Everyone reacts differently during stressful times. I’ll always remember Canon Pam Mott’s sermon to the small, anxious congregation of the former St Andrews. We had just begun contemplating a huge change and challenge in our lives; one that ultimately led to the joyous union we call James and Andrew. When Pam visited, however, we were feeling stressed. She told us the story of her cats; they travelled with her to her vacation home, and upon arrival each reacted in their own way. One crawled under the bed and pretty much stayed there for the duration. One sniffed and explored carefully and curiously and finally found a comfy spot. I suppose another might have misbehaved in ways only a cat-lover can imagine!
Social distancing, quarantine and isolation can be overwhelming and can cause strong emotions in adults and children. This can manifest itself in emotional and physical ways: fear, worry and anxiety, changes in sleep and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, worsening of chronic health conditions including mental health, and increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances.
Here are some thoughts on how to cope with stress:
There’s the simple “Breath Prayer”; a phrase on the inhale, a phrase on the exhale. When anxiety builds, a few minutes of this can diffuse that anxiety, slow your heart rate and restore some of those helpful, relaxing endorphins.
There’s a beautiful practice called “Viseo Divina” . We invite God to speak to our hearts as we gaze at an image. For me it often is the antics of our favorite hen (her name is Lovey!), or the blossoms on the purple foxglove in our garden. Simply pray, “God speak to me”.
Any activity can be transformed into a spiritual practice; how about all that hand washing we are doing these days. A tiny litany for washing: “May I be centered in God’s presence, may my family be centered in God’s presence, may my community be centered in God’s presence”, etc.
Your reactions to these unusual times are your own and they matter. Take time to talk them over with someone you trust. I keep hearing God reminding me that she is always here, in the backyard, at the desk top and in the grocery store.
Here is a beauty of a little poem by Terry Tempest Williams.
I pray to the birds.
I pray to the birds because
I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward.
I pray to them because I believe in their existence,
the way their songs begin and end each day,
the invocations and benedictions of earth.
I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love
rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers,
they teach me how to listen.
Faith Community Nurse
SsJA Pastoral Care Team
You can contact any clergy person by reaching out to the office to reach the Pastoral Care Team. If you have a pastoral emergency, our office number is forwarded to an answering service after business hours.
Email Office Call (413) 773-3925
The Department of Mental Health
The state government's Department of Mental Health website
(CSO 24-hr access number) 1-800 562-0112
First Call For Help
Providing referrals to a number of community resources and supports in the Franklin, Hampshire, North Quabbin and Hampden County areas.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Mass
Providing support and resources to individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, their families and the community in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
413-786-9139 or toll free 1-800 295-2121
New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT):
Serving individuals who have experience domestic or sexual violence in the Franklin County/North Quabbin area.
413-772-0806 or toll free 1-888-249-0806.
Clinical & Support Options:
Mental health and crisis services in Hampshire and Franklin County.
Mental health services primarily in Franklin and Hampshire counties.
Western Mass Recovery Learning Community
Healing and recovery through peer support.
CHD (Center for Human Development)
Community-oriented human services.