Encouraging Words from Dr. Tom

Encouraging Words from Dr. Tom
    Be Patient and Diligent - 9/14/2020
  • The weeks run into months and the uncertainty of when, and how quickly, we will get the COVID-19 virus under control rolls on. Science continues to search for more specific answers and, for certain, some of this will simply just take time.  Therefore, we need to be patient, but diligent.  Diligent in following basic protocol to support good hygiene and to reduce the spread of the viral germs which essentially can be anywhere and everywhere.  I have already sermonized several times earlier as to what might best be to our mutual benefit, but recent feedback suggests the wearing of a mask when out in public and around others allows us to mitigate the virus most effectively.  Plus, doing so continues to send the message to those we are in contact with that we care about the safety and welfare of one another.
    Recently, our Godchild, Emily Boomershine, wrote a poem of encouragement as we endure and cope with the pandemic.  She is in her final year of college at University of Indianapolis.  Her poem reads as follows:

    Calamity strikes when you least expect it,
    Overwhelming entire nations,
    ality feels less and less concrete,
    Optimism becomes more difficult,
    Nobody expected to live through a plague,
    Anybody who says so is lying,
    Virtual life substitutes for normalcy,
    In homes that now resemble prisons,
    Rest assured, better days are ahead,
    United for once, true to our name,
    Selflessness will pull us through.

    My prayer is we will truly come together as a nation, feeling and acting united in this battle, and conducting ourselves in a selfless and caring manner to promote the good of all. We recently observed the anniversary of 9/11 - may the memory of how we came together in a bond of love, support and self-protection then help preserve us going forth.

    Dr. Tom

    Love Our Neighbors - 8/24/2020
  • Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to be going away any time soon.  As a result, we all have to continue to take steps, in our own small way, to combat this global disease.  
    You have read my past offerings which encourage us to follow basic hygiene and to do whatever we can to maintain control over this disastrous condition.  Of the basics, I would only mention how very important it is, from recent science, to wear masks.  But I believe there is a basic element of response that truly fits in this circumstance:  love thy neighbor!!
    This is especially relevant for those of us who are Christians.  God's Word, and the very spoken words from Jesus, tell us to "love our neighbors as our-selves".  In 1st John 3:16 (not John 3:16), John admonishes us to "lay down our lives for the brethren".  Now, in the midst of this health crisis, I don't think he meant we should die for the cause.  No, I think what he meant is we ought to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and, in so doing, contribute to fewer people dying from the virus. One way to do that is to take whatever steps help the greater good. In this case, wearing masks, not congregating in close quarters with large groups of people and sanitizing wherever appropriate would be acts of love--acts of kindness.  I think taking these steps ought not be looked at like some perceive the 10 Commandments.  Some see these commands as a dictate to control our lives and lead to misery.  Others, myself included, tend to see them as guidance for our own welfare and good.  God did not mean us harm with the commandments--He wanted to help make our lives more effective with increased quality.  Guidelines, from the government or medical experts, should be viewed as being for our benefit.  Following them not only helps control the virus, but allows us to send the message to others around us that we care about them.
    God lets us know He cares about us (vertical love) and we get to extend it to those with whom we are in contact (horizontal love).  Let's make sure we do our part, because, as was stated often at the outset of the pandemic, "we are all in this together".  Go and love one another!!
    Dr. Tom

    God Is In Control - 8/11/2020
  • As you may have noticed, for now I am only providing an update on coping with COVID-19 every other week--I felt I was perhaps repeating too much too often.  However, as we continue to battle this pandemic, it seems it is generally quite beneficial to go over the basics.

    In addition to the triad of basics for our personal and individual impact to fight the virus (distance, washing hands and wearing masks), I want to add one new factor that may or may not have come to your attention.  That is, do NOT be at all surprised by what is happening in the wake of the spread of the disease.  For example, areas in our country that seem to have the virus under control can quickly have that situation reverse direction.  What seems like a good idea for one or several school districts, can very easily call for a need to shut down and go to e-learning.  News we receive about the importance of a vaccine and when we might expect one to be available is welcome, but we need to realize we get information from different sources.  As a result, it will be prudent for us to remain hopeful but also to guard against setting ourselves up for premature anticipation.  The answer in terms of an effective prevention will come in time--we just do not know exactly when.

