by Dr. Joshua Stowe
In recent weeks, we have been introduced to much. Spring has arrived with its emerging beauty and lingering uncertainty. Plants that have lived in cold dormancy have started to show signs of new life. As grass greens, trees and flowers bud and blossom. Birds sing. The sun shines. Then, without warning, the bottom falls-out. The winds shift. Fronts collide. Storms roll-in. Temperatures drop. Amid the beauty, chaos looms.
We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it. There are glimmers of sunlight. A warm cup of coffee on a quiet morning. A funny video. An unexpected phone call. An episode of “Some Good News” with John Krasinski on YouTube. A Zoom chat with friends and family. An online Worship Service. The celebration of Resurrection Sunday. So many points of encouragement. Then something happens. It’s not a good day. The sun fades. The clouds roll-in. We feel the chill of social distancing and sheltering-in place. We see the storm build as our personal lives collide with changes at work and school. The rain falls and our hearts sink a little as we bundle-up and brace for whatever’s next.
So how has the weather been? Has today’s forecast been sunny and warm? Or have the clouds of uncertainty and chaos blown-in? Do we lift our heads to look for life’s goodness? Or do we tuck our chins and push-through? Have we found a rhythm for life? Or have our days started running together? When life gets messy and chaotic, as it has in recent days, how do we respond? Perhaps these suggestions can provide some structure in the chaos.
Build a schedule. Over the past few weeks, time seems to have taken-on a different dimension. Mornings are a little slower. Nights are a little longer. Some days race-by. Others drag-on. It’s all been a little weird as everything blurs together. Life and work and school. By building a schedule, we help to provide some clarity for ourselves. We know what we’re doing today, and we’re doing it with a sense of purpose.
- Set a time to get-up in the morning. Set a time to go to bed in the evening. Be intentional about meals and drinking plenty of water. Practices like these help the body form some much needed consistency.
- Set a time to go to work. Set a time to be done. More on this in a moment.
- Set times to pause and help children with school work. Classrooms have schedules. There are times for them to work independently. There are times for instruction and clarification. And while every child is different, give yourself some permission to set some limits. It can be good for you and good for them.
Designate space. In a way, things used to be easier. Everything had its place. There was a place for work. There was a place for school. There was a place for me and a place for you. There were places for convenience and fun. Restaurants, movies, concerts. There were places for community and connection. There was church and the coffee shop. And while some of these places have created virtual space for gathering, so much of our lives now live in one place.
- Pick a specific place for work and/or school. This allows for opportunities to engage and to disengage. This also helps us honor the needs of others. If we share our space with others, designated spaces help others know when we’re engaged in focused activities.
- Limit distractions. A little music might be nice but avoid the television as background noise. This will help us be more focused and productive.
- Make room for fun. By designating space, we aren’t just talking about work and school. We’re talking about leisure. We need places to rest and to “clock-out.” Let those places stand alone. Protect them because they’re important.
Step away. As important as work it, we need to protect a balance between work and school and rest. This becomes a little harder when everything happens in the same place.
- Take breaks throughout the day. 10-15 minutes is a good timeframe. Step outside. Take a few deep breaths. Stretch your legs, or find a more comfortable chair.
- Incorporate a routine of “closing time.” Shutdown the laptop, and put it away. Clear-away the school work, and set it aside. Practices like these let us know when we’re done for the day or done for the week.
- Get some rest. During these anxious times, we’re more tired than usual. That’s because our stress load has increased, and normal activities require more intentionality. So take a nap or go to bed a little earlier.
- Do something you enjoy. Play a game. Work on a puzzle. Read a book, or watch a movie. Go for a walk, or sit on the porch. Watch the sunrise, or watch a storm roll-in.
The Bible opens with the story of creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (NLT Genesis 1:1). And in the beginning, there was darkness and light. There was evening and morning. There were season (see Genesis 1:14): Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. God worked, and God rested. There was a certain cadence to it all, a sort of sacred rhythm. And it was good. I believe there is a part of us that seeks rhythm in our lives. We might all be a little different, but each of us needs some consistency and familiarity, especially when life gets chaotic. It helps us stay grounded, and it helps us stay connected: connected to ourselves, connected to others, and connected to the God who created us and cares for us in every season.