Keeping Calm During Unsettled Times

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Division, distrust, and despondency have been constantly knocking on the door of our hearts. And the sad truth is that things will very likely not improve much for the foreseeable future. So, what should we do?

I will continue some of the practices I’ve incorporated over the last few months to keep calm and stay sane. I’ll continue reading books that point me toward God’s way of living and teach me how to grow closer to Him. But it takes more than reading, it requires action–both within my heart and in the broader world around me. Here are a few things I’ve learned through books and scripture.

  1. Begin each day with a few minutes (or more) of settling meditation and then move into a few minutes (or more) of prayer. Tips that helped me:
    • Read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. If possible, use Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster as a great companion to this. Also, take a look at A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.
    • Listen to music and prayers. I’ve experienced deep peace by listening to Ruth Fazal’s album, A Time for Healing during my meditations, as well as the daily meditations on the Soulspace app. For guided prayer, I’ve listened to Jeanie Rose’s albums, No Storm Too Great and Prayer Affirmations for the Journey. They can be purchased on Amazon, iTunes, or the individual artist’s websites.
    • Print or write down some favorite Bible verses and poems to read often. I’ve been praying Provers 2 all year and have meditated on many of the Psalms. There’s always one that speaks to me during each emotion I’m experiencing.
    • Join a Zoom group of people at your church to stay connected. See if there’s a book or Bible study that interests you and make the commitment to do it.

2. Take some time to read quality books that help you grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Books that show you a side of life or event you’re not familiar with will increase your ability to empathize.

    • I’ve been challenged to spiritual maturity by Joan Chittester’s Radical Spirit, Rebecca DeYoung’s Glittering Vices, Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, and Fleming Rutledge’s Help My Unbelief.
    • To broaden your knowledge and understanding of people and issues unfamiliar to you, I recommend What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Atisha, Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold, The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu, and I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.
    • To encourage you to go out and be the change, read The Little Book of Biblical Justice by Christopher Marshall, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage by Joan Chittester.
    • And to generally increase your knowledge pick up books about history, people, science, and other subjects you might have avoided as a child. You might discover that you enjoy reading non-fiction and learning about things that interest you now. I’ve become a big fan of non-fiction, and I used to avoid it at all costs. Recently I’ve read and enjoyed H is for Hawk, Killers of the Flower Moon, The Buddha on the Shelf, and My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran.

3. Get plenty of exercise! Nothing improves the mood and outlook on life quite like regular exercise. I mix it up, but I try to include a trip outside every day–even if it’s just to walk the dog.

4. Speaking of dogs, maybe it’s time to get a pet! They make great companions, and many studies have shown that they provide health benefits to their owners.

5. As always, a good diet is important. Add some calming herbs and teas. See Herb Highlights and peruse my featured herb articles under Herb Highlights.

6. Sleep! Prepare yourself for sleep by turning off devices (except perhaps your Kindle) about an hour before you want to fall asleep. News and Facebook updates can wait until tomorrow.

These are some of the ways I have managed to stay calm and sane during 2020. I’m actually grateful for this year that reminded me to trust in God, love my neighbor/stranger, and take care of myself and others. However, it’s a lifelong process, and I’m still working on it–are you?