    God is in control and knows where this pandemic will take us.  In our response, it behooves us to be responsible to one another out of love and respect.  This health crisis will not, for the foreseeable future, disappear on its own.  We will control it with the wisdom and definitive action we are blessed to have at our disposal.  May God support and encourage each of us to do our part, even if it seems relatively small, to attain our goal.

    Dr. Tom

    The Bigger Picture - 7/25/2020
  • The journey goes on and on and on in our fight to control, and perhaps someday eliminate, the COVID-19 virus.  We are all weary, frustrated and having trouble finding the hope and confidence that an end to this health crisis is on the horizon.  We need to continue to pray for God's guidance, strength and perseverance in going forward.  Some say we are only in the early stages of what could be a long pandemic.  We need God's help and, fortunately, He tells us He will always be with us no matter what the concern.

    We know the world went through an even more devastating pandemic 100 years ago with the Spanish Flu.  Back during the time of Martin Luther, Europe was experiencing the Black Plague.  He wrote good counsel to a friend then which can serve to give us wisdom and direction even today.  Here, from his own writings, is what he shared: 

    "Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard and street;
    shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence...
    What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?...
    Therefore, I shall ask God to mercifully protect us...I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed
    in order to not become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others,
    and so cause their death by my negligence...I (will) have done what he (God) has expected of me
    and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.
    If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely..."

    This letter of guidance is published in the 43rd volume of Luther's works.  It fit in the 1500's and it fits for us today.  Luther is further known to state "The need of my neighbor is my call to mercy."  I believe we can sense the mercy that comes to us from God and which has the distinct obligation, or calling, to extend the same to our fellow man.  When we take the basic steps of washing hands, keeping physical distance and wearing a mask, we respect and care for the needs of our brothers and sisters.  Luther is further quoted as saying "I shall honor government officials--specifically as they ask and require me to act responsibly regarding my own health and that of others (reference here to the Fifth Commandment).  Where I am called to serve others, even at some risk to myself, so shall I do, trusting that God is my Helper and that I am in His hands."

    Luther's willingness to look at the big picture of need during a crisis and the wisdom he claimed from God will serve us all well here in 2020.  May we be willing to heed the loving direction sent our way.

    Dr. Tom

    Do Something Positive - 7/10/2020
  • As time has passed and we continue to cope with the impact of the pandemic, it is probably safe to say most of us are getting weary.  We ask questions like "when will this be over?" or "will it last to the point we will all get the virus?"  And it seems like some issues, like numbers of cases and new outbreaks around the country, just tend to cycle and repeat.

    I think as we move forward from a psychological or emotional perspective, we have to seek ways to remain steady in our cautious approach to controlling the disease process.  We may not have family or close friends who have been directly affected by the virus, yet we cannot deny the fact we have some states where the number of cases is rising at alarming rates.  This should be our reminder that each of us must do our part, even when it might seem small and insignificant, to ramp down the actual spread.  As I have noted in these articles before, doing SOMETHING positive versus taking no action allows us to actually contribute to better outcomes and gives us a sense of control.  Doing little or nothing to help in this fight might well leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.

    We need to pray for strength, wisdom and perseverance as some indications suggest we may be dealing with this disease well into 2021. I hope you all are doing well and will continue to take the steps that help reduce the impact of the disease as well as help each of us feel less vulnerable as we contribute to healthy goals.

    Dr. Tom

    You DO Have Control - 6/26/2020
  • As we come to the close of the month of June, we are seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in several states.  Some would say this is a new spike of the virus; one which might well require us all to follow the basics I spoke of last week.  This means wearing masks, washing hands frequently and thoroughly and keeping physical distance whenever possible.
    At the risk of repetition from my July newsletter article, I want to reiterate advice that has come from a man named Jeff Spiwak, the assistant principal of Elkhorn High School in Wisconsin. He was addressing graduates from the class of 2020.  He offered four things each person might do to help control their lives no matter what the circumstance.  His list included how we can control:

    1. Our attitude
    2. Our work ethic
    3. How we treat others
    4. How we treat ourselves

    As I see it, we will best approach control of the virus and the side effects if we maintain a positive, "can do" attitude.  It will help to focus on what we can do to minimize the impact of the disease.  Our work ethic, to me, means are we willing to follow through with advice and guidelines that come from experts? The science behind the number of cases and fatalities will guide us as to where and how we should adhere to guidelines.

