Ways to Wellbeing: Be Real
Culture today, and throughout history, promotes self-sufficiency. There’s a whole industry based on self-help – ‘how to win friends and influence people’, ‘the magic of thinking big’, and ‘the 7 habits of highly effective people’ to name a few. Essentially, it’s the idea that the resources that we need to be able to cope day to day, in all that life throws at us, are to be found within ourselves. We are to be strong and independent; we celebrate people who can ‘stand on their own two feet’, that are ‘capable and confident’ in their own abilities.
I’m not completely knocking ‘self-help’, my bookcase is evidence of being a just a little bit of a fan of the GP Dr Rangan Chaterjee (who has written books like ‘Feel Good in 5 minutes’ and ‘The 4 pillar plan’) and Cathy Madavan’s ‘How to Live an Irrepressible Life’. I’m a proponent of living healthily – getting exercise, eating well and generally looking after oneself being hugely beneficial, but where does faith and ‘spiritual health’ fit in? How do we as Christians differ when it comes to wellbeing – do we have an edge? Are we different?
My experience, most especially in the last few months, is that one ‘WAY’ to wellbeing is to BE REAL – recognising that it’s ‘OK not to be OK’ alongside gutsy, in-the-trenches knowledge that we are known and loved by our heavenly Father and that we are highly valued and valuable. Honesty, with God and appropriate others, is so important to ‘staying well’ and moving forward into what God has for us – even if that is just being able to do the boring ordinary mundane lockdown tasks without wanting to mentally ‘check out’ until it’s all over.
The reality is, the world, (and by the world I’m really talking of the world I see every day through my patients) is, through this pandemic, increasingly wracked with anxiety and depression. Thankfully our trust isn’t in the government, or the NHS, or even in my ability to successfully complete all the life-giving hints and tips of the aforementioned Dr Chaterjee. My trust is in the God who sent his Son to die on a cross, and in doing so brought me life and life to the full, (and the bible doesn’t contain a bracket saying ‘excluding in the midst of a pandemic’!).
You see the thing is, or as my Grandma would say ‘what it is, is’…self-help books all fall down in the face of overwhelming odds, they all fall down in the face of being mortal, they all fall down in the face of a pandemic, they all fall down when life strips you of your health, your wealth and your dignity…they only get you so far.
Tell someone who has lost both parents in a week to COVID to ‘do some gentle stretches for 5 mins three times a day to feel youthful and invigorated’ or to someone who has just extricated themselves from a violent marriage to ‘be mindful by counting your out-breaths’…
I know I’m being somewhat facetious but this is about ‘when the rubber hits the road’, its about the times in life when, as the pandemic has forced many to re-evaluate…what about when the sky is falling?
What actually keeps us going, how can we thrive?
Not in a forced smile, ‘everything is fine’ let’s all clap our hands and dance when we don’t feel like it kind of way, but a ‘through the muck and the mire, when I’m knackered and downtrodden, when all I want is a hug, when all I want is to see my grandchildren, when all I want is to be rid of this pain, when all I want is to know the warmth of the sun, when all I want is to not have to work and sweat in PPE…’ Then…then when we get to our full stop, our stuck… what do we know that will bring us the ability to ‘find peace in all circumstances enabling us to live life to the full’? What do we know that will make us ‘well’?
And the answer isn’t to be found in the world, and its trappings that are stripped away, the answer is only and can only be found in Jesus. He is the one who restores, he is the one who comforts, he is the one who renews us to our right mind, who says its ok not to have it all perfect, all sewn up, all pretty, but we can come just as we are, broken, battered, bruised, bolshy and know that he accepts us, he loves us and in him there is purpose just in being in his presence, in being, just being. That’s utterly bonkers, everything that I’m programmed to believe in the culture I live in tells me that I have to be something, someone, impress, look at certain way, achieve a certain amount, pass an exam, get this job, perform well, do enough, do more than enough, go above and beyond – and he tells me just sit, just be, just lie back, just rest, just be with me, you are ENOUGH.
Dr Claire Hollingsworth – Fitfish Team