Finding Emotional and Spiritual Resilience

We find ourselves part way through a pandemic which is like a marathon. The start was daunting as we entered lockdown. We grieved the loss of opportunities, and significant milestones shared with family – but also felt ourselves rising to the challenge, adapting, and discovering new ways of living.

As weeks have become months, with no prospect of an end anytime soon, there is a relentlessness that has become exhausting. Making difficult decisions daily about what level of risk to expose ourselves to, financial concerns and missing family and friends, are all part of the strain. Constantly having to adapt to changes we did not choose is taxing. People have become increasingly “on edge” and many are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Now we find ourselves facing a rapid escalation of infections and concerns about the capacity of our health care system. Suddenly the threat of the virus to ourselves and our loved ones feels very real as we hear of more people we know who are infected. While we are depleted from the demands of the lockdown, we must find the resilience to cope with the next phase of the journey by putting in place emotional and spiritual resources.

Living in a situation of chronic stress means that our body stays in a constant state of heightened tension as our sympathetic nervous system is activated against a threat. This can take a huge toll on our physical and emotional well-being. We need to be deliberately finding ways to manage our stress response. Some of us may need more time alone to decompress. Others may need to connect more often with family and friends. It is important not to spend too much time watching the news or engaging in social media. It can help to check in with the news just once a day and not just before going to bed. Think about what helps you to decompress. Perhaps exercise, gardening, journaling, trying a new recipe or reading a novel.

This is also the time to lean into God. When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we can pour out our grief or anger to God – even if our anger is directed at God. Before going to sleep, perhaps light a candle and say a prayer, entrusting each person you are concerned about to God. Or you may choose to pray one of the Psalms of protection like psalm 91. When it is hard to pray, sometimes a piece of music such as this can help Shelter Me by Michael Joncas | Recorded by Spiritu during the time of COVID-19. 

To trust God in this time of crisis, does not mean that our prayers will necessarily always be answered in the way we want. It does not mean that we will be immune to suffering. To trust God is to allow ourselves to be aware of God holding us or walking alongside us, giving us the strength and capacity we need to cope. God can see far beyond our current vision and has promised to be with us always. We need God’s vision now more than ever.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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