When Covid hit, and children came home for remote learning, we all found our inner hero and rose to the occasion. We looked for the good in the situation, joked about working in pajamas, and turned a room in our house into a family work center. Psychologist Ann Masten says we went to our surge capacity to survive a new crisis. A surge capacity is a collection of skills (emotional, mental, and physical) that come over us in a wavelike sweep allowing us to cope. Our surge capacity helps us use our inner resilience. In this state, we get creative about problem-solving; we activate our ability to find gratitude and the strength to ignore difficulty. God gave us this capacity to get us through a difficult time.
Our challenge now is that the difficult time has become a chronic situation. Add to that the summer is over, and we have new burdens. We have depleted our surge capacity, and the road ahead looks daunting.
We are tired. We are tired of adjusting, tired of creative problem-solving, tired of new covid news – even good news. When we feel depleted, this adds a whole new level of anxiety to our thinking. We ask ourselves, "How are we going to manage?" and for the first time, we have no idea.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
After the reminder of God's grace, I note in this verse that I am not the only one to feel depleted. The psalm writer gets what we are going through, and God tells us He has a plan to address our needs. I urge you to read the entire psalm and notice how the emotions gravitate from one extreme to the other: crying to gratitude, hunger to blessing, affliction to delivery, and peace. Covid might be a new virus, but what we are going through is not new.
What are the tools God gives us to repair our crushed spirit? How do we replenish our surge capacity?
Forgive: Admit that you are not a superhero and accept God's forgiveness for your mistakes. Teach your family to be easier in forgiving each other. Challenging times demand we develop our grace muscles.
As a family, list the activities and routines you miss. Write or draw about the
things you discuss and put them in a box with the assurance that you will
retrieve them. Save the box as a covid time capsule and remind yourselves the box will be opened some day.
Breathe: While taking time to practice deep breathing will help replenish our surge capacity, it is equally healthy to do to your breathing outside in the sunshine. Playing outside will reinforce the idea that there are still good things to be experienced. When we are outside, we relieve anxiety and revitalize the parts of our brain that help us to focus.
Create: At this point, it is hard to imagine we will ever forget this year, but so much of what we are learning will be lost as we work to survive. Take time to document your family's life in photos, stories, songs, and favorite survival Bible verses. This activity will replenish your surge capacity for the short term and provide you with memories to give you courage in the long term.
Help: Look for ways to help others because, in addition to the apparent benefit, it also restores a sense of control and reduces anxiety. Helping others is an excellent coping strategy to teach your children.
Study: It is always a challenge to find time to study God's word as a family. I recommend diving into the Psalms. Highlight a verse or two and talk about how it applies to your family.
Oddly, the best thing you and your family can say is, "We can't take it anymore!"
At this point, the point of giving up control is when we can trust in our loving Father.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am
your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Weary Joy: The Caregiver's Journey