Mental health experts say that as we continue to endure the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, we face significant challenges to our mental health.
Stressors abound, including the increased demands on us to home-school our children, isolate from family and friends, and the substantial challenges of working from home.
In the case of those of us already struggling with mental health issues, COVID-19 magnifies our ongoing troubles with major depression, anxiety, OCD, and more serious conditions such as paranoia and psychosis.
Facing our mental health challenges head on, then, provides us with the perfect opportunity to weave our Catholic faith into positive mental health practices like prayer, contemplation, devotion to Mary and the saints, and participation in the Mass and sacraments.
Being extra-good to ourselves is a top recommendation from psychologists when we’re facing tough times. Hot baths, massages, scented candles, and weighted blankets top the list of ways we can indulge ourselves and encourage relaxation.
I would argue that consistent, positive self-care includes finding quiet, solitary time to pray every day. Contemplation, praying the Rosary, studying the Scriptures, and conversing with the Lord are ways we can best center ourselves while cultivating a strong, enduring spiritual life.
Mindfulness – being aware of our bodies and focusing our minds on the present moment – is a chief buzzword of mental health authorities. Cultivating mindfulness can prevent accidental falls, traffic accidents, and many other serious health risks. It can also pacify our monkey minds and eliminate extraneous distractions as we concentrate fully on the task at hand.
To me, mindfulness practice involves connecting with God on a very personal level. While psychologists recommend that we employ an easy-to-remember mantra to repeat for improved concentration, my mantra is usually ‘Jesus,’ and the repetition of His name brings me both self-awareness and spiritual peace.
Now is the best time to make the effort to develop our emotional maturity and good mental health, experts say.
In addition to exercising our brains by reading challenging information and remaining connected to the world around us through newspapers, social media, and television news, tip-top emotional health can be achieved through devotion to the Lord, exercise of our Catholic faith, and devotion to Mary.
A happy side effect of the pandemic is our renewed appreciation of our families and friends. We are reaching out to our loved ones more frequently than ever, thanks to social media and electronic connections like Zoom and FaceTime.
An extension of this is remembering family members and friends who have passed on, a practice that offers the opportunity to contemplate the lives of the saints.
Saintly devotion is a uniquely Catholic experience. Emulating the saints acknowledges that we each are the sisters and brothers of individuals worthy of worship, such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Pope John Paul II. Dedication to the saints makes us aware that God loves us deeply and infinitely just as we are and wants only to grow closer to us.
Good mental health should be top-of-mind for each of us these days, and in rededicating ourselves to prayer and spirituality we can improve our minds, increase mindfulness practice, and center ourselves. Let’s use our isolation to cultivate intimacy with God and deepen our Catholic faith.