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Mental and Spiritual Wellness in a Crisis

Jessup Think
Jessup Think
Mental and Spiritual Wellness in a Crisis

Dr. Erin Ambrose joins Rex and Mark to discuss ways of cultivating mental and spiritual wellness during times of crisis.


Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore, and your co host Rex Gurney and we are not from our regular studio today, are we? Exactly. We’re back again to our social distance podcast. And today Rex on the show. We have Dr. Erin Ambrose. She’s one of our esteemed psychology professors. And she’s really here to help us and help you as listeners understand how to how to cultivate mental and spiritual wellness in times of crisis. I’m really looking forward to what she has to say. Yeah, we hope you enjoy the show. Erin, thank you so much for for being on the show. And and Rex and I really right now, we need your help.

I’m going crazy in here. I just don’t know how I’m gonna make the next. You know, a few weeks, much less than next few months. happens. And so I need some help, Erin.

Yeah. And Rex is Rex is he’s now Where are you three weeks into the ponytail? Is that what’s happening? I actually ran that by a class. My wife is I talk to them for the quarantine ponytail. But, but now I am we’re really excited to have you on the show and just kind of help us and help our listeners really look at like, Okay, how do we? How do we cultivate mental and spiritual wellness in a time of crisis?

Yeah. Because we are all in crisis right now. Right? I mean, this is really unprecedented, that we have our whole state, our whole country, the whole world, really in a moment of crisis all at the same time. Even though, you know, this is not the first pandemic, we can go back, you know, well, Rex, you to be able to tell us

that this has happened. I have a book plagues throughout human history. He reads it, he reads it at night to compare themselves. It’s been worse, it’s been worse.

But the thing is, you know, that that in the time that we are, currently we all are able to see the crisis that we’re all in. So historically, we wouldn’t have been able to see the crisis that was happening in other parts of the world, we wouldn’t be able to experience it in real time, like we are now. So this it really is unprecedented. Because we are not only experiencing our own crisis in our own town and our own state in our own country, but we’re also experiencing vicariously it crisis all over the globe at the same time. All of us are in this period of panic, fear, anxiety, stress unknown. I mean, there’s just so much so it makes sense that, that we have this type of conversation like how do I personally stay? Okay. You have all this that’s going on around us?

Yeah. And it’s, I think it’s really good that you they point out that the fact that we can see this happening and almost kind of could see it coming and hitting in in waves, does just build that anxiety, I remember the first couple of days of it, I just kept, you know, refreshing the different counters and being like, oh, man, the numbers are going up. And this is happening in Italy, in Spain. And it was just like that just added to it.

I had to stop doing that. I totally right. I had to take the things off, take the icons off my phone and take them off my computer.

Yeah. And it’s interesting, because I’m actually during this time reading a Dorothy Day biography. And in in 1918 to 1920 she actually was kind of wanting to change your life and went to nursing school in New York. So she went to nursing school at the height of the Spanish flu epidemic. But it was also the tail end of world war one or one, right. And so she was like she was working 12 hour days in the hospital lining up. And so she was like, I didn’t even think about the war that was happening anywhere else. And then people were focused on the war. And the flu epidemic was also happening. And so yeah, there was just all these things, but for right now, it’s like the entire world can be like, we can just all stop and we focused on this academic this pandemic,

right. And as you mentioned, you know, watching it’s happening in Spain, it’s happening in in Italy, it’s happening and feeling like it’s getting closer, it’s getting closer, it’s getting closer, and then now it’s here and it’s getting bigger and it’s getting bigger and and you made a good point Rex about the importance of tuning it out. That is, I would say one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is not watch it all the time. Right? Right, we really don’t need to have the counter, we don’t need to know how many deaths are happening every day. For most of us, we don’t need to that’s not part of our our field, we don’t need to have that information. And it’s not necessarily helpful. So getting information in small doses from reputable agencies only as needed, really, right.