    Being kind, respectful and supportive of those around us makes good sense.  We know this is a collective problem and it will be beneficial for us to work for the common good.  Lastly, taking care of oneself means we do our part of the collective effort and we do what might contribute to us not contracting the disease.  In doing so, if we do not have the virus, we cannot pass it on.  (I realize some can infect others if they are asymptomatic, but if that is the case these persons actually do have the disease.)

    These words go much farther than just good advice to new high school graduates--we all can help control the disease and, as a result, keep the emotional and psychological effects to a minimum by heeding his thoughts.

    Dr. Tom

    Stay Proactive in Keeping Safe - 6/19/2020
  • Coping at the emotional or psychological level with the Covid-19 virus has much to do with keeping the disease under control from a physical standpoint.  When we see numbers or statistics trend in a favorable way, we tend to feel safer.  We also tend to relax somewhat.  To do so is a natural reaction.  We all want this pandemic to be controlled, if not eliminated and we want life to return to what we knew 6 months ago.

    However, we have many medical and health experts who warn us of how there could be a resurgence of cases and that we need to maintain a cooperative effort to minimize additional risk.  It is important from a psychological perspective for us to be proactive and take action when and where we can to limit further spread.  That suggests we go back to basics, something I feel I am repeating but which can serve good purpose.

    Therefore, we wear masks, wash hands frequently for 20 seconds, and keep our distance when around people.  The benefit simply from regular use of masks has been documented to counteract the contagion.  It helps us from a mental and emotional sense whenever we feel we can take steps to improve our lot.  We feel more secure and less vulnerable when we do.

    As we see case numbers rising in a number of states outside of Indiana, we know we are the ones who will control the destiny of how this pandemic will play out.  Pray and consider what each of us can do in the spirit of collective action to lead to the best outcome.

    Dr. Tom

    Keep Staying Safe - 6/15/2020
  • It has been rather easy to let the issue of race in our country far override the ongoing and still important concern about the COVID-19 virus.  We have seen things lighten up related to returning somewhat back to an old norm--however, it is not likely that will happen completely.  We are looking at how a "new normal" will present itself and, furthermore, how we will adapt to the changes that will be necessary.

    In the spirit of not forgetting we still are in a pandemic, we have to cope with a lot of mixed or confusing messages.  Wear a mask, or it's not really necessary.  Stay at home, or find a way to begin to venture out into public even with certain risks.  Remain conservative in our approach, or be bold and perhaps throw caution to the wind.

    Advice from experts can be wise to follow, and one who is esteemed by many is Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota.  In an attempt to help us maintain a realistic perspective on the future of this health crisis, he informs us it will not disappear on its own.  With that in mind, it seems to keep our sanity about us as we go forward, it is important to keep on doing the things we know have helped mitigate this virus.

    So, keep wearing masks, maintain good social (physical) distancing, and sanitize often.  Dr Osterholm advocates we also try to keep our risks to a minimum.  We can do so by maintaining a good diet, getting exercise and being active and managing our personal stress.  And, we need to find sources that will enhance an honest understanding of the continued risks before us as we strive to avoid contracting the disease.

    As we do move forward, may you be blessed with good health and an approach that will keep you and your loved ones safe.

    Dr. Tom

    Changing the World with Love - 6/5/2020
  • Over the past three months, we have sought to support and encourage one another as we cope with the physical and emotional issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We have spoken of feelings of fear, anxiety and the threat of uncertainty.  We have addressed the concerns of having little, or no, control over the disease and how we can continue to function and maintain in the midst of significant distress.  We have turned to our Savior, Jesus Christ, to provide the guidance, comfort and understanding as we we endure the effects of the health crisis.

