The other night in Bible study I posed the question: Is anyone happy?
People are not OK right now. Whether it is ongoing pandemic fatigue, financial stress, job dissatisfaction, or general feelings of ennui, many of us are feeling burned out, surrounded by other burned out people. It’s not a very life-giving situation. If you are feeling this way, you aren’t alone. Nearly everyone I talk to is feeling down in some way.
Earlier this year I decided I was going to devote more time to one of my favorite hobbies: reading. I read more than I ever have: by the time fall started I had already finished 100 books for the year, when I usually read about 40-50 a year. It was amazing– until I realized I was using reading as a form of numbing. Reading is a great hobby to have, but I was immersing myself in these worlds to escape my own. It was my way of dealing with this feeling of not being OK.
We all know that there are coping skills that are unhealthy, and most of us (especially pastors!) wouldn’t see reading as one of them, but I realized I was using it to numb myself rather than try to change what I could. I decided to make some changes, find some more “balance.” I started eating better, exercising, meditating, and journaling in place of the time I spent devouring novels. I’m still reading, but back to my pace of about a book a week (and I found that’s ok!).
Check in with yourself. How are you— really?
Stop to take a few breaths and ask yourself – How am I… really? It’s ok if the answer is you are not OK. You are certainly not alone. The next question is– What do you need to be a little more ok? Expecting to be all better overnight isn’t realistic. I feel a little better than I did with these changes, but let’s be honest, all my problems didn’t go away because I have cut back on reading to move my body more, like dancing around my kitchen to 90s and 00s music.
This is a walking path the author comes to when she needs perspective. Do you have a place like that?
Do you need a therapist, coach, or spiritual director? A nutritionist? Use that meditation app you keep forgetting about? Do you need a night out with friends? Do you need to finally get that babysitter so you can go on a date night? Do you need to take a class to restart a favorite hobby or try something new? How about a walk in nature? Alarms on your phone with positive affirmations throughout the day? Something that makes you belly laugh? Just a reminder that you aren’t alone?
That we’re all struggling.
That you aren’t failing.
That you are doing your best right now and your best is enough.
It is enough.
You are enough.
You are loved. Deeply.
Self care is never enough, though. I don’t have much wisdom for building systems of community care, because I’m still working on figuring that out myself. But I know we have to ask for help- not just from professionals but neighbors and friends too. Churches can be those spaces of community care, but many of our churches have forgotten how to do that. Can we put together meal trains not just for those grieving, but maybe for single parents for a week or two over the summer? Can we revive pastor’s discretionary funds for mutual aid? Can we advocate within our churches or workplaces for insurance to better cover mental healthcare or offer better leave options for mental health care?
Breathe In. We’re going to get through this together. Breathe out.
Repeat. You got this. We got this. You are doing amazing.
I’m so proud of you. Keep going.
If what you are feeling is too critical to rely on extra TLC and a community safety net, please reach out to a licensed therapist or dial 988, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.