January 9th, 2021

It’s my one-year anniversary as the Executive Director of Shield Bearer and what a year it has been! Common words from those who call into Shield Bearer these days are: exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, frazzled, worried, fed-up, devastated, lost, burned-out, and angry. I think we can all relate. 

I, for one, love to hear the stories of the silver linings others have found in 2020. My good friend was diagnosed with cancer prior to the pandemic and was in the process of scheduling her aggressive surgeries and treatment procedures back in February and March while still maintaining a busy and demanding work schedule with a long commute. She was stressed about how to mitigate it all and maintain her energy level. The lockdown and ability to work remotely were a huge blessing to her and her family.  

Hearing her express such gratitude and good fortune in the midst of her own fear, suffering, and hardship inspired me to take another look at my experiences since March of this year and identify the many graces I may have missed. I invite you to reexamine your experiences and look for the bright side amid the dark clouds of 2020. 

I’ve made a point to catch up with my dad in Virginia by phone more often than I did pre-COVID. He’s nearly 90 and he busies himself by mowing his 30 acres. It takes him two weeks to cycle through his entire property. He rarely turns on the T.V. and most of his news comes from my calls. Day after day he mows and for some reason, he’s noticed that the air seems to be cleaner, fresher, and clearer. It’s his observation he’s shared with me each time I call. Take a moment and see for yourself. Maybe my dad is correct and you’ll be able to clearly see the natural beauties and surroundings better than you could before. I read a news article recently about the Himalayas mountain range. For 30 years, its summit has been hidden from view by thick smoke and fog. However, this year, the view is clear and breathtaking.

While we remember and pray for those who are dealing with economic hardships, many are enjoying the freedom and flexibility to work from home. Some have noticed that their work-related stress has reduced. I haven’t worn a tie since March and rather than shaving every day, I enjoy the freedom to shave once or twice a week! Don’t let this opportunity to be grateful slip by. In fact, think of all the little moments we may take for granted. Remember when you were rushing out the door stressing to be here or there? Try appreciating the aroma of fresh coffee, the warmth or coolness of a longer-than-normal shower, the comforting feeling of wearing your PJs until 10 in the morning! When you take time to savor these moments your body relaxes and you increase your serotonin. Serotonin is the happy chemical in your body that boosts your wellbeing and happiness.

Staying at home with your family is an opportunity to catch up with one another. My family has longer stays around the dinner table, more board games, and deeper conversations. We have movie nights and pile up on the sofa together, play legos on the floor, and build entire communities out of empty cereal boxes for families of stuffed animals. We read together more and share prayer intentions. Spending relaxed moments with your family boosts your oxytocin. Oxytocin is released when people bond socially or snuggle up to one another. It creates a calming effect on your body and reduces stress.

Now might be the time to exercise your latent creativity and plans for self-improvement. How many times have we said, “I wish I could work on this, or discover this about myself” only to let the excuse of not having enough time weigh us down? I should say, that it necessarily isn’t a bad thing If laying down and doing nothing this week is what you need, I think that is just as much a part of self-care and self-improvement as waking up at 5 a.m. to journal, do a rigorous workout or make a five-star breakfast for your family. The important thing is that you make the most of this time and care for yourself unapologetically.

One of the most profound silver linings I’ve thought about recently is the realization that shared experiences bring us together. We are collectively navigating a shared experience. This is an opportunity for all of us to be united. 

I encourage all of us to show compassion, find and share hope and positivity, even in the worst circumstances. While negative news consumes our social media feeds, be a source of light. Reach out and offer uplifting messages, inspiration, gestures of kindness. Spread joy in whatever way you can. 

Licensed counseling can help. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out, you don’t have to wrestle with depression and anxiety alone. There are others who will join you in your battle. There is a light in the darkness and calm in every storm.

Managing Stress & Fatigue

  • Establish new daily routines.
  • Spend time outdoors.
  • Maintain contact with others.
  • Keep regular mealtimes.
  • Limit exposure to news and social media.
  • Keep a healthy sleep routine.

Preventing Family Burnout

  • Let yourself off the hook. Don’t expect to be perfect.
  • Create a safety net. Reach out for help and engage with others.
  • Take a break. You need downtime and alone time. Take 15 minutes.
  • Stay healthy. Limit alcohol, nicotine, and other substances. Eat healthy foods and exercise.
  • Accept your feelings. It is 100% ok to feel the way you feel.