    Then comes death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the furor that has overtaken the country like a second viral spread.  While we cannot change the fact this man, and others in recent years, lost his life at the hands of a police engagement, we can use this time to look at what we can control.  We can reflect on conduct with those around us and how we treat one another.  It might well be a time for introspection and even action so as to promote peaceful and safe interaction of all people in this nation.  

    So how does Jesus want us to respond to acts of hatred and abuse?  How does He expect us to exist, communicate and promote the welfare of our brothers and sisters in America?  He would remind us we have all been created as equals in the eyes of God and should treat each other as such.  And in the that state of equality, we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of our God.  

    Jesus is our prime example of love.  He took on the pain and humiliation of His death for all mankind and did it out of love, mercy and grace.  In Mark 12 He exhorts us to "love your neighbor as yourself".  There's a whole sermon series in that one directive.  In practical terms He encourages us, for the good of all, to bind up one another's wounds, bear each other's burdens and and to forgive each other when we have been wronged.  He wants us to live our lives with respect for others and our society as a whole in a manner that promotes the welfare and unity of us all.

    We might well have been at a turning point in believing we could control the virus, yet we all know we must continue to be smart and disciplined to prevent further disease outbreaks.  Now we must carry heavy hearts as we seek to overcome the uncertainty of how race and ethnicity will play out in the future.  Our God remains the same over time, but as sinful human beings we have to seek His guidance when change in our world might be best for all.  This might just be one of those critical times.

    Dr. Tom

    Taking Care of Each Other - 5/29/2020
  • For some during this pandemic the stress will mount as time marches on.  The drudgery of our new normal and the lack of our usual life activities will take a toll on most people.  As noted in an earlier update, we are all trying our best to cope with both change and loss.  

    Research of late has found that those who have the responsibility for children, namely parents, grandparents or other caregivers, will feel the highest levels of stress.  Our protective nature often comes into immediate play as we do all we can to provide for the needs and welfare of the younger people who cannot care solely for themselves.  Specific concerns are related to education, basic needs such as food and shelter and access to adequate healthcare.

    As I stated in my most recent newsletter article, parents often do not have the training nor the time to oversee the daily education of the younger generation.  The lack of time is generally due to parents needing to work, even from home.  As such, we can only attend to one task at a time or compromise trying to do both work and childcare.  With the economy struggling, financial resources can be a big worry for such things as rent, mortgage payments or food.  Healthcare needs may also come into jeopardy.  All these factors can lead to added stress and anxiety.

    Research has further determined considerable concern for the government's overall response to the COVID-19 virus.  As noted also in previous updates, the  response and the current number of cases and deaths can promote worry that is anticipated in the uncertainty of the future.

    Taking the steps we know to be in the best interest of ourselves, our families and society as a whole can help reduce stress.  Each of us doing our part and taking responsibility toward the welfare of all might help reduce the emotional impact and guide us to better outcome results, hopefully in the near future.

    Dr. Tom

    Five-Point Plan - 5/22/2020
  • The days and weeks go on and a natural projection is to think "when will this crisis end, or at least when will the impact be significantly minimized?"  And the distressing answer to that question is we don't know.  A familiar theme of these updates:  uncertainty!!
    Each of us has, for various reasons, likely chosen what sources of news and information we rely on to keep us abreast of concerns with the pandemic.  Jane and I have come to follow regularly the daily briefings of New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo.  He routinely "preaches" the same protocol on a daily basis--one he obviously believes is the path his citizens should follow to help limit the impact and to more effectively cope with COVID-19.
    The governor's five-point plan is that New Yorkers should be:  tough, smart, disciplined, united and loving.  He, as a lifelong New Yorker himself, views people from his state as tough--not just physically, but mentally and emotionally tough.  He speaks to how this trait will help folks get through the crisis. Being smart is a reference to paying attention to scientific data and deducing what choices and decisions are in the best interest of us as individuals as well as society as a whole.
    Being disciplined is essential to following guidelines and common sense.  We need to stick to the behavior consistently that will lead to a healthier, more preventive outcome.  To remain united seems to be attached to the adage "we are all in this together".  And by working together in a cooperative effort we help ensure a universal response which, again, should serve everyone better.
    The last aspect of the plan is for people to be loving to one another.  Here I think the governor is suggesting this is a time to reach out to aid one another, to show kindness and mercy and, perhaps, to put others before ourselves.  It is also a time to express gratitude for what we have and for those who serve our needs through this difficult time. To do so makes dealing with the pandemic somewhat more tolerable and may just give others the support to make their path through this a bit easier.
    I hope Governor Cuomo's guidance can serve as a good reference point for many of us.  Be well!!
    Dr. Tom

