Stilling Your Soul in Troubled Times — Part 1

© by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

By Kathy Keary

Part 1 of a three-part series with ideas to ease stress, anxiety and depression in troubled times. All articles are here.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are making their rounds in the lives of many during months of sheltering in place. Many are struggling to maintain employment while there children are engaged in virtual learning at home. Others have lost their jobs, and putting food on the table with cupboards and wallets bare is an insurmountable hurdle.

As we maintain social distancing, many are desperate for companionship to relieve their loneliness. Sadly, some are experiencing an empty chair at the table having lost a loved one to Covid19.

Some are screaming: “Will this boredom ever end!”

These are just a few of the circumstances that are haunting us and our loved ones day after day, week after week, and month after month as this pandemic drags on. Know that you are not alone if feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression are knocking on the door of your heart.

You are not alone if feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression are knocking on the door of your heart.

We are not without ways to uplift our spirits during these trying time. Over the next few weeks, we will offer ideas to help relieve the burden of this time in our lives. These are not novel approaches but stand as a reminder that our wellbeing to a great extent rests in our hands. As simple as these suggestions are, intentionality is key. Consider implementing the ones that speak to you.

  • Approaching life with a grateful heart colors our days with optimism and hope. Each day make a list of the things for which you are thankful. It’s amazing that even in our darkest times, there is so much for which to be thankful. Each day your list will grow as affirmation of your many blessings.
  • When feeling stressed, take several deep breaths being mindful of your breaths. Imagine that you are breathing in peace and calm and breathing out stress and anxiety. Allow this refreshment to touch the depths of your being.
  • Spend time each day in meditation. I prefer the meditative practice of Centering Prayer, a resting and simply being in God. The steps follow. For more information see our series on Contemplation.
    • Select a sacred word which expresses your intent to be open to the presence of God within you.
    • Sit up straight in a comfortable position with eyes closed or lowered. Introduce your sacred word as a way to consent to God’s presence and action within you.
    • When you find yourself attached to a thought, gently return to the sacred word to once again consent to the divine presence and action within you.
    • At the conclusion of your prayer time, remain in this position in silence for a couple of minutes.
  • Exercise is not only important for our physical health but is extremely effective in lowering our stress level and enhancing our sense of wellbeing. It increases our level of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Choose an exercise that you enjoy to increase the likelihood of sticking to it: running, walking, dancing, yoga, tai chi, swimming, bicycling, racket ball or weightlifting.

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  • Extend acts of kindness to others. Nothing uplifts one more than lifting up another person.
  • Remain in touch with your social network via phone, Zoom, email, texts, and social media. Notice how contact with your friends brightens your day.
  • Smile and laugh often, another endorphin releasing activity. It actually boosts our immune systems and elevates our moods. I place pictures on my refrigerator that always brings a smile to my face. A phone call to my sister always results in laughter. Be intentional about doing those things that lift you up and in the process, lifts up others.

Be intentional about doing those things that lift you up and in the process, lifts up others.

  • Be truly present in nature allowing the beauty of creation to soak into your soul.
  • Being present in the moment in any activity is healthy. It takes your mind off of shames and regrets of the past and future worries and concerns.
  • Spend quiet time listening to gentle music or aps that play soothing sounds such as of the wind, gentle chirping of rainforest animals, raindrops, or ocean waves. Outside chimes can also still a restless or troubled spirit.

Sometimes when depression sets in, it is difficult to implement change even when we know it would do a world of good. Be gentle on yourself during this time. Perhaps you may need to ease into a new habit that will elevate your sense of wellbeing and set you on a path to wholeness. Stay tuned for additional suggestions to deal with the emotions that have surfaced during this unsettling time.

Note: New articles in this series are posted to the website every Monday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles.

[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]

Image above © by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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