Each of us is having to make major adjustments to our lives. We are all living with a lot of change and, to be honest, a significant degree of anxiety about what the future holds for us and for those we love. It is fitting and helpful, then, that the national church has today launched a series of reflections on how to cope with anxiety and loneliness in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, including simple Christian meditation techniques and five tips.
A number of actions that could help people feeling isolated or worried, as well as those who are grieving, are put forward in a new guide Supporting Good Mental Health and written by Durham University academic Revd Professor Chris Cook with Ruth Rice, director of the Christian mental health charity, Renew Wellbeing.
The booklet gives advice ranging from putting aside time to rest and eating and sleeping well, to using the phone and the internet to reach those who may be struggling on their own. Making a list of all the good things – and people – that you miss when you are on your own and thanking God for them, can be a way of helping cope with loneliness, the guide says.
Simple prayers can be said repeatedly as a means of helping to deal with stress, and lighting a candle can be a helpful form of prayer for some people (but be careful not to set light to anything in the process - unlike one notable poor soul those of you on social media may have seen!). Quotations from the Bible can be a useful aide to meditation and calming fears, including writing down and repeating short passages, it suggests.
To download a (free ) PDF of the pamphlet or to see each of the thirteen reflections, go to https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health/supporting-good-mental-health?mc_cid=9a7f36c4a4&mc_eid=84c821e796
In addition, the church has suggested five tips for tackling loneliness and isolation:
• Pray. Light a candle, if safe, and pray for hope, faith and strength to keep loving and caring for each other during this time of struggle.
• Talk about how you feel. This may be difficult if you are self-isolating, but do use the telephone, internet, and social media. If you need to contact a counsellor this can be arranged by your GP, or via local agencies, or privately. Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to call them on 116 123.
• Focus on the things that you can change, not on the things you can’t.
• Look after yourself - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Plan in things that you enjoy at regular intervals during the day – a TV programme, a phone call, a book, a favourite dish, a game.
• Look after others. Even if only in small ways, but do what you can: a smile, a kind word, writing a letter or an email.
As ever, please do come and seek out the diocesan Facebook group for us to share best practice and support one another.
Oh, and please do keep on sharing this information with your colleagues who are not connected via email or social media - there is every chance they will be feeling even more isolated in these circumstances, and if ringing to tell them about this email gives you a good reason to phone, then all the better!
I’ll be in touch again tomorrow with any updates, and an end-of-week message from Bishop Philip.
With all best wishes,