    Focus on the Positive - 5/15/2020
  • As we continue to move forward in our global battle with this dangerous virus,coping often needs to be accompanied by comfort and reassurance. Jesus provides for this basic need at the outset of  John 14 where He says:  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust (believe) in God, trust (believe) also in me."  ("believe" here is from a different translation)  These are words of promise and hope--words we often hear spoken at a funeral.

    Funerals are somewhat like what we are dealing with during this pandemic.  In either sense we have experienced  loss (as we spoke of in a previous update) and we face a void connected to uncertainty about the future.

    Just as we noted Jesus is our Good Shepherd last week, we find the Savior extending comfort to His disciples as He speaks of leaving them.  He does not want them to be afraid or to harbor worry and anxiety.  Yet as humans, we can identify with their emotions as they face Him going away.  They were not certain just where He was going nor were they able to imagine how life might be without His presence.

    As we cope with these uncertain times, we can frequently experience either (or both) anxiety or depression.  They very often go hand-in-hand.  It is important to note we encounter anxiety as we anticipate the future and depression as we reflect on the past.  We have, more than once in these weekly updates, addressed how critical it can be to focus on what we can control as opposed to what we cannot.  To do so helps us reduce the anxiety that might be ahead for us.  

    An example, despite being a huge football fan, I cannot control whether or not  college or professional football will be played this year.  I can, however, control where I go, who and how many people I am with and whether or not I wear a facial mask.  I do not lie awake at night contemplating football, but I do make conscious decisions on a daily basis I believe will benefit me and all those with whom I am in contact. So, let us continue to focus on the positive and, with God's help, we will get through this crisis with as few emotional scars as possible.

    FYI, Indiana now has a website with free mental health resources.  You may check it out, if you choose, at www.BeWellIndiana.org.

    Blessings as you stay healthy,
    Dr. Tom

    Attitude of Gratitude - 5/8/2020
  • The process of coping at an emotional level with the virus wears on us all, but perhaps in very different ways according to each person.  And the impact may seem to come and go, as we hear what seems to be positive news and then shortly thereafter something to the contrary.  All of this adds to uncertainty of where this will lead.

    One approach in the midst of a crisis such as this is to take time to pause and be thankful for what we have.  A task perhaps easier said than done. Part of the uncertainty I mentioned above is the fact we have experienced loss, of one sort or another, in these past months and we can become overwhelmed by what further might be taken from us in the days ahead.  Loss has come in the form of death, unemployment and, in general, of any secure feeling about the future. And we need to be aware that loss is often accompanied by grief.

    I will not go into a long dissertation about what grief is, but suffice it to say that both grief and gratitude can be part of the same set of circumstances.  In fact, the latter helps in part to keep us balanced so the grief and worry about the future does not overwhelm us.  Keeping our focus on the blessings and material things we DO have will allow things to remain in proper perspective.

    Most of us, spending a great deal of time at home of late, are well aware of the many ads on television reminding us "we will all get through this together".  Knowing we are all somewhat in the same boat can provide a buffer from the downsides of the pandemic along the lines of the old saying "misery loves company".  Taking stock of those around us and the blessings we have can keep our attitude more on the bright side as we look to better times ahead.  And as we do so, it can be helpful to do our part:  wash our hands, wear our masks and maintain the physical (social) distancing.  Doing so gives us a sense of some control and puts us in the good company of many around us of like mind who are conducting themselves in a similar manner.

