A Letter to the Church
Good morning Vineyard family.
We hope you are all safe and well. Once again we have seen massive shifts in how we respond to the coronavirus as each and every one of us does His or her bit in flattening the spread of this disease. We are constantly praying for those of you on the front line battling this pandemic keeping the country going.
This for all of us will be a season of adjustment. We will have to learn new Rhythms as we adjust to lock down, it may have been Prophetic that our first sermon series this year was all about developing healthy Rhythms of life so that we can thrive no matter what situation we find ourselves in.
All of us will be experiencing some level of anxiety you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. I have found great comfort in reading Mark 4:35-41 this morning. Jesus says to his disciples “hey guy’s lets go on a boat trip to the other side”. As they set off Jesus decides to take a nap. All a sudden a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. The disciples begin to panic some of them are seasoned fishermen so I imagine it must have been an incredibly fierce storm. You know the rest of the story, they awake Jesus and he rebukes the wind and the waves and says “quite be still” and the storm subsides. Then he says to the disciples something I find curious “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Now my response would have been “Daaaaaa the storm Jesus that nearly sank us!!” But then I realised any time Jesus asks you a question it’s not for his sake it’s for ours, he already knows our answer he is the God of the universe. No, it’s that we would ask ourselves why are we afraid. What I take from this reading is that if Jesus is in your boat and says we are going to the other side, we will get there regardless of what storm we may find ourselves in. It is what we anchor ourselves to that get us through the anxious times.
This Sunday we are going to look at successfully coming through the Dark Valley times in life as we follow Jesus based on Psalm 23. In the meantime I thought it might be helpful if you are finding you're anxiety levels elevated some practical things you can do to help you manage stress levels.
Stay informed—but don’t obsessively check the news
It’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, so you can follow advised safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s important to be discerning about what you read and watch.
- Stick to trustworthy sources such as the World Health Organisation, and our local public health authorities. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-individuals-and-businesses-in-scotland.
- Limit how often you check for updates. Constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly turn compulsive and counterproductive—fuelling anxiety rather than easing it. The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust accordingly.
- Step away from media if you start feeling overwhelmed. If anxiety is an ongoing issue, consider limiting your media consumption to a specific time frame and time of day (e.g.. thirty minutes each evening at 6 pm).
- Ask someone reliable to share important updates. If you’d feel better avoiding media entirely, ask someone you trust to pass along any major updates you need to know about.
- Be careful what you share. Do your best to verify information before passing it on. We all need to do our part to avoid spreading rumours and creating unnecessary panic.
Focus on the things you can control
We’re in a time of massive upheaval. There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities. That’s a tough thing to accept, and so many of us respond by endlessly searching the Internet for answers and thinking over all the different scenarios that might happen. But as long as we’re focusing on questions with unknowable answers and circumstances outside of our personal control, this strategy will get us nowhere—aside from feeling drained, anxious, and overwhelmed.
When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your city or town, but you can take steps to reduce your own personal risk (and the risk you’ll unknowingly spread it to others), such as:
- washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- avoiding touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
- staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
- avoiding crowds and gatherings of 2 or more people.
- avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
- keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when out.
- getting plenty of sleep, which helps support your immune system.
- following all recommendations from health authorities.
Take care of your body and spirit
This is an extraordinarily trying time, and all the tried-and-true stress management strategies apply, such as eating healthy meals, getting plenty of sleep, and Christian meditation. Beyond that, here are some tips for practicing self-care in the face of the unique disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
- Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles.
- Maintain a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.
- Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries.
- Get out in nature, if possible. We are allowed at present to exercise once a day.
- Fresh air will do you good. Even a walk around your neighbourhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey Gov restrictions in your area.
- Find ways to exercise. Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While the gym and group classes are out, you can still cycle, or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, and exercises that use your own bodyweight.
- Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now.
- Take up a relaxation practice When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can bring you back into a state of equilibrium. A great new free app recommended by Justin Welby is Soul Time it can be down loaded on to you're phone at https://apps.apple.com/app/soultime/id1369059690?l=ru
- Regular practice delivers the greatest benefits, so see if you can set aside even a little time to do these things every day.
I think one of the most important things we can do in times like this is to stay connected. There will be those we know that don’t have a Church or even a community connection that may be feeling isolated alone worried looking for community. This is a low cringe time when we can invite them to become connected and finding community by joining us by tuning in on a Sunday. As Leaders we will endeavour to keep you up to speed and produce material to help each other through this time as we grapple with technology that is new to us. Linda and I are praying for you and look forward to connecting with you on Sunday we love you all.
Jamie & Linda