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22 September 2021
Looking after ourselves in body, mind and spirit
Words Robyn Smartt
Major Robyn Smartt is Clinical Manager, Pastoral Services, for The Salvation Army Australia. She recently spoke to Salvos Magazine about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies that can help people get through and build resilience in body, mind and spirit.
Salvos Magazine: We have been living with COVID-19 for more than 18 months now. What impacts are you seeing this have on people?
Robyn Smartt: The reality people are facing is dependent on where they live in Australia, what they’re used to, their level of understanding of what it all means, and their personal circumstances.
For many, their past frames of reference and coping strategies aren’t working anymore. Depending on how we live life, some of us are facing this as we would any new problem to solve, especially as the Delta strain of the coronavirus takes hold. Others of us are looking for peace and stability.
We are asking ourselves what is normal. Levels of anxiety, sadness, grief and anger are growing. Stress responses are heightened and energy levels are decreasing. Sleep patterns are being disturbed.
People are worried, feeling heavy. The media are using words like ‘malaise’ to describe what is happening, which seems sadly accurate.
Cancelled or interrupted holiday plans, and the inability to plan future trips, is preventing people from getting the circuit breakers of holidays that they can normally rely on.
People are increasingly feeling isolated, whether they’re in a crowded house or living alone. Screen time for adults and kids has gone up.
We can’t get into a rhythm. Everything we were accustomed to, even throughout the pandemic, is changing. The risks are higher, advice changes, we have more questions and more concerns. It seems to be going on and on and we can’t get back into a ‘normal’ life pattern.
SM: What can people do to get through this time?
RS: We need to be looking after ourselves and others in body, mind and spirit.
This can include:
We can also find God’s peace in all of this, as difficult as that may sound.
In the Bible, in 1 Kings chapter 19, we read about the prophet Elijah who, at one stage in his life, felt desperate and threatened and ran away. It was a self-imposed isolation, but God didn’t judge him. The first thing God did was provide for Elijah’s physical needs with food and rest.
Elijah expected to find God in the same way He had shown up in the past – in the earthquake, wind or fire, but God showed up in a different and unexpected way. He cared for Elijah’s immediate needs, helped him realise he wasn’t alone, and gave him some practical things to do.
You are not alone in your struggles either. There are people you can connect with who want to help you.
In Philippians chapter 4, verses 6-7, God tells us to bring everything to him in prayer and not to be anxious about anything. Instead, talk to God about everything and He promises a peace that we cannot understand as He keeps us anchored in Jesus.
Let’s also be open to experiencing God’s peace in the middle of lockdown, isolation and uncertainty. Let’s look for God and notice him where he shows up.
If you’re interested in learning about building resilience, check out Hugh van Cuylenburg’s Resilience Project in Melbourne at theresilienceproject.com.au/
• Lifeline 13 11 14
• Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
• MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
• Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467
• Beyond Blue
1300 224 636 or its COVID-19 support
service 1800 513 348
1800 650 890
• ReachOut at au.reachout.com
• Care Leavers Australasia Network
(CLAN) 1800 008 774
• Brother to Brother 1800 435 799