Yesterday I hit a wall. Cabin fever has definitely set in at the Hardy household. Honestly, I’m not sure what day of the self-quarantine and/or shelter-in-place order we’re on, and sometimes I’m not even positive as what day of the week it is. Living the way we’ve been for many weeks now, and the prospect of having to continue this way of life for at least another month has become mentally draining.
This week especially, I’ve witnessed my family becoming stressed. Homeschooling my children has quickly shown to be exhausting – Teisha is the primary teacher while I’m operating more as the Phys-Ed teacher, lunch lady, and the principle (when they’re in need of remedial behavior training, i.e. detention). We are all feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with the disorganization of their schoolwork, the overall lack of user-friendliness in the software, and the chronic “technical difficulties” – all while Mom and Dad maintain full-time jobs (of which we are very grateful).
It just isn’t the homeschooling in combination with employment that has played a role on my mental exhaustion. The world around us looking so different is a bit shocking. For example, going to the grocery store seems almost post-apocalyptic and bordering on paranoia. People are not just wearing N95 masks and gloves, but entire garbs in an attempt to stave off the virus. When I go for a walk, I feel like I’m in a populated ghost town. I know people are there, but I don’t see them or hear them; and if I do encounter another life form, we’re repelled to opposite sides of the street as if we were like-poled magnets. I actually found myself holding my breath as I passed people on the street.
I’m certain that my family and I aren’t the only ones experiencing this. The isolation we’re going through is a shared experience by all of us. As we try to do the best that we can in these unexpected times, we all need to be mindful of how we’re treating each other and ourselves.
From my time as a police officer, I remember that domestic violence calls-for-service peaked in the summer and winter – times when people were really hot and cranky, and when people were really cold and cooped up (usually combined with excessive alcohol consumption). Times when people are around each other more often than usual, including major holidays and long weekends, domestic violence increases.
As I was Googling to look for statistics to affirm my anecdotes (they do exist), I stumbled across multiple stories from reputable news agencies reporting recent spikes in domestic violence around our country and the world. The increase in familial violence is being attributed to the collateral damage from the COVID-19 pandemic: isolation, negative economic repercussions, illness, and death. In light of this, how do we not only care for our families, but also for ourselves, during these times of stress, uncertainty, and fear so we don’t become a part of that statistic?
Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. – Matthew 15:29
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35
As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. – Matthew 14:13a
After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. – Matthew 14:23
We can begin by asking the age-old question: What would Jesus do? (Actually, the phrase isn’t that old; it’s only a little over 130 years old… Google it). Jesus took breaks, not only from ministry – his life’s work – but he took breaks, in solitude, from those that he was around constantly: the disciples, his family, friends and followers. The historical context of the Jewish reality during the first century was not the most pleasant or tranquil time on earth either, which certainly added to the day’s stress. Thus, even Jesus, God incarnate, who came to be with us, demonstrated that he too needed mental breaks from it all… and the people he loved.
I encourage you to follow Jesus’ example during these anxious times. For me, I unapologetically need time of solitude every day, even before the quarantine. I refresh my soul by taking long walks or hiking in the mountains, during which time I pray or just listen to the sounds of nature. I also enjoy listening to music, more often than not, Pearl Jam, or by reading a book. Believe it or not, pastors read more than just their Bibles! I’m almost done reading 1776 by David McCullough and have The Underground Church by Robin Meyers in the hopper (a seminary re-read). These are my ways of enjoying a break in solitude to be rejuvenated, what are yours?
It may be hard to find time of privacy, or even a quiet space, when we’re limited by social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, but it is vital to care for ourselves. By unloading our mental burden by caring for ourselves we’re caring for those around us as well. I urge you to make time for yourself – even for 15 minutes – a priority. Your family will thank you.
Be like Jesus and find time to get away from people, including the ones you love and live with. It’ll boost your mental health and ultimately strengthen your relationships with those around you.
God be with you ‘till we meet again.