If I replace cnn with, you know, the CDC and the who website, so I just click on both things like once a day, and that’s been really helpful, really all we need. And for some people, they don’t even need it once a day,

they can even do it less than that. You want you want the guidelines, you want the current guidelines, you want to be able to follow what your state what your local, you know, is expecting of you. That’s really all we need. We don’t need more than that. And for some people, any more than that is going to cause more panic. For others. It’s not an you know, we have to think about the way that God has created us, we’re individuals, yeah, is going to cause unnecessary anxiety for one person is not going to cause that for another person. But it’s okay. You know, we do have to recognize that we are individuals. And so if we can know a little bit about ourselves, like, Oh, I’m not feeling as well, when I’m checking it more frequently. So I’m going to check it less. Yeah, know ourselves, well tune into our emotions a little bit to know, okay, is this helping me? Or is it not helping me? So we want to tune in to our emotions, but not give in to our emotions? Hmm, right.

Right. Right. So like knowing yourself well enough yet to be able to like, hey, there’s too much news, I need to but still being in, because then other people maybe react where they just try to, you know, not think about their negative emotions, or not think about those things. So yeah, like, I think I get what you’re saying, like,

stress is actually even healthy. You know, it’s, again, it’s wired into us, it makes us pay attention to our surroundings, it’s part of our level. So if some if you’re feeling stressed right now, welcome to the human race. I mean, it is normal, and we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up over feeling a bit more uneasy than normal right now, in totally makes sense. When, when we don’t know what’s happening, when things feel out of control. When a situation is unpredictable, or unknown, those are all the things that that make us feel more more stressed. And especially if it’s ongoing. Well think about this. We’ve been in this now for six weeks, right? Some of us, but at least a good month anyway. And we don’t know how long exactly this is going to continue. So, you know, some amount of stress is is normal, it’s healthy, it’s part of our survival. But panic isn’t healthy. And so that’s what I was, you know, tune in to your emotions. Okay, is this a normal amount of stress that I’m feeling? And then what is the best thing for me to do with it? Or am I now allowing my emotions to get the better of me and I’m starting to feel more panicked. And then we have to look to what do we need as an individual for our self care? Yeah, yeah. When we focus more on what we can’t control than what we can control, we start to feel more panic. Right? So paying attention to what can I control right now? I can’t control when all these restrictions are going to be lifted. I can’t control that. Right. I can control what time I go to bed at night. In getting good sleep is important for our emotional health, in addition to our physical health was I can make sure that I’m going to bed at a reasonable time. I can’t control you know, whether or not my neighbors are out and about but I can control whether or not I am out and about.

Again, take the multivitamin instead of going to the donut shop it’s it’s in my control. And that’s probably a good thing. Right? Yeah, I

can control washing my hands. Right I can do that right? focusing on the things that you can control I you know, exercise is such an important and healthy way, the way that you know we are created. We are one system body, mind, soul spirit, we are one system and so if I’m exercising, I’m also helping my emotional part of my system, not just the physical part of my system, I’m helping the spiritual part of my system. So exercise is something that I control. So going to make sure I’m getting getting some exercise is something I can control. Paying attention to what we can control, and letting go of what we can’t control will really help us emotionally.

Yeah, cuz that I mean, that seems to be the Do you think it’s the loss of control, that kind of starts to spin us into panic? Because kind of as humans we are used to being able to control? And I’m pretty good at that actually. Right? Yeah. Taken away. It’s really disconcerting. And this Yeah, and this feels like, yeah, there’s so much out of our control.

Right? That right. And, and like you said, you know, we’ve gotten pretty good at it. And it’s not a bad thing, right. Like to beat to have self control is a good thing. manage our lives, Well, again, is a good thing. And there and so that we just need to look for what can I still control? What can I still control, I can control the food that I’m eating, right? I don’t have to eat all, you know, junk food, right now I can be helpful either. So I can, you know, looking to one of the healthy choices that I can make, that I can control. I can control how much media I allow, I can control whether or not I’m looking at social media right now. Which can be a scary thing, no matter what time of the year.

Right? Yeah, good one. And I feel like the, with that idea of control, too, when we feel a loss of control, it’s easy to just to stop even focusing on what we can control. And just, it’s almost like a helplessness. Right? And, and then yeah, we turn to maybe junk food to comfort us. And then we realize that’s not it actually is making us worse.

