Living in Quarantine: If ever there was a time to ‘guard your heart’, this would be it.

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There are many recommendations being made about how to cope with this pandemic. Many well informed people have written about this and I don’t want to add to what other people have said. You can already get good advice here and here by reputable people and institutions. I highly recommend that you use these links and make them known to people around you who you are concerned about.

The purpose of this article is to focus on those factors that other people do not- the factors that might impact on your heart.

The heart is the distinctive feature of all human beings. It is the substance of who we are as people. It is the seat from which all your feelings, thoughts, behaviours and (non-medical) symptoms come from. So important is it, that the ancients told us to “Above all else guard your hearts for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). You can’t imagine a way of emphasising something in a more powerful way….”above all else”. And the justification seems good…..everything comes from it.

It is wise that in times of significant difficulty, such as being quarantined during a pandemic, that we do this. Given what the heart is, this gives us three ways that we can guard it: Keep connected, find your purpose…and realise, this isn’t permanent.

1. Quarantine but don’t disconnect from others. Connection (a warm and respectful rapport) is a must for all human beings. So important is connection to your mental health that it led Bessel Van Der Kolk the Founder and Medical Director of the Trauma Centre in Boston Massachusetts to state, “Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health”. So tell a joke, listen don’t teach, have fun, and if you’re talking to older children and adults – look for a deeper understanding.

2. See the purpose in what is happening. This quarantine is not aimless. By being at home away from others you won’t get Corona, if you have it and you’re quarantined you can’t pass it on. But see the purpose beyond mere survival. Ask yourself a deeper question like: “How can I grow from this?” and if you have a faith, “How does God want me to grow from this?” We’re taking a turn away from survival here and leaning towards altruism – who around me can I take care of? Are there any elderly neighbours who I can go shopping for? Do they need anything from me? Self isolation provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what is my personal role. This time of slowing down can be a source of productive reflection and consolidation of purpose.

3. Remember, this season is not permanent. It will pass, particularly if we get quarantine right (and vaccinations emerge). Reminding ourselves that this is impermanent will help us all grow in resilience and strengthen our hopes for the future. Hope is vital at this time, and pessimism is something to guard ourselves against. By using our minds in this way, we can prevent our hearts from becoming injured. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown in 20 well controlled studies, that teaching pre-teens different thinking styles (one of which is to teach children to think that bad things are not permanent), “can prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety” when the child becomes a teenager. We can all benefit from such agile thinking. This is not a permanent situation.

So grab this opportunity, not just to dodge a viral bullet, but to really connect, consolidate your purpose, grow in altruism and think in such a way that you might be hopeful and more resilient.

Kind Regards
Jonathan Andrews

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