What we are made for
So, what are we made for while we are here on this planet and in the midst of the pandemic? Psychiatrists and neuroscientists Bessel van der Kolk and Daniel Siegel offer a number of helpful recommendations that I will adapt through a biblical worldview.
We are made to form and nurture close relationships. You may consider forming “social bubbles” with friends and family you trust and know you are all COVID-19 negative. Last week, we had dinner with a lovely couple we had never met before, but knew through the mutual family. We showed up at their doorstep with faces covered and keeping physical distance. We all quickly disclosed we were “negative.” So, while we took our masks off, we kept a healthy distance and no handshakes or hugs. We embraced ourselves to show them how much we enjoyed their warmth, but that was it. FaceTime and Zoom are not the same as real face-to-face, I know. I use Zoom to work every day. As a psychotherapist, I am not quite seeing all the nuances of emotional expression, but I do pick up on other features that immediacy drowns in the confines of my office. Our small Sabbath School class started Zooming recently. It is tempting (and mostly good) to watch the more articulate preachers instead of your “good enough” pastor. But, familiarity and keeping as much of a routine will help you in ways that may be difficult to discern immediately.
Dr. van der Kolk reminds us that our brain is more than the organ of reason or social and emotional connection. It also regulates basic processes such as hunger and sleep. Keep it regular, it will translate into a sense of predictability that will help you adapt.
Our brains also need healthy stimulation and physical activity. Knitting, cooking, walking (particularly in nature) will reinvigorate you. The “basement” or subcortical areas of the brain need movement, rhythms, sound (listen to music and sing) as your visceral relationship with your own experience benefits from these kinds of activities as well. For instance, my “new Sabbaths tend to go like this: I start by reading a book to learn about the history of the Adventist church in South America. Attention and concentration are heightened as I am interested, can relate to the content, and find inspiration in the experience of our spiritual forefathers. Then, my wife and I watch a sermon and join the singing during the taped services shown on the Hope Channel. Then, we connect to our Sabbath School class through Zoom, and, in the afternoon, close to the sunset, I love to go to my backyard and listen to music as I observe the various tonalities that the trees take as the sun retires (I highly recommend this activity).