I don’t think any of us have been through a pandemic before. This experience can be unsettling in a myriad of ways. There are many legitimate vantage points from which the Coronavirus pandemic needs to be considered. Many fields need to contribute their expertise.
In this article, I will offer a pastoral care perspective and seek to reflect on the questions: How do we think well about the emotional-relational challenges that emerge as a result of Coronavirus? How many categories do we need? How are these different categories helpful?
This article will propose three categories that can be help us differentiate the kinds of emotional-relational responses we have to major life events like the current Coronavirus pandemic.
- Problems in Living
- Mental Health
- Meaning of Life
Lens: Problems in Living
This category includes the logistical factors that create emotional-relational disruption. This includes practical questions such as:
- What are the proper health, sanitation, and social distancing choices to make?
- How do I pay the bills if my small business has a drop in customers?
- How do I properly care for elderly family members without increasing their health risk?
- How do manage the increased tensions that emerge from family being quarantined for an extended period?
- What decisions need to be made regarding retirement based upon my age and the stock market?
- How do I avoid the adverse effects of isolation if I’m single during an extended time of quarantine?
This list could go on. But you get the idea. There are many logistical questions that emerge. Answers are not always clear. Emotions get disrupted as we deliberate. Even the wise choices we make can have negative emotional-relational implications. This only makes the strain we feel weightier.
A few guiding principles for problems in living concerns:
- Make a list of the questions you’re grappling with. Allowing that list to ruminate only in your mind can make it seem infinitely long. Putting it on paper limits its length.
- Don’t make reactive decisions. Don’t make decisions that would benefit from expert guidance alone. Talk with the relevant people (i.e., friend, medical professional, financial advisor) who can help you make wise choices in that area.
- Don’t only think about these decisions. Becoming consumed by logistics can have an adverse effect on your emotional-relational life. Once you’ve made a list so important things won’t be forgotten, find enjoyable ways to occupy yourself.
Lens: Mental Health
This category references the pre-existing mental health challenges that can be aggravated due to the current health concern. This includes questions such as:
- How do I protect the general climate of fear from worsening my experience of generalized anxiety?
- How do I limit the effects of social distancing from allowing isolation to worsen my experience of depression?
- How I do limit the effects of a health scare from aggravating the experience of OCD?
- If isolation was part of my traumatic experience, how can I limit the triggering effect of an extended quarantine?
- If paranoia has been a symptom of my mental health challenge, how do differentiate the uncertainty and high precautions around Coronavirus from the experience of paranoia?
- How do I manage the stigma or shame of talking about how mental health challenges are heightened during a pandemic?
Again, this list of questions could be extended. There are many ways that concerns about a health crisis can aggravate a mental health condition. The main point of developing this part of the discussion is to bring these concerns into the open. Feeling like these conversations are taboo or off limits adds to the negative effects.
A few guiding principles for mental health concerns:
- Consider a Zoom counseling session with your counselor or psychiatrist.
- Don’t make changes to your medication, unless you doctor advises you to do so, during this time.
- Resist feeling ashamed. Mental health challenges are hard (suffering), not bad (sin). There is no reason to feel guilty or ashamed for the challenges of what you are experiencing.
Lens: Meaning of Life
This category references the “big questions” that emerge during a major life event and create a disruption to our emotional-relational lives. This includes questions such as:
- How can God be good, and life be this hard?
- What value is there in suffering, and how can I endure hard times well?
- How should I relate to my emotions? I want to learn from them when they tell me something true. I want to be able to doubt them when they tell me something false. How do I know the difference?
- What is really important? When something like a pandemic emerges, we make many decisions about our priorities. It is a time when we evaluate life.
This list of questions could also be extended. But you get the idea. During a crisis, we don’t just ask logistical questions. We also grapple with the big questions of life that impact our emotions and relationships.
A few guiding principles for meaning of life concerns:
- Don’t wrestle with these questions alone. Talk with people you trust about what you’re thinking.
- Do wrestle with what is most important to you. This season can put into perspective what is most important and give you time to reflect about how to live according to those priorities.
- Read something to help you grow in self-awareness about your emotions. One book to consider would be Untangling Emotions by Winston Smith and Alasdair Groves.
Does this article answer all your questions? No. Does it give you helpful categories? I hope so. That was my intent. If you feel like you can sort your questions (like laundry) and have guidance on how to approach each pile of questions, this article has done everything it set out to do. While nothing about Coronavirus is easy, having three piles of questions with three approaches is easier than having one big heap of questions.While nothing about Coronavirus is easy, having three piles of questions with three approaches is easier than having one big heap of questions. Click To Tweet