by Fr Andrew Wilson
The World Health Organisation has been saying for some time that anxiety and depression are fast becoming the most prevalent challenge to the world’s well-being. Even in “normal” times it is estimated that about one in four of us will have some sort of challenge to our mental well-being at some point in our life. It is no surprise, then, that all of us will probably be able to recognise at least some of the characteristic signs of anxiety* within ourselves in this present climate of uncertainty and social isolation.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I am not talking here about clinical depression, which is a serious illness needing diagnosis and treatment by a doctor. If you suspect that you, or someone close to you, is suffering from depression, please contact your GP.
For Christians there is a conviction that the baptized are strengthened with the power of the Spirit of the risen Lord, as we live out the pattern of his death and resurrection in the contemporary world. For the most part this is a very down-to-earth activity, ‘the trivial round, the common task’ stuff! But it is done together, in the context of a supportive community. We travel hopefully, compassionately; a compassion for others, but also for ourselves.
We need to remember that any disruption in our daily living is likely to affect our mood. For some people stress and anxiety have a psychological root, especially a loss of some sort. Particularly these days we are all dealing with a loss of routine, of a structure to the day, of the physical presence of friends and a social life.
It might be helpful, therefore, to look at our own lifestyle, and try to plan a routine for each day. For many of us a daily rhythm of prayer and meditation will be part of this. We could use relaxation techniques to stabilise moods (there are countless yoga, pilates, meditation and well-being sessions online, many of which are free). Try to eat a balanced diet and be responsible with your alcohol intake. Try to respect normal times of sleeping and eating if you can. Respect your own biological clock.
There are practical steps you can take as well, including:
- Connect: Try to build a solid and varied network of social connections. Message your friends or, even better, phone them – even if you haven’t spoken to them for a while.
- Be active: Do get your daily exercise and, if it’s safe for you, try to get out every day.
- Keep learning: Keeping your brain engaged is vital for a sense of well being. Why not have a look at some of the TED talks available (www.ted.com). Or take this opportunity to learn a new skill.
- Help others: One of the positives about lockdown has been the way communities have come together to help and support each other. Doing this makes the helper feel good as well – so try to ensure that you are supporting others, even if it’s just saying a loud thank you or (for the children) helping with a chore at home.
- Taking notice: Slow down, take notice of what’s in front of you and of how you are feeling. There are plenty of mindfulness websites and apps which can help you learn to savour the “now”.
It might be useful to visit this website, which gives manageable and simple ideas for action to make a difference to our lives.
I leave you with these familiar lines from Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.
And please remember that all the clergy at St John’s are always here for you if you need to talk. Please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or to send an email.
*Indicators of anxiety might include any of: a diminished interest or pleasure in most activities, decreased appetite or out of control comfort eating, disrupted sleep patterns or over sleeping, restlessness or a drop in physical activity, fatigue and a loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, or a diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions.