Adaptive challenges are the true tests of leadership. In these uncertain times, just about every organisation, institution and family – literally the world over – is adapting to the fast-moving changes brought about by the COVID pandemic. It is a difficult time for all of us, and it is important that we stay as healthy, connected and supported as we can.
Christian counsellors, teachers and church leaders are in a unique position to offer much-needed support to an anxious world looking for answers (Matthew 5:14-16). But how do we do this well, when we ourselves may be struggling with the speed of change, our own anxieties about health and what the future holds, and the messy middle characteristic of all transitions?
Below are 3 tips you can put in place straight away to help you better navigate the next few months
1. LEAN INTO TRUST RATHER THAN FEAR
When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, his chief purpose was to help them realise God’s incredible grace – and the importance of relying on His grace during times of testing. Tod Bolsinger makes a similar statement in his book Canoeing the Mountains, reminding us that in uncharted territory, trust is as essential as the air we breathe.
Yes, worry and anxiety have risen over the last 12 months, even amongst many Christians (in fact, half the 350 people we surveyed last year told us they worried so much that it affected their day-to-day living). But whilst some anxiety during a pandemic is helpful and adaptive, many of us worry excessively, and often as a strategy to keep us from being surprised, or to prepare us for the worst possible outcome. In contrast, God encourages us not to be troubled, but to trust in Him (John 14:1), even and especially in crises. When tempted to worry, remember that most of our negative predictions never come true, and that at the end of the day, we can’t be sure of anything much – except God and redemption.
2. INVEST IN YOUR WELLBEING
Wellbeing is closely associated with three main elements: financial security; strong relationship with others; and a sense of purpose in life. These are often called the golden triangle of wellbeing. So if you have experienced employment changes during the pandemic, or have connected less with others due to lockdown and social restrictions, you are probably going to feel more wobbly than most. Consider creating a weekly or monthly plan, in which you intentionally focus on ways you can safeguard your livelihood and finances, plan healthy ways to connect with significant others, and review your broader life goals and purpose. The more you focus on these three areas, the healthier you will be.
3. REMEMBER THE MIDDLE IS ALWAYS MESSY
Most transitions are hard. Counsellors know that clients often present to them for help during some kind of personal or family transition, usually when it is not being managed particularly well. In other words, the middle is always messy. In COVID times, people with pre-existing vulnerabilities, frontline health workers, and the young are especially prone to experience challenges navigating the messy middle – so it is a good idea to check in on them, and encourage them with strategies that work. Some that resonate for many include:
- Practicing patience and gratitude – what is the opportunity that this is?
- Focus on your successful transitions – you have a 100% success rate at getting through in life so far!
- Avoid self-medicating – choose supportive counselling or therapy instead
- Remember change is inevitable – and transitions can offer new opportunities and a transformation for the better.