wellbeing

Mark 12:28-31
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Well-being, or to spin it round being well, is obviously something that has been very much brought to everyone’s attention over the last few months. The COVID 19 pandemic has made many people across the world confront one of their last taboos, that of death. It has reminded so many that we are not ‘untouchable’, that our existence is much less certain or guaranteed than we would wish for. It has, I believe, also reminded so many of us of the duty of care we hold to the vulnerable, and those less able to look after themselves. But one common and defining factor in all of this is that the nature of the effects of COVID 19 have really focussed on the physical side, the immediate effects to the body up to and including the loss of family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances. For so many, there are now gaps in the landscape of those we now, gaps that are unfillable from people that are irreplaceable.

 

Yet, I worry that there is a problem just as big that is looming just around the corner, and in fact, may already be here. It is also a problem that is far more hidden, we are far less equipped to deal with (both as a society and individuals), and will take far longer to recover from that the physical effects most people suffer from. And what is this problem, it is the problem of mental wellbeing. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and yet, in some ways it is far harder to correct the damage done to it, damage that normally comes from some trauma event, or events, that occur to the individual. And if you have enough individuals traumatised then it starts to affect wider groups, areas and even societies.

And make no mistake, as a world, as nations, and people we are all being traumatised by this epidemic in one way or another– none of us has ever lived through anything like this and so the mechanisms we employ to cope with it may or may not be useful. Many of us have not been confronted with death as a real possibility, many of us have not had our freedoms restricted, many of us are living with worry about the loss of jobs, being able to afford the mortgage or rent, we are al missing social interaction with people around us, those who are shielding and on their own miss physical touch, those who have had close encounters with death though COVID 19 carry mental scars, those who struggle with mental health issues under the best of circumstances are now being impacted severely… and the wounds from all this hidden impact will take years to sort out. So what do we do, how do we strive to take measures which aim to mitigate this as far as possible?

If you notice in the scripture at the start of this Jesus outlines four ways to love God. With all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But in order to do so we need to look after all of them as best we can in order that we give God the best we have to offer. And what I like about this scripture is that it clearly says 'mind'. Jesus instructs us to love God with our mind, and in order to do that we do need to protect it. We protect our heart by shaping the way we behave based on God’s word, we protect our soul by surrendering to Jesus and knowing He is our saviour, we protect our strength by physically looking after our bodies (hard work, exercise and so no). But what does ‘protecting our minds’ look like? I have a few suggestions,

 1) Be honest with God, yourself, and others about how you are feeling – these are new times and new pressures for us all, so we are all working it out together. You do not have to smile if you don’t feel like it, cry if you must. But also don’t feel guilt if you are happy, laughing and OK. Just be honest about where you are with your mental state.

 2) If you are still working, work hard but also remember to play hard. Relax, read, sit in the garden, so a jigsaw… do whatever feeds your soul as the expression goes. Rest is so vital to our mental health; relaxation takes out so much of the stress. No, it doesn’t fix the problems we might be encountering but it does help clear our heads to deal with them.

 3) Exercise. This one is key. As we exercise, we produce endorphins in the brain which help us feel good. They help lift our mood and we also keep fitter too. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it gives you a workout. These are the same chemicals that get released in our brains when we eat chocolate so now you know why you always crave it! By the way, lifting the remote to change the tv channel doesn’t count!

 4) Eat well. No this doesn’t mean you can’t have the odd takeaway etc, it does mean don’t just eat takeaways, pot noodles, cereal at every meal etc. If you don’t eat well you actually start to induce a lower mood in your body as vital vitamins and minerals are missing. Your body will feel lethargic, it will ache more, you will feel tenser. So… eat fruit and veg, eat regularly, eat sensible portions (lockdown portions are not good for you). Drink plenty of water or squash and drink it throughout the day.

 5) If you work from home… stick to a regular day pattern if you can. If you can’t because you're looking after young children then really set out a clear timetable and when you are not working have your work phone off, have your work put away, create space in your home where you can be away from work. Also, if you work at a computer take regular breaks away from the screen, 5 mins every 45 – 50 mins you work in front of the screen. Remember, in an office environment you would get up to kame drinks, go to see colleagues etc. Also remember to sit properly. I’m not the posture police but sitting badly whilst working introduces aches and pains that are persistent and just make you feel low and uncomfortable. Definitely don’t work from bed as this associates bed with work in your mind, by doing this you make the bed space a space associated with pressure, worry, being alert etc… not a place to drift off to sleep. Also, put work clothes on not just the nearest pair of jogging bottoms, if you would put makeup on when you go to work do that at home, make the workday, the workspace feel like that, not like you home. Then at the end of the day wipe of the makeup, put casual clothes on… feel like you are coming home. You could even go for a walk before you start work and one when you finish.

 6) Be kind to yourself.

 Well-being is also being well, if we lose our good state of mental well-being everything else just falls apart so quickly. If you are feeling like you need a chat please get in touch.