by Rev. Dr. Chris Mason, Chaplaincy Program Coordinator at Augusta Health
Uncertainty is a word that comes up often in regards to COVID-19. There is uncertainty about our health, the health of family and friends, economic and financial means, and probably some other areas of uncertainty as well. Uncertainty is one of those words that may conjure up feelings of apprehension, stress and anxiety for you, but here are a few important things to understand about our feelings in the midst of uncertainty.
First, whatever you are feeling right now is completely understandable and normal.
Second, we have feelings for a reason, so try not to judge them as being either right or wrong.
Third, feelings like apprehension or even fear often serve as motivation for us to take precautions in order to protect ourselves or to change our actions in order to be safe.
Finally, while we have feelings for a reason and it is okay to feel what we feel, it is important to understand how we choose to respond to what we feel may either be a detriment or a benefit to our ability to cope and remain resilient in uncertain times and situations.
Health officials, mental health workers, and counselors are providing excellent resources to ensure good physical, mental, and emotional health during the COVID-19 crisis. Spiritual care providers are also working to make sure resources are available that promote good spiritual health. As a spiritual care provider, my emphasis is the spiritual well-being of people, but I am a strong proponent of a holistic approach to healthcare and to life in general. The well-being of people is not served by a compartmentalized approach, separating the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts and addressing them in isolation one from the other. Spirituality serves to bolster our overall health, including our ability to cope and be resilient in the midst of uncertainty.
Spirituality is defined, according to Dr. Christina Puchalski in the journal article, "Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care," (published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine), as "the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred." Dr. Puchalski's definition of spirituality provides a method of interpreting events experienced on the basis of the way we as individuals determine meaning and purpose. This includes our experiences with all the situations involving COVID-19.
Perhaps one way to process the challenge of living with uncertainty is to understand we are not defined by it, we are defined by what we have determined as our meaning and purpose and we may choose to continue to express that—even as we adapt to the uncertainty of the situation.