And we’re gonna beat ourselves up over that, which is not going to be helpful for anybody. Right?

Yeah. So I’d love that focus on, on reminding yourself of what you can control. And really the control that God has given us and that and that we look at, even with the fruit of the Spirit is self control, right? Like, there are things you can control. And being able to look back at those, like you’re saying, sleep habits, healthy eating exercise,

those kind of things I deliberately write, you know, instead of just, you know, have a sweatshirt and shorts on because they can’t see everything in movement. I’m teaching my classes, right right now. I’ll actually put a shirt on as if I you know, collared shirt is if I wasn’t in my classroom, you know, putting, you know, normal pants on nice socks. I even even. I was just actually thinking about this recently, because, you know, our local churches gone totally, you know, virtual worship. But while we’re watching the virtual worship, my wife and I actually will dress in our church clothes. Yeah. Because that’s just something we can do to maintain some sort of sense of causing, right and it’s, it’s helpful. It really is.

Yeah, my, my wife has actually been been poking fun of me, because right before class, I’ll sit down in my chair where I normally have them and I’ll put my boots on, and then I’ll walk into the guest room and teach my class. You know, I my boots, just, I love that we’re all different, because I’ve taught all of my classes in yoga pants. Exactly. Yeah, that is so true. Like the difference. That’s why we have you on the show, Erin, I mean, you don’t have it all together. So Exactly,

yeah. But I I’ve been seeing all my clients via zoom, but I’m still doing it in my counseling office. And right now I’m doing this in my office on campus. And to me, that has been an important thing. So even though it’s all been on zoom, it’s it’s been it’s for me to get in the mind frame of what I need to I’m doing it in my in a in my normal setting of I mean, obviously not the classroom but but still on campus, teaching my classes from my office at Campus office, and seeing my clients even though seeing them as seeing them via zoom. It’s still in my counseling office. So it does, it does help if we kind of think about our cells in our surroundings. That’s, that’s actually a good point in think about our surroundings when people start to feel panicked. One of the things that we really helpful is to get grounded in your surroundings. So like look at you know, the fight or flight thing that we get that we get into when we start to panic. We can use what’s physical around us to help help us stay more focused on the now. So if I’m sitting in my room, I can feel the desk and I know that I’m safe if I’m Looking around my room, I’m actually safe, there isn’t a tiger chasing me right now, right, which is that my dog would go home. Right now I’m actually in my home, I’m in my living room, I can feel the leather on my couch, I can look out my window and I can see the trees, I can hear the birds, if we can get like that physical grounding in our space, it helps us to slow down and fail.

And speaking of, you know, listening to birds and nature, I found that actually really helpful for me. I you know, have read all the seen all the movies and read the pandemic novels where you know, after a nuclear holocaust or something like that, it’s like nature’s turned against you too. But that’s actually not what’s happened here at all, like the birds are still saying the squirrels are circling around, you go outside, it’s just like that, you know, that’s, you know, the, the flowers and the birds are not worried about this. So hanging around with them has actually been kind of helpful. For me.

Being out in nature is really helpful. It’s something I’m encouraging everyone to do. If the weather allows, spend some time out in nature. Clearly socially distanced, I understand that but but if you can still be outside, and it is for that very reason Rex, to realize I am safe right now as I’m walking on this trail, as I’m looking at the trees, I am safe. And we can actually tell ourselves, like stand down like to our to our fight or flight system, you know, like, thank you for alerting me, but I’m okay. Right, really a helpful thing that we can do if we get grounded in the hearing now, actually, right now, I’m okay, I can hear the crunch of the gravel underneath my feet. As I’m walking. I’m okay. Those things can be really helpful to slow us down a bit. Because when we’re panicking, it’s like, we speed up real fast, like our thoughts are racing, and we need to slow ourselves down. And we can do that by getting physically grounded in where we are in the moment.

