When we reflect on 2020, it seems that as human beings we have lost so much. In the material world, we have lost the third spaces we were used to visiting for leisure and social connection. Some of us have lost our homes due to evictions or foreclosures. We have lost physical contact with familiar faces. Some have lost their very lives through succumbing to the corona virus and other diseases. It is normal to grieve for the things we have lost.
Thank God we are more than human bodies. We are spirits made to reflect God’s image, housed in souls and resourced with human bodies for our limited time on this planet. Napoleon Hill, author of several books which explored the power of mind over matter such as ‘Success through a Positive Mental Attitude’, identified the fear of ill health as one of the six basic fears. It raises the question of what is it about the mere thought of ill health that generates so much fear and anxiety?
There are those of us for whom ill health has been chronic, it’s all we’ve ever known and so the prospect of yet another sickness fills us with dread. We may wonder – would this be the final straw which breaks our already tenuous connection to the land of the living? Undeniably, sickness is a wake up call to the fact that we are mere mortals whose lives on earth have an expiry date.
For those who are used to good health, the prospect of becoming ill will fill them with a sense of dread as they would regard an unfamiliar and invisible enemy. Having never fought such an enemy, they might no doubt wonder if they would be strong enough to withstand and overcome it. For the employed and sole breadwinner in a family, it would be an unsettling interruption to working life. Indeed, even those whose immune systems render them asymptomatic, would be required by their employers to self-isolate. This gives rise to another basic fear – the fear of poverty.
When will we return to the new normal? History shows that over time, all societies change. Although it may not be obvious, society is always evolving incrementally. On this occasion, Covid-19 seems like an 8.0 quake on the Richter scale, destined to change our cultural landscape forever. It has jolted us out of our normalcy. What has become evident is that we now live in parallel realities. News platforms and pundits peddle different opinions. It’s difficult to know what to believe.
Ultimately, we can only live in our own physical space and headspace. It might be worthwhile to step aside from these news outlets and back into our personal reality. This is where we have the most control. We are always presented with a choice, but our choice will impact our mental health and the mental health of those around us. This is the perfect opportunity to choose positive mental patterns of thinking:
- Self-affirmation: instead of berating yourself for being unhealthy or sick, begin to envisage yourself as healthy and strong.
- Expectation of survival. Instead of perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy that you are bound to catch the virus or even to succumb to it, begin to tell yourself that you will survive it.
- Project positivity not negativity into the future. Even if you have the corona virus, nurture a hopeful outcome of yourself recovering and returning home.
- Avoid engaging in an endless cycle of ‘what if’s’. It’s alright to calmly prepare for future possibilities, but don’t escalate the negatives.
- Focus your attention on being proactive not passive. For example, draw up a plan of action for improving your health, and take tiny steps each day in the direction of a worthy goal. The opposite of fear is love. Can we love ourselves enough to look after our bodies now in such a way that they will be better equipped to handle any virus or germ which may threaten them?
- Decide what we believe, and what words we will allow to accost our ears and invade our souls? Will we spend more time listening to the scaremongers on the news or those who seek to educate us on good health and how to achieve it.
Of more importance than when the lockdowns will end, what regional tier you are living in or whether or not you test positive for Covid-19, is what type of person will you be on the inside in the midst of all this confusion and uncertainty on the outside? There’s a secret place in our hearts that no one can access except God (Psalm 91). Prayer is the best vehicle for our fears because confidentiality and safety are assured, and when we truly surrender to that Higher Power, the God of grace, we are sure to find the comfort we desperately need.