How to recover emotionally from COVID-19
"Dr Jim Wilder PhD is the writer, thinker behind the Life Model movement. Jim is a Christian clinical psychologist with experience of working with people after traumatic times such as tsunamis, genocide, Ebola. Dr Wilder identified three key needs we have for emotional recovery / good mental health in this COVID-19 crisis. They are
- To experience inner peace
- To practice appreciation & gratitude
- To experience God.
Jim also saw that if we have not experienced these we need to hear stories about them so that we can build a map in our minds of what they may look like
Happily, each of these have been the focus of our ministry over the last few years. We will look at these and look at some things you can use to move forwards-
Your ability to calm yourself and be at peace is the strongest predictor of your lifelong mental health. When you operate from peace, your brain and body are free to function in their optimum way; calmness helps you cope with life, improves everything you do and reduces the stress on your body. Being calm is wonderful for you.
Some years ago I when I was cycling, a car ran me over and dragged me along the ground. When the car came to rest, it was lying on my chest. In a miraculous sequence of events, I survived but had post-traumatic stress disorder. One obvious injury was I had a "panda face."
You learned to calm from your primary carer. You absorbed those skills naturally, but not perfectly. We all have gaps in our calming skills, which we can improve with skill-training. A few months ago, a bishop described Mike in a webinar as "the person with the deepest understanding of how to calm and come to peace that I have ever known." Our training combines insights from the Life Model (with 30 years of research into this area) with practical ministry insights. We have priced the course as competitively as we can and would recommend you do it. We have combined Ruth's creative artistic side as an art educator, worship leader and British leader of an inner healing ministry with Mike's research in a unique form.
While I was still recovering, someone showed me a photo of themselves with a panda face after an accident. As they showed me the picture I realised that if I was passive I would move into overwhelm. The picture would connect with a memory that would spark overwhelming emotion for me. I therefore did a couple of exercises that we teach on the calming course. I crossed my arms over in a self-soothing motion and as far as I remember I deliberately yawned too. These two actions stopped my body from reacting negatively to the photo, and I could maintain conversation and my composure. Without the exercises, I would have had to have moved away from the photo. That's the short-term power of the calming exercises we teach.
The second skill for good mental health in COVID-19 is to practice appreciation and gratitude.
Appreciation is when you or I recognize good qualities in something or someone. You notice the value of something and name it - to yourself or to other people. To appreciate something, you simply need to focus your attention on it and notice the good about it.
Like most words, gratitude has lots of meanings. Let’s think of it as a feeling or a state of thankfulness. In other words, gratitude is about feeling thankful or your body being in a grateful state, while appreciation is about your thoughts. Appreciation and gratitude help you experience greater joy, peace and happiness and enable you to grow in your relationship with God.
If you don't know what I am describing, it means that you have not had the experience.
My journey with gratitude and appreciation has changed me.
In the pandemic we moved house because of water damage; my dad was in and out of hospital; my work was demanding; we were in lock-down (which means we rarely left the house) and many people around us were ill. Facing these pressures and others, I wanted to thrive and not be overwhelmed. What did I do? I turned to God through gratitude and prayer.
I had been spending time in appreciation, but it wasn’t regular enough. I had a mindfulness journal, but it didn’t allow for my Christian experience of God. God changed me from the inside-out as I spent time giving thanks, praying and journaling.
I went on a journey of seven steps to life-changing appreciation in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. As I grew habits of appreciation (thinking about things and feeling thankful) and gratitude (noticing when I felt grateful).
I became happier and more peaceful. This peace and joy enriched my relationships and improved the quality of my life. You can buy the journal I wrote as a result on the resources page
The third skill is to develop the ability to practice the presence of God with you. You can do that
individually in prayer or journalling;
with someone else
or in church worship
It is possible to learn to hear from God and this relationship itself can begin to bring us healing.
We can do this in listening prayer and in other spiritual disciplines. When it comes to recovering emotionally from COVID-19 people have found quieting worship and breath prayer helpful in calming down, spending time with God in appreciation and gratitude helping them become more relational and then experiencing God-with-them in difficulties either through their daily prayers, or in practices we teach like Immanuel Journaling, or in one-on-one prayer people have found their lives changed.
Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and we find that in prayer this begins to happen.
© Mike Jones 2021