We’re fraying. “We” collectively, as in, all of us.
I’ve had multiple conversations in the last weeks with individuals feeling uneasy. For many, it’s hard to concentrate—even for those who were ultra-productive when shutdowns occurred in the spring. For others, a sense of anxiety seems to pervade. We worry about the kids—are they learning anything, is their mental health suffering?
Many are just so “over” continuous COVID concerns or endless elections. Anger surfaces as we see our cherished holiday traditions come down to a choice between our health and our happiness.
And life coaches, please stop telling us to pivot—we’ve pivoted enough already. It feels like we’re lost in a maze with no exit.
We’ve reached the end of our ropes. Is it even worth hanging on when there is no end in sight?
So what now?
I don’t know what will work to revive you over this winter season, but here are some ideas that some friends and I are employing to navigate these waters. Be intentional to choose what feeds your mind, heart and soul.
Reach out. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out. So is everyone else. It’s probably best not to announce it on Facebook, because the responses will either overwhelm or underwhelm you. Instead, private message a trusted friend or peer or mentor. Arrange a phone call where you can just ramble and see what surfaces from the depths of the muck. Sometimes we just need to vomit it all up to get what ails us out.
Immerse yourself in Scripture. Read the Psalms—better yet, pray them. Or pick a personal favorite book and read it in a new translation or paraphrase. I’m reading through the Minor Prophets until the end of the year because I needed to hear God’s heart for justice in a world that seems so unjust. Read a section of the Bible with a family member or friend and text or talk about what is meaningful to you at that moment. God’s word is living, and he speaks through it into the exact moment where we find ourselves.
Crank up the music. Recently someone asked on Twitter, “What is the song that, when it comes on the radio, you crank the volume up and sing along?” Mine would be anything from the Mamma Mia soundtrack, Martina McBride’s “This One’s for the Girls,” Toby Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?” or the Newsboys’ “He Reigns.” What songs gets you belting out lyrics like the stage lights are beaming down on you? Play them at home and in the car. Sing at the top of your lungs. Music releases our emotions and makes us happy! And if we really let ourselves go, it might just lead us to …
Dance. I grew up in a good Baptist church that believed dancing was sin, so you didn’t move your feet to music. (You could get away with swaying your upper body a little.) As a result, I cannot dance in a way that anyone would recognize as dancing. But when I’m home with no one watching, I’ll dance around the house, looking like I’m battling bees. I avoid mirrors so that I don’t judge myself, and just have at it. And if “Celebration” from Kool & The Gang comes on at a wedding, I can be persuaded to join others on the dance floor and flail and sing out with the best (and worst) of them.
Laugh. Whether it’s cat videos, funny movies, memes, puns or comics, seek out the things that make you laugh. Laughter releases endorphins, reducing stress. Your sense of humor might be different from mine, and that’s okay. (I remember going to a Pink Panther movie as a teen with my brother and his friend. Throughout the movie, his friend and I laughed until tears poured down our faces. My brother sat stoically between us through the whole thing and wondered afterwards what we could have found so funny. Meanwhile, my husband insists on reading me the puns his comic friend sends out each evening, and I sit there and shake my head, asking why he’s wasting my time.) Laugh with what tickles your funny bone, and find others to laugh with as well.
Go overboard on Christmas lights. Decorations are already up around our neighborhood; some displays I would consider completely gaudy. But in a dark year, as the cold sets in, I’m looking for every pocket of joy-filled, blow-up light display to make me smile.
Find the happy endings. Whether you devour every Hallmark movie or read light or silly novels or romances, let the happily-ever-after ending soothe your fears and worries. I could never watch or read a dystopian fantasy in a time period like this. I want to know it all turns out all right, that the good guys win and love comes through.
Encourage others. If you notice someone missing from a space where you normally see them—social media or church or that networking group—take a moment to contact them. If God brings someone to your mind, accept it as a nudge to pray for them and to let them know it. Offer them time to vent or talk. Listen. People need to know we care. Your text or call or care package may be exactly what causes them to hold on for one more day. And helping someone else is another joy infuser for your own heart.
Be kind. Everyone is suffering, whether they will admit it to you or not. Let’s choose to be kind, even to that grumpy cashier, or the person who resists our inquiry with a short “I’m fine.” Go the extra mile. Skip the divisive debate. Add the over-the-top thank you. Live the gentle Jesus.
May you find and be the joy of Christmas.