Monday Musings…. How are We Ever Going to Get Through This?

When life is unpredictable and the end of the struggle is nowhere in sight, what do you do?

Well, psychologically speaking, you draw on past experience. The problem today though, is that most people have very little experience to draw on. You have to admit that living in North America in the 21st century has come with relatively little adversity. Don’t get me wrong, there has been poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and the like, but the majority of Canadians have led a pretty easy life, with very little suffering. True suffering. Waiting In a long line-up at the Tim Horton’s Drive-Thru doesn’t count.

So now that social, educational, labour, and shopping opportunities have been restricted, people are at a loss to know how to cope. It’s hard not to read a news source without hearing about people’s mental health tanking. Suicide is on the rise, and in my own area, we’ve had four homicides since December 31st. What’s going on?

You never know how strong you are until you’re tested. I’m not sure we can say #CanadaStrong the way things are going right now across our country.

Up until now, we may not have noticed that we expected the world to revolve around us and our wants and pursuits of pleasure. It didn’t seem intentional at the time, but now with the restrictions, it’s obvious.

Now, the stop button has been pushed. We’re in a holding pattern – holding back life as we knew it – and like a young child who loses their soother – how can we live without the pleasures and privileges we once knew? This is round two and the emotions are shifting ever more towards frustration and anger. But, temper tantrums have never been helpful in solving any problem.

So, how are we ever going to get through this, from a mental health perspective?

The first thing, is to suspend our expectations of what the government will do next. When a situation is ever-changing, ambiguous, or foreign to us, we have to modify how we think. No “should’s” or “if’s” are going to help. There is no reference point in our personal history to guide us, so our predictions are possibilities at best, and pointless at worst. As things continue to be volatile, and our expectations get crushed once again, mental health problems are bound to increase.

Next, we need to realize that we have very little power over public policy. We are at the mercy of the protocols that are laid out. No amount of complaining or defiance is going to influence the decision-makers.

Now I'm not implying that we have a defeatist mindset. No, not at all. In fact, it's the opposite. Each one of us must decide what we need to do in our own lives to get through this day; to focus on what is right in front of us. What can we do today to feel productive, accomplished and even grateful. Just in this moment. Just in this day.

You don’t have to like what’s happening. But you have to ask yourself: where is your mental (and physical) energy best spent? In worry and what if scenarios? You know the answer.

Remember the plane crash of Air Florida Flight 90, I talked about last week. The six people in the water were helpless. They couldn’t swim to shore. They were in a volatile, unknown, and uncertain situation, that they hadn’t been trained for. They had expectations of rescue, but none were coming. There was only ten minutes left on the clock, until drowning was a certainty. They were completely at the mercy of someone, anyone to save them.

You may be struggling to the point where you feel like you're drowning in all of this. Or you simply need more encouragement to be productive, feel accomplished, or grateful today. What or who can rescue you, and give you peace amidst the chaos?

You may not have had formal training to cope specifically with a pandemic, but some of you have had training in knowing where your true help comes from (Psalm 121). Don’t lose sight of it!

When situations seem helpless, hopeless, and you have no power, remember: there is One who is all powerful, and who offers His help and restores hope. He sees everything that is going on, every moment of every day. As each day finishes and the next begins, He already knows the plan for you – you specifically. But more than that, He is your protector, in this moment and always. What amazing promises in this present time! There is no need to be frustrated or fearful.

How are we going to get through this pandemic? By going back to the best training manual for troubled times, or if you've never read it, open it up for the very first time. There, you’ll find calm amidst the chaos from cover to cover.

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© 2020 Connect the Thoughts: Charlene Mahon