Staying Healthy During Isolation Image

Staying Healthy During Isolation

Need Help? If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

This article is not a substitute for healthcare treatment.

 

Facts: The CDC reported that 1.4 million suicide attempts were reported in 2017 in the U.S.

Facts: An average of 129 Americans die by suicide daily. (https://www.datocms-assets.com/12810/1582813931-usfactsfiguresflyer.pdf)

Facts: We also know from research that chronic illness, use of alcohol or recreational drugs, and isolation can be some of the contributing factors to new or worsening depression, anxiety, and suicide.  (https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm)

 

Questions:

Do we as Christians remain committed to the idea that life matters?

Is each human soul valuable?

I would submit that yes, every human life matters.  The Lord is the Lord of LIFE.

If we can agree on these ideas, then we need to have an important conversation in this time of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Yes, stay home as much as you can and stay back.  We will be having serious conversations about such things as work-from-home, hugs between friends, and even shaking hands once this eases up.  Ignoring infection risk is unwise.

But what is the impact on our mental health?

  • In 2017 suicide was the 4th leading cause of death among those 35-54 years old.
  • Isolation increases the risk of suicide.

We recognize that the virus is important to be aware of and yet we also know that anxiety, which was already at an all-time high in the U.S., is increasing.  Mental health professionals and family physicians alike are reporting this.

 

We also know that people in ministry and other caring fields who are already in high pressure roles are now under more pressure than ever due to the current COVID-19 concerns.

 

A May 4, 2020 news report from The Philadelphia Inquirer states there has been a 20-30% increase in calls to one local suicide hotline (Delaware County, PA).  It also highlights how isolation and the loss of human touch and connection contribute to depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-covid19-suicide-hotline-mental-health-20200414.html

 

The hard numbers will come later, but credible anecdotal evidence is increasing.

 

Who will the helper call when they need help? 

 

How do we help ourselves and one another in this time?

 

Normally, therapists would recommend exercise, doing something different, or getting out with a friend or two for clients who are depressed or anxious.

 

Nope.  Not now.

Those who are in ministry leadership would normally be able to engage with pastoral visits, prayer, etc. with their congregations and teams.  This would allow us to feel less helpless.

 

Nope.  Not now.

 

So, what can we do?

 

Here are some ideas for you PERSONALLY:

  • Put your own oxygen mask on first… “God is our refuge and strength… (Psalm 46:1, NIV)” therefore we can be encouraged to utilize all the tools provided to equip our hands for Life:
    • Notice your emotions.
    • Name them.
    • Talk about them with a family member or friend or write them out on paper.
    • If we ignore them, they can hijack us later creating more challenges than if we had addressed them right away.
  • Limit media to an hour per day. This includes local news, national news, talk shows, and social media.
  • Go outside for fresh air and sunshine.
  • Avoid getting pulled into too many meetings.
  • Get moving. Even if you aren’t “into” going to the gym (where no one can go right now anyway) you can go up and down stairs, take walks with family members, march in the house, stretch, or lift cans of vegetables or something else.  Start with 5 minutes then try to increase it unless your physician advises against this.
  • Drink plenty of water. That is generally 2 liters or ½ gallon (8×8-ounce glasses) per day. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2)
  • Eat a varied diet with colorful, vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits you can access (5-9 servings are recommended by the USDA). Yes, fresh is best but frozen and canned are also good if you do not have access to fresh.
  • Revive the art of the personal (not ministry) telephone call. Even those who tend to be introverted need social interaction.  Call one person in your family or friend group per week and have a real conversation.  A few minutes will help both of you.

 

For myself, I have noticed that even though I tend to be more refreshed by alone, introspective times under normal circumstances, I have had enough physical isolation.  So, I am taking a few minutes each day to consider what are some God-ordained needs that I have.  I notice that in times of great pressure that I tend to eat the same thing every single day.  That’s not exactly balanced.  So, I can add some variety of colors, textures, and tastes to my meals.  I am working to remember how much I enjoy physical activity and planning that into my day.  I am working to connect with others for mutual encouragement and care.  And finally, I am working to remember that I am designed for Joy through Glorifying God.  God is with us. (http://www.westminsterconfession.org/confessional-standards/the-westminster-shorter-catechism.php).

 

I am deeply prayerful for everyone in ministry in this time.  It is always important for Kingdom workers to protect and nurture their mental health, especially in a time such as this.  I pray that you will eagerly seek time for God’s beautiful creation, yourself, in this time.

 

Mental Health Information from the Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/

 

Suicide Statistics by State: https://afsp.org/state-fact-sheets

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