As a teacher of special needs children, (yes, that was my first job and college degree) “routine” was the key to keeping children focused and learning. It was also the most challenging for me as a creative soul and one who loves spontaneity. I grew up hating routines. I was known to rearrange my bedroom as a child about once a month, so I didn’t have to look at the same wall at night. Today I often take different streets home, so I don’t have to look at the same houses and that may be why I love constant travel as a speaker and media producer. Psychologists tell us that our brain maps and organizes our life and that it likes a well-worn path. Research shows that our brain never stops learning and acquiring new skills.
However, if our brain map changes too drastically our brain registers alerts and is stressed. We may walk around perplexed and unsettled until our brain has a chance to adjust to the change. Our cortisol and adrenaline levels rise telling us to go back to normal and fix it. Fixing it then becomes our choice. Our brain can form new connections if we decide to stimulate it through activity.
For many people, the fear surrounding our recent global disruptions has changed our brain map and many are struggling to find the restart button or the way to get back into their routines. Pre-COVID, the world had been seeing a rise of mental illness and those numbers are soaring to even higher levels as the pandemic unravels. Sadly, even children are suffering more with hospitals seeing an increase in severely abused children due to not being able to escape to school and dodge abuse from home.
If you find yourself needing to hit “restart,” here are some thoughts on how you can find your way through this disruptive uncertainty and bring some stability and peace to your life.
First, know you can’t fix it.
COVID-19 that will be with us until we find a vaccine. Like the common cold, flu, cancer or other incurable diseases, the threat of the virus will continue. Our only cure is to know the One whom we can be certain, who holds the answers. and know that this world is a temporary stopping place and not our eternal home. If you’ve never developed a solid trusting faith in God but have instead had a casual check-in relationship, you need to change your brain map. Get in the habit of engaging with God personally at least four or more times a week. Research shows that Bible engagement and prayer is the single biggest factor in positively changing the direction of your life. One has to be fully engaged with God in prayer and in His Word. It is why I wrote my devotional, Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture.
We were told to “shelter in place” during COVID-19. The best place we can shelter during all disruptions that will come our way is in the solid foundation of God’s promises. He is the rock when all the world is sitting on shifting sands, and your stability will be your connectedness to Him.
Research has shown that relationships are the key to our happiness and the primary relationship has to be with God. The most disrupting elements of the virus has been separation and isolation. Staying connected during the quarantines has been a difficult hurdle for all to jump over.
Our company, Cooke Media Group, and our nonprofit, The Influence Lab has been focused for decades on helping companies, ministries, and churches use media more effectively. Unfortunately, many who have not been technology oriented or media savvy have not fared well. As we emerge, the mental strain of separation will continue to grow if adjustments and choices to learn new media skills are not made. Loss of physical relationships is going to be challenging for a long time and fear creeps in faster when we are isolated and detached. We were not created to be in separation. So stay connected to the One who promised to never leave or forsake you, and use this time of separation to learn how to use new platforms to stay connected to family, friends, and even developing new relationships.
Next, COVID has changed routines. Accept that.
Embrace the new normal by forcing yourself to reactivate your daily routines as much as possible. Get up at the same time and do what you would normally do, and find new routines each day to incorporate and challenge yourself. This is where daily engagement with God is a powerful habit. Pre-COVID, we faced many challenges and often never stopped to realize many of them, and our brain misses those challenges. Learning a new skill on your own could potentially get you into a new job and change your direction in positive ways. Stretch your mind by teaching yourself to play an instrument, learn a language, a new social media skill, grow a garden, or master a new recipe. God designed our brains to be active, so, get back into the routine of discovering new things.
Psalm 37:23- 24 (Passion translation) says, “The steps of the God-pursuing ones follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord, and God delights in every step they take to follow him. If they stumble badly they will still survive, for the Lord lifts them up with his hands.”
Finally, move forward by being grateful.
You are alive. You have been given much so use this time to recognize the abundance of God’s love and blessings. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Write a real letter with a stamp. Send a package or make a donation to a charity that is working on the front lines. Don’t stop giving and being grateful. Start a “blessing jar.” Write one blessing on a slip of paper and deposit it into a jar as you think and discover new ones each day and watch the jar filled to overflowing. Remember, God is and always will be in control, so we don’t have to be. We are living in a time of great crisis and don’t have to know all the answers when we know the All-Knowing.
Give your brain the gift of peace from God’s heart of love.