Care Dimensions Senior Chaplain Rona Tyndall cares for her spirit during the COVID-19 pandemic by walking on the beach with her dog.
One of the Care Dimensions chaplains called me the other day and at the end of the call asked, “How are YOU doing?”
The great thing about chaplains is that you can always tell them the truth – no judgment, no advice, just unconditional positive regard. So, I spoke my truth: Most of the time, I feel so profoundly grateful for the health of the people I love, meaningful work and a steady income, a good dog, fresh air, the sights and sounds and fragrance of the ocean and the kindness of friends and strangers, that I could cry. Also, at least once a day I panic. Do I hear an “amen”?
We all know about the importance of “self-care”. Good nutrition, plenty of exercise, sleep and a social life are important in “usual” times. This is an unusual time, and we need an unusual level of spiritual self-care. Whether you are a hospice clinician seeing patients or whether you are keeping your agency’s wheels turning from home, your soul needs extra loving care these days.
What else can we do to care for our spirits in these unusually stressful days of COVID-19?
Having a routine can be very helpful. If you are home with kids or with elderly parents, structure helps everyone to have a sense of control. A good routine includes time and space set aside to care for your spirit.
Start by thinking about what you enjoy. When do you feel most alive? Most like yourself? Perhaps it is in your garden or walking by the sea. Doing yoga, making music, creating art or dancing? Maybe patting your dog or appreciating beauty. Most of us feel very alive when we have a belly-laugh with someone we love, or even a good cry with someone who loves us! Caring for our spirits means noticing what makes us feel alive and doing more of it. Developing a spiritual discipline around those things that feel most meaningful will sustain you.
Next, notice the kind of people you choose to surround yourself with – not just family and friends, but the people you allow into our homes on TV or social media. How do you feel after you spend time with certain people? Appreciated? Understood? Respected? Anxious? Angry? Comforted? The care of our spirits requires that we have healthy relationships, built on trust and affection. If someone makes you feel good, spend more time with them on the phone or Facebook or walking outside (keeping your six-feet distance). Conversely, mean people and liars don’t deserve your time or attention; it is okay to push the “off” button.
Chaplains have an expression: “Don’t just do something; sit there.” It means to pause to check in with yourself throughout the day. Ask yourself, “How is it to be me, in this moment?” Take time to recognize yourself. Honor your feelings and experiences, with as much compassion and respect as you offer people you care for. No judgment. Just presence. Notice how it feels, to notice how you feel. Bless it. Bless it. Bless it.
Care Dimensions chaplains are here to help
If you are used to having a communal worship experience, being away from your faith community can feel profoundly lonesome. Our houses of worship are second homes for many of us. Yours is very likely offering a “remote” worship experience of some kind. If not (or if you are feeling a desire to explore faith), several Care Dimensions Chaplains lead our own faith communities, including Kathy McAdams (St. John’s Episcopal in Canton), Donna Spencer-Collins (Phoenix Rising, UCC), Kevin Carey (Beverly Living Church of Hope, Nazarene),and me (West Gloucester Trinitarian Congregational Church, UCC). All are on Facebook.
Lastly, a reminder that the chaplains are here for our patients and their families, our colleagues at Care Dimensions and for the community at large. Please reach out if you need a listening ear, a prayer or someone to help you to develop your own spiritual discipline. If a chaplain asks you, “How are YOU doing?, accept the invitation to speak your truth. The great thing about chaplains is that you can always tell us the truth; no judgment, no advice, just unconditional positive regard.
Be safe. Be well. Be blessed.
About the author
Rev. Rona Tyndall, M.Div., of the West Gloucester Trinitarian Congregational Church, is also the Senior Chaplain at Care Dimensions.