Balancing on a tight rope has taken on a whole new meaning in the era of COVID-19, with the shut-downs, schools offering in-school instruction, hybrid, or at-home learning, mask-wearing, social distancing, and church services delivered in an online format. We no longer have a safety net under us, as if we ever did. We yearn for normalcy, and yet we hear the words “new normal,” and that this time is unparalleled by anything we have experienced in more than 100 years.
If you are a caregiver, you know that supporting others to find simple and tangible ways to decrease anxiety, attempt to be in the present moment with family members and co-workers, and find time for self-care may seem impossible. And yet, if we hope to navigate this difficult time, our greatest contribution to the health of our nation and to those nearest to us may be through our own self-care.
Whether you are listening to a spouse share his or her frustrations about the workload they manage with the lack of adequate Internet connection; supporting a teenager who is contemplating self-harm; or empathizing with a friend who is at the brink of divorce—you must do all you can to find a way to care for yourself during these turbulent times.
How often do we run on empty? Do we forget to eat? Are we overly compassionate and take on more than we should? Are we not sleeping well? Do we set limits and boundaries so we are not exhausted and stressed out ourselves?
As we serve one another to the best of our ability during this time, we will be much more effective if we engage in self-care, as well.
A few suggestions would be to get daily exercise. listen to music, eat well and get sleep. Tie up your tennies and hit the trails for fresh air and a chance to move your muscles to release “feel good hormones.” Tune into your favorite music or move along in silence, whichever allows you to reenergize your brain. Eat regular, nutritious meals that help you maintain your focus and stamina. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night to help keep your circadian rhythms in balance. And remember to engage in virtuous thoughts, words, and actions.
When Jesus was challenged by a scribe to provide the First Commandment, He quoted Old Testament Scripture. Jesus combined Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18, and stated “Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:28-32). We cannot give what we do not have, and if we hope to help one another through this difficult time, we must recognize the wisdom of these words and engage in self-care.
As we attend to self-care, Pope Francis reminds us to be people of hope, as we live in the midst of tension, moving toward an encounter with our Lord. Just as Jesus suffered throughout His ministry, we, too will experience moments of upheaval and confusion as we support one another to manage the tightrope of this time. The difference between a tightrope for circus performers and one another is that the performers nearly always had a physical safety net under them. We, as the Church Militant, instead have a stronger spiritual safety net in our Lord.
St. John Paul the Great encourages us not to despair but to remember that we are Easter people. Even if we do not feel that we are fully authentic and genuine, we must do our best to model optimism and hope. And as we model self-care for one another, we will demonstrate there is no perfect way to navigate this time. Just as the saints of the Apostolic Era stood firmly with courage and conviction, so must we. Throughout this next week, think of your favorite saint and how they stood firmly for their belief in the Risen Christ. Take heart from their beautiful example of holiness and sanctity and make time for prayer amidst your busy days.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us to conform ourselves to the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. It contends “human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith (1804)." Do all you can this week to follow these virtues, as well as the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, bring us closer to God and His will for your life. Become an example of holiness and sanctity in your life today by committing to necessary self-care.