The Saturday Disney movie marathon. The too early fall baking and decor. Rereading your favorite childhood books. Playing video games all afternoon. Extra cheese on your pizza. Whatever it is you’re splurging on to help you cope and get through the day, just enjoy it. If no one’s getting hurt, it’s fine. Don’t worry about people judging you for harmless indulgences.
Don’t disappear too long. The world still needs you. But turn it all off and rest for a minute.
Anyone else realizing their flight response is on high alert?
I think mine turned on a couple years ago, and I have yet to completely turn it off. And now in a pandemic, I think there might be a good number of us who feel this way. With our flight response, when there is an imminent threat that can’t be fought off, we want to run away from it and get to safety as soon as possible. With Covid-19, we don’t have a natural immunity to this particular virus strain, and there is no guarantee that the virus is mild or survivable. For many, yes, it will end up being okay; but for many others who were seemingly in good health, they ended up in the hospital or dying. And this pandemic is far from over, so this flight response that many of us may be feeling might stay in place for a while.
This is challenging enough on its own. But we still face every day stresses. A rough day at work. A miscommunication between friends. A burnt dinner. These are common issues that we are more than capable with dealing with, but these problems feel amplified when our flight responses is clicked on. Our daily inconveniences feel like major disasters that are a threat to our well-being, so we might be inclined to shut down and withdraw as a way of fleeing to safety.
There are times when it is completely appropriate to withdraw and take some time to collect yourself. But if our flight response is triggered throughout the day, we often don’t have the luxury to hide and practice self-care. It is good to develop some coping mechanisms to help us check out for just a moment and then get back to the day. One that I use often is box breathing, which is when you breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. This helps you regain some control over your thoughts and your muscles (especially if you are prone to panic attacks.) Grounding yourself by putting your hand over your heart and speaking affirmations to yourself can help focus your mind. Make sure you’re eating and drinking when you need to. Here you can find some other suggestions for anyone who struggles with anxiety: https://adaa.org/tips
I know it feels like the world is ending, and this makes our daily stresses feel like uncontrollable chaos. It’s rough. But when we break a dish or if the dog chews up a shoe or we forget to take the trash up to the curb, it is not a threat or a disaster. Get your breath, do what you need to fight off that flight response.
At this point, we are all well aware that life is unpredictable and that we can’t know the future. And yet, when life surprises us as it is prone to do, we’re still caught off guard and left spiraling. If you’re a planner like I am, it can be especially frustrating when you feel like you took precautions for these pitfalls NOT to happen, and still, they can swallow us up.
Then we cope with the pain. We are angry and we grieve when our lives take turns that bring suffering. We think about all of our life lessons, reflect on our experiences, and try to learn from our mistakes. But I think we often forget to listen to our intuition. I think if we trust our gut, then we may be a bit more prepared and equipped than we realize to navigate life’s changes and challenges.
When I was preparing for seminary and for a life of ministry, I knew deep down in my bones that I would probably have to start my own ministry and blaze my own trail to use my gifts. Somehow my theatre training and love for the arts would become an integral part of my ministry, and that doesn’t always fit what the traditional church looks like. I didn’t know what that meant or what that would look like. God didn’t give me a clear vision but did give me a hint, an intuition. So I held onto this and banked it away as I began my education. I intentionally took a class during my time in seminary about church planting, developing new ministries, and nonprofit ministries. I knew that if I didn’t take that class then I would regret it down the road.
And then, another hint appeared: ministers are increasingly becoming “bi-vocational.” This just means that someone’s ministry doesn’t always pay the bills, so the minister takes on another job while also being a minister. I knew this was a likely outcome at some point in my ministry, and in some ways, I felt attracted to it. I had some nonprofit experience before coming to seminary, and I felt, down in my bones, that would come back to benefit me. I deliberately chose to do my chaplaincy internship in a nonprofit setting instead of a hospital setting. I wanted to equip myself for the nonprofit world in case I ever needed to be bi-vocational in the future.
However, somewhere in my second year of seminary when I began preparing for my ordination exams, I got swept up in the “traditional” idea of ministry: becoming a pastor. So I kept my intuitions in my back pocket for the future, thinking that I would have to use them “someday”, but for right now I wouldn’t need them.
The thing about intuitions is that we have them to help navigate us, but it can surprise us how soon and unexpectedly we will need to rely on them.
My first job out of seminary as a pastor didn’t work out. I thought I would be there for at least 2-3 years and then move on to something else, but that wasn’t the story. There were some things that happened that were not okay and shouldn’t happen to anyone. However, it is okay that being a pastor felt like it didn’t fit. Those feelings that I had down in my bones were coming to fruition much sooner than expected, but I was glad that I had trusted my gut and prepared myself. It didn’t prevent the pitfall, but it gave me the tools to climb out on the other side.
Now, as I am beginning my ministry with Tales of Glory, I am also preparing to enter into the nonprofit world again. I am becoming bi-vocational and I am starting a new, trail-blazing ministry.
So, are there some things you know down in your bones? Is there a hint or an intuition that is drawing your attention? Trust your gut. Follow it. If you don’t need it now, bank it away. You never know when you’ll need it and how it might reappear to help you later on. The Holy Spirit plants those seeds, and she waters them for you when you’re not even looking.