    So, while grief can be lurking at any turn is this moment, remember to take time to pray, to thank God for the protection He has provided and for His continued guidance and blessing as this all plays out.  He has promised never to leave us and we will be better able to overcome grief if we keep a positive attitude of gratitude.

    Blessings and be well,
    Dr. Tom

    Hope - 5/1/2020
  • Hard to believe we are already to May 1.  As kids we made May baskets, filled them with candy and dandelions or buttercups we could pick in a nearby field and then attached them to the door handles of our friends.  The idea was to quietly place them on the door, then run as fast as we could so they did not know who delivered them.  Oh, the fun we had before all the current social media!!

    Anyway, enough of that.  Below is the weekly update for the website.  Thanks, as usual.

    As the days and weeks of the current health crisis roll on, we long for a return to life as it was--and, we  are continually confronted with the likelihood life may never be the same.  Perhaps, as we yearn for stability for the future, we also hope we learn as a global community how to collectively benefit from this experience.

    A key word here as time drags on is hope--the hope for an end to the pandemic and that we learn how to better prepare for a crisis of this nature and magnitude.  Hope is central  to our emotional well being, especially as we project how life will be in the years ahead.  Imagine with me for a moment how hope might manifest in our lives. Hope is evident in the large scale as we anticipate what we will do "when I grow up".  Likewise, we have the hope and aspirations for how we will have a family or how our career develop into a positive outcome.

    But hope also manifests in smaller ways as well.  We look forward, for example, to the end of a work shift, to an upcoming weekend (days are kind of blurred right now), to a given sports event or special times like birthdays, holidays or anniversaries.

    Without hope, we will have little to look forward to into the future.  The absence of hope can leave a void--one that, if left empty, can lead to depression or despair.

    While changes in our "normal" will be inevitable, my hope is we can foresee our way of life as improved.  We likely will be better prepared for a future crisis in much different ways.  This will include changes in the use of technology, how we promote education and the means by which we maintain a stable and growing economy.  If these come to pass, among other possibilities, this will become the "silver lining" in this dark cloud of uncertainty and stress of the crisis.

    1st Corinthians 13:13, a section of Scripture which speaks about the future and how we will see things more clearly in eternity, states that three primary features remain prominent in our lives.  These are: faith, hope and love with love noted as the greatest.  Nevertheless, Paul knew that hope is a very important element needed as Christians, hence he includes it here.

    My prayer is that we can all focus on hope for the future and put our faith in God to see us through.  May Hope reign supreme as you traverse the days ahead.

    Dr. Tom

    Write Your Thoughts Down - 4/24/2020
  • The weeks go on and collectively we harbor private thoughts, on occasion perhaps outwardly expressed, about how long the impact of the virus will last.  So, as we confront what is unknown and very uncertain, we continue to find new and hopefully effective ways to cope with the emotional aspects of this pandemic.

    One approach to dealing with a medical crisis that is such a threat to us is to inoculate ourselves emotionally and psychologically.  Seems ironic in light of the eventual need for a vaccine with which we can be physically inoculated against the illness.  This process suggests, in the midst of worry and concern, that we break down the issue/threat before us.  We can look at the problem from three different perspectives:  worst case scenario, best case scenario and the most realistic possible outcome.  In so doing, our thoughts about the pandemic and what might occur can be processed in the broader scope, yet we can also focus on what might be the most logical and realistic potential for how all of this will eventually resolve.

    That considered, it can be wise to write out a plan for how we believe we will get beyond this crisis.  By writing out such a plan, the steps and actions we contemplate and we feel we will need to engage in will become more evident and tangible to us. The anticipation of when and how we get past this will not be a series of vague and diffuse thoughts passing through our mind which are not organized and goal-directed.  It helps if our plan has a path through which we can visualize eventual progress and eventual change for the better.

    It has been suggested that in a crisis with uncertainty ahead, we take 5-10 minutes per day to write any and all worries on our mind.  Putting these on paper, again makes them more realistic, more tangible, but also allows us to put the written concerns aside for awhile and then revisit them later.  A fact to remember is that 85 percent of what we worry about could happen, never actually does. Doing so helps us to not let what is in front of us overwhelm us as we come to appreciate the worry generally does NOT become reality.  This keeps the threat in perspective.

