You have just experienced your third Sunday with worship outside the church building. You are starting the second week of the “stay at home” order. You are working from home and discovering new ways to be socially connected while being physically distant. So, how are you doing with this new normal?
Maybe a better question is: how are you caring for yourself during this disruption?
Here are four things to remember regarding self-care and the care of others.
1. Be Curious
- When you are curious you ask questions and learn about people, situations and circumstances. Learn as much as you can about Covid-19 so that you can manage your own thoughts and feelings as you assist others in managing their thoughts and feelings. The more you know the better equipped you are to rely on the facts.
- Learn as much as you can about the people who are researching the virus and who are leading us through the shrinking the curve. By listening and learning, you are more able to assist the people who are entrusted to your care.
- Your curiosity leads to creativity. The more curious you are, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can find ways to care, connect, and communicate. Be curious, but don’t be consumed by the media.
2. Be Aware
- Be Present. Become aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and surroundings as well as the thoughts and feelings of the people around you. When you are present to what is unfolding and happening, you are more able to pay attention to the reality of the moment.
- Appreciate Current Reality. When you are able to see things clearly, you are more able to lead in these uncertain times. Your calm and peaceful leadership is anchored in your appreciation of reality.
- Keep the End in Mind. As you lead in the reality of the moment, remember that there will be an end to this crisis. Keep moving forward with the assurance that you will make it through.
- Be Grateful. As you become present to the reality of the situation with the assurance that you can and will make it through, you will become more aware and more connected to life, to the people around you, and all the new and different expressions of life emerging. Make time to give God thanks.
3. Develop A Routine
- Routines create high achievers. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not on act, but a habit.”
- Routines help you achieve more, think clearly, and do work that matters. They keep you from stumbling through your day and make sure you get the most important things done.
- If you have not done so, it is important that you develop a routine that works for you. You might consider the following:
- Getting up at the same time every day
- Participate in God is with Us
- Eat healthy food
- Remember and reflect on the day’s activities and achievements
- Give God thanks for the moments you experienced God’s presence
- Get plenty of rest/sleep
4. Have Realistic Expectations
- The balance between realism and optimism, in times of uncertainty, is a key to survival.
- In times of uncertainty, expectations centered on the future must be realistic. Check out the Stockdale Paradox for a greater understanding of the balance of realism and optimism.
- Stockdale explained, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Your Next Step
You might think of it this way.
- (Be Curious) What can you do to help with Covid-19? Regardless of all you might have to offer, you can pray. As a Jesus follower, pray is part of your life.
- (Be Aware) Who are people you can pray for? There is no shortage of persons for whom you might pray. At this point in time, you can pray for the doctors and medical personal who are on the front lines, exposing themselves to the virus as they discover ways to keep the rest of us safe.
- (Develop a Routine) When can I pray for them? You can pray for them every day as you pray for your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
- (Have Realistic Expectations) How should you pray for them? You can pray for their well-being as they offer themselves in service and compassion for their local hospitals, communities, and the world.
As you lead into and through this disruption, it is imperative that you know the facts, name current reality, keep moving forward, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of current reality.
Know how grateful I am for you and your leadership. Take care of yourself so that you can be the leader God has created you to be.
Know also that you are not alone. We (Sara Thomas and Tim Bias) are available to help you care for yourself as you care for others.
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For Such A Time As This
You have everything you need to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Your relationships, experiences, and education, both formal and informal, are coming together to equip you for such a time as this. Although you might feel ill-equipped, it is your time to step up and out in leading people through this, never-before crisis the world is facing.
Truthfully, that’s the problem.
You have never faced anything like this before. Your normal routines, how you approach your family, your work, your church, and your community have changed drastically.
Everything Changed, Instantly
If you still have employment, you are working from home. The schools are closed, the children are home, and you don’t know whether to even let them go outside for fresh air. The church as suspended services. The only contact you have with others is at the grocery store, where you can’t find what you need. The situation is so surreal. You can’t help but asking, “Is this really happening?” Yet, there is another part of you that feels you must protect yourself and your family.
When you listen to the press conferences and updates, you are glad there are people making decisions. You just wish it were different decisions being made. In your quiet moments, you are asking yourself, “How long will this continue?” Or, “I wonder if we will go back to life as we knew it before the virus?”
Draw on the Resources You Have
Although I have never faced this kind of crisis, I know the feeling of not knowing exactly what to do. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had to mobilize staff to lead a congregation and, ultimately, a community in making sense of terrorist attacks. As I was trying to make sense of the tragedy, I had to help people grieve, address rising anxiety, and interpret reality in the swirl of misinformation and fear.
I responded the only way I knew how. I had to draw upon the resources I had to address the moment. Because of 9/11, I found that I had more strength and resources than I had been using. I discovered I was equipped to lead through the anxiety and uncertainty because of the relationships, experiences, and education that had shaped my life up to that point.
I am sure you have been equipped to lead for such a time as this. You are living in a new normal. How will step into and lead amid this time of anxiety and uncertainty?
Take One Step
Over the next few days, make one of the following opportunities a part of your work:
Reflect upon what makes you who you are.
- Who are the people who have impacted your life? What experiences and/or events have shaped your thinking, feeling, and living? What have you learned from relationships, experiences, and education that equips you for this moment?
Claim what you have to offer.
- In the midst of the limitations you are now facing (working at home, sheltering in place, suspended worship), what do you have to offer? This is your time to be creative. You have had ideas that you have wanted to implement but you haven’t for one reason or another. Is now the time to use those ideas to create something new?
What are your strengths?
- How do your strengths complement the strengths of family members? How do their strengths complement yours? Now, more than any other time, you can strengthen family relationships and offer the same to the people God has entrusted to you.
Learn to use technology and social media.
- It is strange that what connects us with people around the world has disconnected us from the people closest to us. Learn to use technology to reach out and make a connection with the people you lead and serve. If nothing more than a phone call, text, or email, you are staying connected. Take a risk and use Zoom or Skype to connect with people you are accustomed to seeing on a regular basis. Record or live stream worship or bible study. Maybe you can experiment with one or two forms of technology or social media and discuss these questions/opportunities.
Stay present in the moment.
- You are your best when you are present. If you spend too much time in the past upon what you have lost or what you should have done, you lose yourself in regret. If you spend too much time longing for the future, wishing for something different, you lose yourself in worry. Stay in the moment and take one step at a time. Offer to walk with others who are lost in regret and worry. Assist them in staying in the moment and stepping into a new day with hope and courage.
You Have Everything You Need
Now, decide which one of these opportunities you will address first. Be intentional. Invite someone, either a member of the family or a colleague, to journey with you. Make the time to master that one before moving to another.
By the time you have completed the list, you will discover the strengths and resources that you didn’t know you had. Those strengths and resources are exactly what is needed to navigate the anxiety and uncertainly of these days.
You have everything you need to lead for such a time as this.
Know that you can reach out to Sara Thomas or to me (Tim Bias) for assistance or direction. Here are a few things that you might find helpful. Again, expect to hear from us regularly as we navigate this season on ministry.
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