Kia ora, bula vinaka, mālō e lelei, talofa lava… greetings.
As I write this, here in Aotearoa New Zealand our lives have once again been impacted by various COVID-19 lockdown scenarios. As of today, we think of our friends in Auckland who have re-entered lockdown level 3, while the rest of us around the country have re-entered lockdown level 2. As of yet, we don’t know exactly what this will look like in the long term, but I thought I’d take this opportunity here to remind us of some important things we can each do in order to stay well as we move forward during these uncertain days.
The Mental Health Foundation in their ‘Top Tips to Get Through’ article suggest the following things to help you if you struggle with anxiety and/or stress from lockdown. Firstly, find ways to connect with others each day. Connecting with others is so important for our wellbeing and helps us to feel safer, less stressed and less anxious. So have video catchups with mates, play games, and take advantage of the internet to connect with others. If you see people physically, remember to apply the relevant social distancing rules that apply to each of the various levels.
But before I tell you about the other things the Mental Health Foundation recommends, I just want to unpack this first idea a bit more. While contacting others during lockdown is important, I want to say that the way in which we make contact with others is just as important. Remember, as we engage with each other via the internet, we never really know the head space of the person that we are engaging with, and so I would like to suggest here a three-word guideline for all of us. This three-word guideline is as follows:
Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.
In the Bible, encouragement is a key idea that we need to think about applying to all our interactions with others. This includes our online engagement. Ephesians 4:29 says, ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, ‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.’
If you are a Christ-follower, remember that words have power and so encouragement should be at the top your list when engaging with others at this time. Encouragement is something we all need to keep us feeling confident, to help us know that we are valued and helps us with our motivation. And if as The Salvation Army we are The Army That Brings Life, then surely this should be reflected in the positive way in which we all engage with each other online.
Just a thought.
The second thing the Mental Health Foundation suggests is ‘find ways to take notice’. Take time to notice the beauty in the world and around your home. Take time to feel the sun on your skin and breathe in fresh air as these actions will help keep us in a good space. I sum this up as making sure that I have an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ It is important for us to be thankful to God for the many blessings we do have in our lives rather than the things we don’t have.
The third thing the Mental Health Foundation suggests is ‘find ways to be active’. As we head back into lockdown, make sure you keep physically active each day. Go for a walk or a run, but make sure you stick to the recommended guidelines around this for each relevant lockdown scenario.
The fourth recommendation is to ‘find ways to keep learning’. Learning something new each day keeps the brain active and is good for our mental wellbeing. Maybe there is something that you have been interested in learning about but have never had the time to do. Could this lockdown period be the opportunity you need to further develop yourself?
Other recommendations that the Mental Health Foundation suggest are as follows: Take some time to ‘engage with nature’, and if you are on medication, make sure you keep taking it. Also, try to stick to a healthy routine and make sure you take time to relax. In addition to these things, remember to wash your hands, wear a facemask and keep a track of where you have been and who you have been with.
So, while all these things are important, don’t forget our three key word guideline when engaging with others… encourage, encourage, encourage.
Who are you going to connect with and encourage in the days ahead?