by Sarah-Leah Pimentel
The news cycle is depressing, and our anxiety is heightened when we think about how these events affect our lives. What will a collapsing Eskom do to our businesses and livelihoods? Will corruption destroy South Africa’s remaining infrastructure and institutions? How close are we to a failed state? Is the world on the brink of another war? How will the economic fallout of these events affect the cost of living and my family’s budget?
We also face the turmoil of our own lives: concerns for our children’s future, job insecurity, the discovery of a severe illness, fear of becoming the victims of crime, and planning for retirement. The list is endless.
These things wear down our resilience and prevent us from finding small moments of joy amid our daily struggles. This constant battle between external chaos and the search for inner peace always reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur.” He reminds us that the “world is charged with the grandeur of God” and that the abundance of everything He has given us in His mercy and love “will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
Hopkins wrote in a time of increased industrialisation and more significant uncertainty, characterised by losing human connections and harmony with the natural environment. He recognised that this brought on a melancholy similar to what we feel today. When we are caught up in the world’s concerns, we stop seeing the incredible beauty around us.
Rereading this poem for the first time in many years, it occurred to me that we spend too long examining the signs of the times around us but are oblivious to the signs of our hearts. We become caught in the eternal rat race and numb ourselves to focus only on the next thing that needs to be done.
When we fail to reflect and understand how daily life’s pressures affect us, there is a real danger that we’ll run on empty and only realise it once we hit rock bottom. Much of the current mental health crisis is due to the pace of our lives and our inability to pause and take stock of where we are on our life journey and find meaning in everyday life.
Is it even possible to emerge from this vicious cycle of anxiety, fear, worry and stress? It is, but it requires some discipline and intentionality. And it must be part of our daily routine.
Each morning we can intentionally entrust our tasks to God, asking the Holy Spirit for the gifts we need for each activity. In the evening, we can reflect and acknowledge the successes and failures but not get caught up in our thoughts about what could have been better. Instead, ask for forgiveness and the grace to do better the next day.
This is not fool proof, but it is a routine that helps me to cope better with life and not quickly spiral into anxiety and self-doubt. Everything is possible when we remember that powers more extraordinary than us can help us cope with the daily grind.