Have the last couple weeks felt a bit like a rollercoaster to you? A rollercoaster is the best description I can come up with for the cycles of anxiety, fear, uneasy anticipation, panic, hopeful excitement, enjoyment, relief and exhaustion that have been my emotional journey as we prepared for campus to fill back up and as classes resumed last week. While I’ve been through the start of the semester many times before, this kind of emotional fluctuation is unique to this year. Of course, the world around us seems awfully uncertain, circumstances and demands are constantly changing, and I sometimes struggle to find my center. Sound familiar? You are not alone.
I’ve been paying close attention to the ways I’ve been managing the challenges in recent weeks. Even as I’ve felt overwhelmed and uncertain, I’ve noticed things that have helped me reset, find calm, regain courage and confidence. I hope they will help you.
- Breathe. Deep, slow, full breaths fill your body with oxygen and help bring calm. Sigh as often as you need.
- Water. There is soothing refreshment in a long, deep drink. Your body needs water to manage stress effectively.
- Eat well. Healthy, nourishing foods will feed those anxious cells in your brain and your body, power them to function at their best, and help avoid the discomfort and anxiety hunger brings.
- Distraction. Put aside the demands for a while. Set a timer if you need. Watch funny videos. Listen to soothing (or raucous) music. Read a favorite book or listen to a podcast you enjoy. Just find something that takes you away from the current demands and gives you a short break.
- Sleep. Take a little nap or make yourself go to bed early (limiting caffeine can help with that).
- Talk. Chat with your roommate. Call a friend. Text your mom. Email a mentor. Reach out to someone who will just listen or someone who can give you caring and supportive feedback.
- Visit nature. Get outside and take in its beauty: Blue sky. Amazing clouds. Warm sun. Abundant growth. Blooming flowers. Fresh breezes. Sudden rain showers. Birds and bunnies.
- Move. Take a walk, run, or bike ride. Do crunches or squats. Let your muscles and bones do what they are made for and the endorphins released by exercise will help the stress.
- Pray. Use any words you want, or none at all. Think, say or write to God. Nothing is off limits. Tell God about your day, where you need help, what you are frightened or what you are angry about, what lies ahead. Remember that you are never alone.
Paul wrote a lovely phrase in the book of Romans that helps me realize that God is with me, even in times like this.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
“Sighs too deep for words.” I love that phrase and what it tells us. In moments when we don’t even know how to ask for help ourselves, the holy spirit reaches out on our behalf and prays for us without words, in the deepest sort of sighs and groans. The God of love who creates and redeems, also sustains and tends to us when we are out of resources.
None of us have been through a time just like this before. Yet the skills we learned facing difficulties and challenges in the past will help us now. We are also learning new skills for today’s uncertainties. When we are overwhelmed and cannot find the way to ask for help, the spirit calls out on our behalf, with sighs too deep for words. You are never alone.
Peace to you.