excessive social media or following the news. Some exercise more to release the anxiety or tension. Others eat more to calm their nerves. Our tendency as humans is to find a way to control or to at least comfort ourselves in the midst of adversity. Our bodies don’t like pain, so it finds ways to protect it. Our minds don’t like to feel out of control so we strive to keep them busy. Our hearts never like feeling a lack of peace, so we seek comfort. The question is: are these methods healthy? Will these methods make us stronger on the other side of corona? Pause for a moment and ask yourself if what you’re doing to find peace, comfort, and control is sustainable. (I’m asking this with ghiradelli dark chocolate brownie breath, by the way, so I already know my answer…)
We’ve already posted on healthy ways to handle stress during this time, so maybe we need to address the softer side of this issue. I know, I know, people who white knuckle want practical solutions for positive change, not a discussion of the intangibles. But my guess is you already know healthy coping mechanisms by now. We’ve shared about them and so have hundreds of others. Thankfully people are slowly lifting out of scarcity mode and into strength as a collective whole. But what about that peace we want? What about that control we crave? What about that anxiety we feel in the middle of it all?
I love to teach the compassion fatigue training we offer, partly because it is a reminder to me of how to care for myself in the midst of helping others. But there is this one segment included in the training that reviews qualities of a “stress resistant” person. Drawing from that list and thinking about this issue of peace, I thought maybe I should ask our readers a more introspective question. Maybe we need to ask ourselves where we look to for peace? Are we looking at our ability to control as our way to find peace? If we can control it, then we will have peace about it? Are we looking externally for peace? Do we look to the safety of routine to give us peace? Maybe that’s why we lack so much of it… Because corona reminds us that we really can’t control our surroundings. Now, before you leave me because this is becoming too soft or too deep, hear me out.
Perhaps we need to look at where we are looking for peace, and focus on what we really can control instead of manufacturing control over our environment and masking our modern day comforts as feeling peace. Read that again.
As you probably know, I’m a person of faith, so I find my solid footing in God. Even when I momentarily look for a good brownie or other form of dark chocolate, I know where to really find my security. I can’t look for it in controlling my surroundings, because when corona hits my world goes wrong. I can’t look for it in addictive substances, including sugar, because addictions always leave us craving more. And I can’t look for it in having answers and developing my next list of plans, because during times like this change happens too fast and white kncuckling leaves me overworked and exhausted.
So what can we do? Perhaps we need to go back to the basics. For me, it’s faith and pausing to refocus my thoughts. For me, it’s remembering scriptures like the one that came to life on my recent trip to Israel as I stared at the vast mountains and landscape. It says, “You are my Rock. My Redeemer. My ever present help in times of trouble.” I am also reminded of the verses that say, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock my fortress. I will not be shaken… He is my refuge.” When I saw the rocks and mountains in Israel where many scriptures like these were written it gave me a whole new appreciation for what “rock” and “refuge” mean. Much like the Grand Canyon, that landscape of Masada reminded me how massively strong God is. It was a visual reminder that God is steady in the midst of change and unrest. We can’t see faith. We can’t measure it. But my word, we can tell when we’re leaning on it and we can certainly feel the impact of looking at the storm instead of the One who calms the storm.
Does having faith mean we don’t ever feel out of control? Gosh, no. Does reading and meditating on scripture mean I don’t feel anxious at times? Not at all. Does it mean I just stop planning and wanting answers? I wish. But what it does do is lead me beside still waters in my soul. And when I feel rest in my soul, regardless of the circumstances, then healthy “coping strategies” allow me see from a fresh view, rather than temporarily mask how I feel. All of a sudden instead of white knuckling my way around the corner during a walk, I pause to look at the clouds and notice the blue skies. Instead of gripping for control as I walk, I feel the chilly air and soak in the fresh breath it brings. Instead of scrolling through my phone for answers I notice the vibrance of the spring time flowers outside. Just this morning, as I paused I heard the birds chirping out my window, and when I looked at them play in the water on my pool cover I was reminded that are not giving a care about corona. When I am busy planning or fretting about the next thing, I miss the beauty in the present.
So instead of bearing down and white knuckling through this, losing my peace and then finding myself in the hamster wheel seeking comfort, I pause. I remember where I find my steady. I adjust my thoughts away from the fret of what if and how come. I’m reminded to look at a watching world and know that all of us at Care to Change have been called to be helpers in the midst of this. This is our time to reach for those who feel like they are drowning. We don’t have time to worry and fret. We have work to do. We must steady ourselves and move forward.
I’m inviting you to pause and find your steady today. If you’ve read this far, maybe you’ve already felt your breath or maybe you’ve wondered more about what your steady might be. Whatever you do, evaluate if what you’re doing now will get you where you want to be on the other side of this. And, if the answer is no, give yourself permission to look for a different way. To reach out. To take a step toward that freedom and peace you want, regardless of the situation with corona.
If you are having excessive anxiety and can’t find your peace, if you’re feeling suffocated during this, please know Care to Change is ready to help. We have professionals who can walk with you to find practical solutions but perhaps more importantly, can help you find your source of strength during this time of unknown. Call us today. 317-790-9396.
April Bordeau is Care to Change’s director, and a therapist. She has been helping families overcome challenges for over two decades. To contact April, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule an appointment with one our our counselors, email us at email@example.com or click this link. We’re still open during this time, and have secure video appointments available for you.