Yeah, I think this too, I mean, in my life, I think that also helps right now. Like, if you’re going to the grocery store, and you see these empty shelves kind of for the first time, right, and it’s easy. I remember the first time I went as it started, and to see all of the you know, the paper products, there’s totally empty and you’re just like, and you could feel yourself kind of speeding up like, should I I should I find some Shouldn’t you know, I drive around and yeah, you almost just have to tell yourself like, no, you’re okay. Right, right. Yeah,

I think self talk right now is really important, as long as we’re using it in a healthy way. Right? So to not beat ourselves up. If we’re feeling anxious, it’s normal to feel anxious right now. And just remind yourself, okay, I’m feeling a bit more uneasy than then I would normally, but that’s okay. It’s normal. But I’m not going to panic and to use our right we can always use our thinking part of our brain to control our emotional part of our brains to use our thinking part of our brain. Okay, no, actually, I’m okay. I have food in my pantry. I the air I’m breathing is clean as I’m walking outside, probably cleaner actually. Right.

Right. And I like how you’ve been pointing out Erin, that, that this isn’t a one size fits all experience that we we all experience it in different ways. And even within a family. Oh, my goodness, yes. We were experiences. So yeah. Do you have like kind of tips for for kind of mental and spiritual wellness kind of for everyone in the family? And? Sure.

Yeah, I think it is important to recognize that that every household is not the same. So some households have young children. And so they’re obviously experiencing something different with maybe homeschooling that they hadn’t planned on. And kids asking lots of questions. Like when when do we get to go out and play with our friends again? Or when do we get to you know, have you know, little league again? Or when do we you know, and so, parents it’s really important that they answer questions to their children in simple answers, and not overwhelm them with more information than they can their little child mind can can take in and not panic if they if they forget to cover their mouth when they sneeze, you know, they don’t, you don’t need to panic, it’s, it’s likely not going to be a problem within your household if your six year old forgets to cover their mouth. Right? Right. So we can help our children be calm if we’re calm. Hmm, really important that the parents in the household stay calm so that their children can stay calm, finding you know, maybe have to relax some of the standards a bit, you know, with kids because everything is just a bit different. And so normally, maybe they aren’t allowed to watch quite as Mitch you know, Disney Channel as they know. But now they are allowing, recognizing that doesn’t mean we’re, we’re changing our standards forever. It’s just for now we need to relax that, you know, a little bit. I think families that have adult children back home, you know, we’re all college professors. And so most of our students now have gone back home, right? So for a lot of families, there are multiple adults in the household at once, which can feel quite interesting, right for adults under the same roof. And even within that family, there could be differences in terms of individual needs of introversion extroversion, right, so we have introverts who may feel like they don’t have any space anymore, because their house is crowded with people and they don’t have their space. So for them to get their space elsewhere, you know, if you go to a park and sit by yourself, if you can find one that you can get to, or a space that you can, you know, go to outside to get, you know, in the backyard on their own, instead of feeling like they have to stay in their room, which may be feels too claustrophobic. extroverts even may feel like they’re not getting enough people. Right. So even even though all they have people in the same house, it’s not the same. So doing zoom, you know, with all your friends at one time can be really helpful for extroverts, if they need more time with people, and they obviously can’t get out around people. Singles are going through a different time. Now people that live alone, yeah, because they might have gotten their social needs met, you know, out and about, and now they’re not doing that. And so to be really intentional about phone calls, about you know, zoom meetings, or Skype or FaceTime, or, you know, but in to be more intentional, I think that’s really true for everybody is we just need to be intentional about what we need.

But kind of the flip side of that actually is, you know, my wife and I are around each other a whole lot more than we usually are right? Well, you know, there’s, there’s there’s sort of a renegotiation of that whole thing, because we’re used our new normal is different than our usual normal, which seems to have worked pretty well for a long time.