    I hope you and your loved ones are and remain well.  I, likewise, hope these thoughts help you cope as you move forward.  With God's help we will get through this.  Keep the faith!!

    Dr. Tom

    We Are All In This Together - 4/17/2020
  • As we as a society continue to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic, we  need to take stock of the toll this is taking based just on the time factor.  This has dragged on now for a good number of weeks--to the point days and even the weeks tend to blur together.  We have to remind ourselves of the day and date from day to day.  As some have offered, it seems like Groundhogs Day over and over.  And to add to this concern, we have to project out and look at the potential for this to last far longer than it has already existed.  All the more reason we need to take care to ensure positive coping strategies as we move on.

    We must not overlook the fact we are collectively, and as individuals, dealing with loss and grief issues.  The obvious is the overwhelming loss of life in our country and the world over.  We all pray this disease will not take a loved one or that even we might succumb.  But we also have loss issues with the inability for many to work or the need to change how we carry out our work-related duties and responsibilities.  Life is simply not the same--we are adapting to what eventually will become the "new normal".  A third major loss issue, and one that is significant for most of us, is the need to to avoid face-to-face contact with those who are important to us.  Some of us, myself included, are more social than others. God created us to live in community and the restrictions we must live with have created a void or emptiness for many.

    So it is wise for us to continue to keep in social (not physical) contact with those who provide support.  We may need to communicate our care to others, we may need to just share a laugh or perhaps it is simply the fact we are linked together in a common bond to get us all through this terrible, if not devastating, health crisis.  We share what one psychiatrist I heard say is a "universal experience"--or as many have put it in simple terms "we are all in this together".  Together with our fellow humans on this planet, but also with the everpresent love and care of our Heavenly Father.

    Be sure to reach out, be in touch by phone and social media and offer the care, support and connectness we all need at this time.  Watch and see as the same benefits likely will come right back at us from others to help us cope as well.

    Blessings and stay well,
    Dr. Tom

    Looking After One Another - 4/9/2020
  • If you remember, the update last week spoke of how we need to remind ourselves we are not powerless or helpless in the fight against this virus.  First of all, we have God on our side.  He did not say things would always go well--in fact, just the opposite that we would experience trials and difficulties in this life.  However, He did promise never to leave us and we need to take comfort in that very fact.  Turn to Him in your time of need--He is always available to hear us.
    Speaking of our time of need, it could come at any time as we cope with being limited in where we go and what we can do.  So where does that leave us--in very close proximity with others, particularly family for days, even weeks on end.  We need to look after the mental health or well-being of each other.  Therefore, listed below are some factors to be aware of in observing/noting any signs of distress or decline in functioning with those around us:

    • General change in personality (more subdued, quiet, less jovial)
    • Heightened level of agitation (irritated more easily or frequently)

    • One might describe issue with agitation as having a "short fuse"

    • A tendency to become more socially withdrawn

    • Fatigue and general lack of energy or motivation

    • Excessive worry or anxiety; feeling out of control

    • Poor personal hygiene (especially if this is a change from the norm)

    • Expressions of hopelessness

    Being in constant contact with those around us may give rise to concern.  Should evidence come to such a level as concern is present for the safety of another person, it might be the time to consult with either a medical or mental health professional, or perhaps a member of the clergy.

    Under times of stress, having others around us for encouragement and support can help us find the comfort and peace to get through difficulties.  Please look after one another.  Keep connected, both with God and with one another.

