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An Action Plan for Mental Health

The power of Hope cannot be understated.  It helps people beat cancer, recover from trauma, and overcome physical injuries.  It is the antidote to depression, the foundational ingredient of faith, and the optimism that can bring courage in the face of adversity.  In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative that we foster Hope within our souls, to weather the volatility of life right now.

The Impact of Crisis

The impacts of this crisis are varied in detail but universal in magnitude.  For some, it is the loss of work and income.  For others, it is an overwhelming workload.  For some, it has meant an accelerated and upended schedule.  For others, time has slowed to a crawl as we wait this thing out with nothing to do but try and keep the kids from watching TV all day or conversely killing each other… 😊 Whatever your circumstance, I want to inspire Hope to you.

Butterfly on flower at outdoor experience
Inspired by Hope

Hope involves optimism for the future.  It is anticipating the good times to return when COVID-19 isn’t such a headline.  Hope is not just wishful thinking.  On the contrary, it is imagining good things for the future. Those thoughts can be seeds we plant in our “mental spaces” that brighten our outlook for today and germinate into beauty as we feed them daily, and they grow over time.  These hopeful thoughts can be a powerful boost to our mental health.

So, as you think of the future, ask yourself the following 3 questions.

When the Stay-Home Orders are lifted, how do you plan to…?

  • Re-connect with loved ones?
  • Celebrate?
  • Fight Fear?

Hope for Re-connecting

We don’t know the timeline yet, nor what changes COVID-19 will leave behind for social norms, but we can hope for a time in the near future where we can again see the people that mean a lot to us.  Our co-workers, our extended family, grown kids, and grandkids.  Our church family, bowling buddies, babysitters, and hairstylists.  Those reconnections will be special moments.  Make sure to savor them when they happen, but until then, even the thought of that reconnection can bring smiles to our faces and make the sunshine a bit brighter.  So, plan them out in your mind awhile.  What will it look like?  What will be the first thing you say?  If you can’t give a hug or a handshake, what other exchange of affection might be appropriate?  Be detailed in your planning.  Make lists awhile.  What will you wear?  Will there be food?  If so, what is the menu?  Be creative.  Have fun with the ideas.  Be imaginative.  Even better, make it a topic of conversation with other people, either in your house or over the phone.  Get more people in on the imaginative fun.  It will stir ideas, create smiles and laughter.  Your mental wellness will benefit from it.

Hope of Family connecting together

Celebrating

When this is over, there will be cause for celebration (maybe with the people mentioned above).  We survived.  We endured.  We made the best of a tough situation. Years from now we will tell our grandkids that “we lived through the COVID-19 crisis of 2020”.  Those are things to celebrate, to feel proud of.  Use that celebration opportunity to support the small businesses that will desperately need us when this is over.  Go out to dinner.  Go mini-golfing.  Attend a concert. Try an obstacle course. And take a friend or two (or three) with you.  Celebrate the joy of living by picking up life again.  Yes, it may look different at first, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying extroversion a bit.

And, in the celebration, be mindful of the losses too.  There are those around us that have lost loved ones to COVID-19.  Celebrating life can even mean grieving with someone over that loss, recognizing that someday, we too will cross that threshold of death, but until then, we are called to purposeful living and hopeful expression of life.

And until the actual celebration can happen, foster Hope for it by dreaming about it a bit.  Where will you go?  What will you do?  Who will be there?  Maybe even buy a gift card awhile if you can afford it, to help prepare for that special time.

Fight Fear

And lastly, some of us will have to intentionally fight fear to be able to re-connect or celebrate.  Let’s face it.  The unknowns of COVID-19 are scary.  We have all heard the stories of the healthy people it has killed, not to mention those that are more vulnerable due to age or health issues.  We don’t know exactly how long it lives without a host or all the ways it can spread.  It could be more serious than some people give credit, but it also could be less so…. We really don’t know….

Nevertheless, we do know that Fear is incapacitating, and therefore, we must resist fear whenever it wells up within us.  We must not be tentative about re-engaging with life once we have the opportunity.  Resist the urge to “stay sheltered” once it is safe to go out again.

Women Praying for hope at retreat in lancaster pa

Here is a bold thought.  A long life that is tormented by fear would be worse than dying by COVID-19.  Think about it.  The torment that is caused by fear cannot be overstated.  It destroys all quality of life, all adventure, all Hope.  It paralyzes; it incapacitates.  There are still lots of things in this world that we are more likely to die of than COVID-19.  In the end, “something” will get us.  That is just a reality.  It’s not something to fear, it is just something to recognize and move past.  Our “day of death” could be tomorrow, it could be in 100 years.  Obviously, make sure you are prepared for your Day of Death (i.e. as a Christian, I encourage you to yield your life to Jesus so that you are prepared for death when it happens), but once that preparation is in place, move past it.  Only God knows that timing, so until that time is upon us, resisting Fear is the best way to live life to the fullest, while we have it to enjoy.

Some things in life that we are called to do require bravery.  Additionally, some of us are more prone to fear than others.  So, if you feel you struggle with fear, my challenge to you is to plan something intentionally adventurous when this is all over.  Don’t do anything stupid but push your comfort zone a bit.  Maybe skydiving, or a hot-air balloon ride, or ziplining.  Pick something that you would say is “extreme” (but if you are honest, you think it would be pretty cool) and go for it.  Use it as an opportunity to kick fear in the teeth.  Get yourself psyched up for it awhile to inspire Hope in your mind.  Let the adrenaline flow.  You will find it invigorating and energizing.  That is the power of Hope.  It will give you optimism for the future, which will help your mental wellness today.

Moving Forward

Wrapping up, I invite you to let Hope infuse your life today with optimism for the future.  Let it energize you to meet the demands of today and influence your plans for tomorrow.  Let’s make it more contagious than COVID-19!