Right. And so if couples can understand that, that even though they’re spending more time together, they still, there might be differing needs between between a husband and wife, in terms of time apart, even though they’re under the same roof. And so, in the past, who’ve, you know, both both worked outside the home, and they maybe only have their weekends together, they might have spent a lot of their weekends together, because that’s when they can connect. But now a couple that’s, you know, both working from home and everybody’s home the whole time, they may need a little bit more time apart to just, I don’t know, just have their thoughts to themselves or right, to create their own hobbies. You know, if you think about, for all of us, we can look at, or ask ourselves the question, what do I want to reflect upon? when this is all over? Yeah, yeah, I’ve been. I have, I have clients who are taking up learning a foreign language right now. It’s like, well, I’ve got all this extra time, I’ve got all these, you know, I can watch YouTube or Duolingo. And I can I can learn a foreign language during how long this is gonna be. But I’m gonna learn a foreign language, got others who are learning to knit or others who are taking up other hobbies, but how or or, you know, reading a section of the Bible in another in another translation, you know, so they can just want to reflect on this time, and I want to have something to gain from it. Like, I want to, I want a product at the end of this time that I did this during quarantine as a as a positive, the more we can do positively, even if we do you know, when we do something positive for someone else, it also feels good for us. So, you know, I know there are a lot of people out there making masks right now, or sending positive messages, writing messages on cards, sending them to or putting them up near nursing homes. What can we do positively that also builds our own sense of well being?

Yeah, it really is. I mean, I think that’s what’s interesting, when you see that happening in the midst of crisis, people starting to focus on Hey, we need to do this and be positive, I think, yeah, it’s, in some ways, it might even be subconscious, but they’re helping themselves psychologically.

I’ve seen that in our neighborhood actually, because I take walks every morning around the neighborhood just for exercise and and, you know, those little kind of, I don’t know, pinwheel things that people are putting out is it you know, almost every But at first, it was just a couple of them. Now, everybody because you know, maybe there’s some social pressure not to you’re missing. You know, just seeing that as you’re walking along, actually, there’s a sense of solidarity a little bit with that. And that thing.

When I was out on my run this morning, I saw rocks that were painted, bright colored rocks that were painted with just hope, I saw another one that was love. And it just brightened my day as I was just random rocks along the side of the path that had been painted. And with a little message of encouragement, someone took the time to do that. And I’m sure they felt good putting it out. And I really felt good running by them.

I see chalk art actually, people’s brought in Dr. Wright. messages of hope on it. And that’s

right, right. You know, Philippians 481 of my favorite verses, whatever is good, whatever is lovely, if anything is admirable, have good report, think on those things. We can look to the positive things and bring positive to others. And in doing so, it brings positives to ourselves. Right?

Yeah. And that’s so good. That’s such a good encouragement. And I had another thing to ask you, Erin, about structure, because this is definitely time when our normal structure has been has been taken away. Yeah, and people are and I realized people are different, like, I’m very structured. So I like a mark. Yeah, I know. And so it looks very organized behind me, you know, I try. And, and so I and so I’m always kind of harping on the need for structure in that, but but even during the summer, I’ve been reading more about that on how structure helps, even for people who are, traditionally we would call them maybe unstructured, but they still have their own structure, right? Like, what what role does structure play and kind of keeping us

and that’s a really good point, Mark, because even people, like you said, who were maybe more free flowing, they had structure built in, they might not have done it themselves, but we have structure built in. Yeah, and so we’ve all rely a bit on structure. And it is, you know, the way God designed us to be we all need some. And so when it’s all kind of pulled out from under us, we need to create some structure. And we’ll feel better if we have it on. So obviously, some people will want more, and some people may need less, but we all need some. So have, I’m still going to get up at approximately the same time during the day, I’m going to have you know, the my meals are going to be approximately about the same time. Like I mentioned before going to bed, that’s something that I can control. So having some structure of structure is also really important for children. And so even though school has changed for you know, our K through 12, providing some structure for them is really helpful. And in doing so, it also provides some structure for the parents, because we’re going to put that in. So yeah, having some structure like I’m going to get up in the morning, I’m going to read my Bible, I’m going to do the st my my practices that bring me a feeling of familiarity. Having a feeling of familiarity is a way to reduce our stress as well. Yeah, kind of building in patterns, you know, is I’m moving my hands here realizing that nobody’s doing a podcast because I still, you know, do all my gesture, right? Yeah, we’ve been having patterns, helps us, again, kind of the rhythms of life, and the patterns in our life help bring a sense of calm. So

