I have been adjusting to a ‘new normal’ for a number of months before the outbreak of COVID-19. Since being diagnosed with ME/CFS 2 years ago, I have been on my own gradual journey towards ‘lockdown’ and ‘self-isolation’. ME/CFS has meant just like the government advice around COVID, I have had to significantly reduce my activities and physical contact with people; I’ve not been able to socialise or exercise much at all, and not involve myself with many church activities. I have also become a full-time homeworker. Everything I do has been difficult and demands that I rest before and after – sometimes for many days. So just like with the COVID-induced restrictions, when I am able to see people (on screen or in person), I am happy and lively because I am no longer isolated and it brings joy and relief!
So, what has this all meant? Perhaps as a result I have had more time to adjust to the sudden restrictions that have been imposed on us all now, and have been a few steps ahead in learning some lessons that have helped me get through this country-wide lockdown. By sharing these tips and lessons, I hope and pray that at least one of them can be an encouragement to you and bring some positive change to your experiences during this time.
Interestingly, the outbreak of COVID-19 has actually brought some positives for me. The introduction of ‘Zoom’ has made work meetings so much better than before. Previously just using teleconference meant I had felt very lonely at home on my own every day, Zoom has given me a greater element of connection with people. Although, presenting work by video created a new challenge – of worrying what I looked like on screen! First world problems… Sometimes we can resent Zoom, and I know scientifically there is evidence for ‘Zoom fatigue’ but for me it has been an improvement. There is a lesson in there – about being grateful for what we do have, and realising the things we take for granted. If Zoom (or equivalent) was not there, how much harder would our lives be in lockdown and how much more lonely and isolated would we have felt from family, friends and being able to meet as a church? Another lovely thing for me has been that Ben has been able to work at home with me – so loneliness has reduced significantly! Also, because everyone in my office is in the same boat of working at home, they are a lot more understanding of the situation and are a lot more flexible, patient and kind to each other. So I am praying this will continue!
Anyway, my main tips for finding some relief in lockdown:
1. Be grateful and deliberately praise God for what we have! We have so much to be grateful for and often take for granted. Focus on the good things and not the negatives. Remember, there is also, always someone who is in a worse situation than us and someone who wishes they had what we have!
2. Enjoy and make the most of the slower pace of life – not rushing around doing different activities or seeing so many people means we have more time for family, children, taking up that hobby and doing that DIY that has been on the backburner, learning a new skill, stiillness to read, doing home cooking rather than ready made, or other things. We can involve the children / partners in these things and make them into quality time together.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others – we all have different challenges and experiences and it is easy to compare ourselves to others who seem to be ‘better off’ or who we perceive as managing better than us.
4. Get out and take a short walk – whatever you can manage. When things are tough and you are at the end of your tether, feeling low (and when feeling good), getting out for a short walk helps change perspective, calms us down and induces those well-needed endorphins! Plus it can be a quick time-out to pray as we walk.
5. Reach out to others when you have a need – and accept help when offered! People are not mind-readers and often think all is well unless you tell them. Also we can let our pride to be ‘self-sufficient’ get in the way of receiving help when we need it. We are blessed as a church family and community to have each other and have people who genuinely care for us – so let’s not struggle alone!
6. Use this time to press into God more. This doesn’t necessarily mean hours at a time! Now life has been simplified from multiple activities, we have more head and heart space for God. I know this can be hard when you have children now at home or are at home alone – so why not involve the children or involve a friend? It is a great time to build deeper relationships with God together, teach our children how they can know the Lord, and use this time to learn to hear from him and develop recognising his voice together.
7. Learning to ‘be still’. Find time alone with God not just in our quiet time, but at other point(s) in the day. Even if this is just 5 minutes, being still before the Lord when we feel overwhelmed, stressed, lonely, ‘cabin-fever’ and in good times; we can receive the refreshing, peace, comfort and strength we need from Him and hear again what he has to say to us. Maybe meditate on a scripture that comes to mind or find one that you need.
8. Talk to God and tell him all your feelings – be real. When we don’t have others around to turn to in the same way as before (or have too many others around that we have no space!) – release what we are carrying to Him and receive what we need. For He cares for us.
9. Appreciate the small things and celebrate them! We often overlook small achievements, and are too quick to see the negative, big things that have not changed which leads to discouragement. Yet, we have come further than we think when we take the time to look back. Celebrate and have a change of heart and perspective – know that our Heavenly Father celebrates us and every little victory!
10. Intentionally thank God each day that he is going to do something good for you – and expect it! It helps to stay hopeful. God is with us and he is a good father who loves to give good gifts to his children. I have found that even small ‘treasures’ he gives me each day are precious to my heart and I sense the Father’s pleasure with me through them. For example, this may be just a butterfly landing next to you in the garden – God knows what means something special to each of us that will bring us joy!
One final thing – the greatest thing to remember: when we face huge challenges, when all or many things are stripped away, we still have the greatest treasure of all – Jesus! And in Him we have everything we need. There are no restrictions, limitations or lockdowns with God. All things are possible and nothing is beyond his reach or ability to provide. We are never truly isolated; he is with us all the time. And because of this, we are ALWAYS a blessed people, ALWAYS have something to be more than grateful for, and we always have hope (for now and for the future). We just need to take the time to remember.