    Have a blessed and healthy Easter,
    Dr. Tom

    Gentle Reminder - 4/3/2020
  • As we continue to persist through this journey of uncertainty with the Coronavirus, it is important for us to remember we are not powerless as we cope with the psychological and emotional issues.  It can be beneficial to do what sports teams do when things are not going well--return to the basics.
    So, what might that look like?  At the risk of some repetition from last week's initial offering, we should maintain a healthy diet (don't overeat or don't indulge in excessive amounts of comfort foods), keep hydrated with good fluids, (preferably water), limit the use of alcohol, control the amount of media exposure, especially news about the virus and keep connected with those who are important such as family and friends.
    It can be positive to maintain a balanced and "routine" lifestyle.  Having regular, established times for bed and rising in the morning; keeping our mealtimes at usual hours, finding time for exercise and chores can all provide a sense of normalcy.  Remember, also, that social distancing (the current label to keeping safe) does not mean that exactly--what it means is we should remain physically distant (6 feet or more apart) but we should remain in communication with others.  We are physically isolated, but do not want to let that evolve into an overwhelming sense of loneliness.  Yes, we are alone--no we do NOT want to feel lonely.
    Hopefully, this gentle reminder will provide you some guidance as to how to cope under this period of difficulty.  Our response of worry and anxiety is an attempt to gain control of what we cannot control.  We all are experiencing a "normal response to abnormal circumstances".
    May God bless and protect you in the days ahead!!
    Dr. Tom

    Coping Emotionally and Psychologically with Coronavirus - 3/26-2020
  • I write this piece on March 25, 2020, hoping all who read this are well both physically and psychologically.  My purpose here is to lend a little gentle guidance to assist with your emotional and psychological coping as we all deal with the ongoing virus affecting our world and impacting our lives in a personal way.

    Keep in mind, we all are experiencing something we have never had to deal with before, even though many compare it to the days after 9/11 in 2001.  So, let’s go over some specific ways to help our personal coping during the crisis:

    • Remember to maintain good self care as we need to be well ourselves to help others
    • Identify how the virus is impacting our lives, do not live in denial or the negative

    • While adhering to directives for restrictions and social distancing, be aware of the importance of remaining connected (here lies the blessing of technology and social media); remember God created us to live in community

    • Remember social/physical distancing is not the same as emotional distancing; we can still connect on an emotional level and adhere to prudent guidelines; while at a distance socially we want to prevent

    • Seek reliable, trustworthy sources of information and statistics; knowing what is going on accurately and as completely as we can gives us a clear, confident perspective on the status of the crisis

    • Focus on what we can control?, not what we cannot; being in control gives us a sense we are not completely helpless and at the mercy of the pandemic

    • Example here is to follow guidelines such as washing hands, not touching face, keeping safe physical distance from others and staying at home

    • To be sure, it is okay to make a list of your concerns (you might say worries) but be sure to also list possible solutions; again this gives us a sense of direction and purposeful action; even go so far as to write a plan for action; this might be referred to as taking “productive caution”

    • Prioritize/plan your activities and use of time; maintain routine, perhaps the same as before this crisis (i.e., bedtime, exercise on schedule, eat at usual times); to do so gives a sense of normalcy during unusual times

    • Keep a positive outlook as best possible and maintain a good sense of humor; put some laughter into your day wherever you can

    • Some “do’s” and “don’t’s” as we cope:

      • Eat healthy

      • Get adequate rest

      • Keep the routine noted above

      • Go outside and into some fresh air as appropriate

      • Exercise, even if it is to take a walk twice a day

      • Do things that bring you some joy

      • Take brief (1-2 minutes) times for deep breathing, relaxation

      • Do NOT overeat; tendency is to go for comfort foods

      • Do NOT self-medicate (includes excessive alcohol consumption)

      • Do NOT obsessively attend to the news; take breaks from media

      • Do NOT worry excessively, but practice “productive caution”

      • Do NOT listen to media or people who are always negative

      • Focus on “opportunities” like sharing time, cleaning the garage

      • Lend assistance to your family, friends and neighbors

      • Provide, within reason, to help food banks, hospitals, etc.

      • Pray as you need to for God’s intercession and guidance

    I hope this offering might be helpful for you to consider as you go day-to-day in your own personal coping.  We are reminded often by the media, our clergy and even in conversation with family and friends that “we are all in this together”.  And by working in concert with one another we shall see this concern pass.  There is an irony and paradox in that we are expected to keep our distance, and yet even now we may well feel we are becoming closer and closer to one another.  May God watch over all your needs in the days ahead.

    Dr. Tom