I’m thinking of patterns and rhythms, for those of us that are actually blessed and lucky enough to be able to work from home. Because, you know, we still can do that. And we’re actually able to do that. But the downside of that is sort of walling off your work life from the rest of your life. I used to be able to just you know, leave my office or leave the campus come home, we all had to take work home because right part of it but still different. It was different. You didn’t have to do that. Now, you know, it’s just going from one room to the other. And, and, and I find that I’m working. I don’t know if you know, my supervisor should hear this but I find that I’m actually I’m working more right now to don’t like it actually is I’m not sure that that’s healthy even in this situation. So what kind of advice would you have for those of us that struggle with that?

I’m really glad that you brought that up because I’m kind of like that too. I like to work in my office and leave it here and then not you know, because I need to give myself time off. And so I think, you know, setting setting your work hours and then sticking to that, and you know whether or not it’s a timer that says, okay, when this is up, I am going to go for a walk when when my timer you know goes off, I’m going to go in the other room and make myself you know, a glass of iced tea and I’m going to go sit outside and I’m going to listen to the birds, I’m going to do something I’m going to force myself to, to out work. And if you can do it in one room, and so then you don’t work in other parts, you just, you know, leave the room. And you mentioned Rex, like wearing your Sunday clothes when you’re watching church. Yeah, you know, if you could, like set your own, like set your work hours and say, Okay, that’s it, and ask people to help keep you accountable. I have a few people in my life who I have asked to keep me accountable to not work all the time. Because right now, you can understand as a person, a mental health professional, I could be working all the time right now. But I need to also practice what I preach and manage my own mental health. So I have people in my life who keep me accountable to not working too much. So if you can have your wife say when time when works up Rex that, you know, works up and and call it quits for the day.

Yeah, I have a friend who who works from home normally, so so it’s been kind of good to ask him advice, because he’s that’s his normal kind of routine. And every every day, when work is over, he actually, you know, leaves his office and actually goes, takes a shower and change his clothes and says, Okay, now I’m off work like it’s over. He just has a set thing that just helps his body his mind. No, that’s over. I’m on to something else. Mr. Rogers, let me hear you. No.

That’s exactly right. You know, I do that when I come home from work, I changed my clothes off. So now, maybe, you know, I want to make sure all my German clothes stay in the garage. But it helps me be like, Okay, that’s it. I’m done for the day.

Yeah. Well, that’s so good. This is all been very helpful. And thank you so much for being on the show. And I feel better already. I feel bad. I’m glad you can make it through the day now

is struggling, it’s really important that we reach out and we let somebody know that we’re struggling, you don’t have to struggle by yourself. We’re all in this together. And we can all we can all be a part of helping each other. You know, we need to check in on our friends. We need to check in on our loved ones and make sure that they’ve that they’re doing the things that they need to do for their own, you know, mental and emotional health. If somebody is really struggling, can I give you a few numbers for support? Yeah, so if somebody’s struggling, and they don’t feel like they can reach out to someone else, so you can always text a Crisis Text Line, you can text talk, ta lk 2741741. And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is one 800 273 talk ta lk. So don’t suffer alone.

Yeah, that’s so great. Thank you so much for giving us those resources. And, and just being on the show and and helping us out. And I know really, really learned from this time. And I think there are things we can learn from this time that are actually going to help us with our mental and spiritual wellness after the pandemic,

right. Right. I’m looking forward to that T shirt though, has a pandemic kind of put a put a stop to the front of the show t shirts.

Right? Because and this is your second time on the show. So you’re officially a friend of the show now.

Oh, okay.

Especially a friend of the show. So yeah, once our once our T shirt production gets back in line, you know, maybe this summer, we can get you a T shirt. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessica.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jessup, please visit us at William Jessup is the premier fully accredited four year Christian University in the Sacramento area offering over 60 academic programs in undergraduate and graduate studies designed to see every student equipped and transformed into the leader they are called to be as you go Don’t forget to hit subscribe and share so you never miss an episode. Thanks for joining us for Jessup think.

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