November 2020
Spiritual Wellbeing

Self-care in a Pandemic

The end of the year holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, are very important for las familias Latinas. We get together no matter how far away we are or how many people are in our family. It’s a time of love, joy, reconnection and reunion. If you’ve been away from your family for a while, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas as a believer in the virgin birth or in the child messiah, you celebrate it because it is tiempo en familia.

This year, things will be different. We have heard of a second wave of COVID-19 cases because of the weather and the flu. There are travel restrictions. I am living in New York City, and with the two-week travel restriction to/from Texas I know I will not be with family for Thanksgiving and probably not for Christmas or to ring in the New Year. And that is depressing.

Younger people give me life. They have different, heartwarming and mind-opening thoughts that help me see life in a different way. So I asked some of my dear younger siblings what they were doing to stay motivated and healthy – in all aspects – and how they are practicing self-care, especially during this time and the holidays.

Idania Argueta turns to God

I have learned to run to God in worship, meditation, prayer and trust, even if it is for just 15 minutes. I might do this while riding in a car or cleaning the house. Constant communication with God helps me when I am faced with an issue, when I am upset or don't feel good, and also when things go right and when I feel accomplished. I stop, say God’s name, state my issue or thank him for something and then continue with my day.

Intentional and constant prayer is my goal this year. I made a prayer board with the verse, "Now this is the confidence we have before him; whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."( John 5:14) I use sticky notes to add who and what I am praying for.

Meditation has been a blessing for me, especially when shame or depression sneak in. And along with spiritual health, I am a strong believer in therapy. It has helped me let go of resentments and taught me coping mechanisms.

Difficult times will come, but you can always run to God and ask him to mold you into the human being he created you to be.

Alissa Montes cares for her health, her family and others

During this time I’ve had the opportunity to stop and really think about my good and bad habits. Quarantine made me realize how much time I put into things that do not benefit me in the long run. To stay healthy, I’ve been working out at least four times a week. I’ve also started cooking and watching YouTube videos to learn what foods are healthy for me.

Whenever I feel lonely, I go to my family and text one of them to do something, whether it’s to go out to eat or to play video games.

For me, caring for others comes from knowing that everyone is a human being. Sometimes I feel caring means giving something physical, but it can also be my time. It can be as simple as having a conversation with a cashier at the store. And care for others goes hand-in-hand with self care. I make time in my day for myself, whether to work out or just pluck my eyebrows and do my nails.

Laura Montes cares for co-workers and leaves work behind at the end of each day

I met someone right before quarantine began and felt a lot less lonely throughout the following months. Dates with him, like hiking, provided escape from what was going on, and we also had time to work on home improvement tasks in my new house.

When work started again, I had a lot of online group meetings with coworkers and noticed that a lot of them enjoyed being able to talk about what was going on in their lives. I realized that just being there and taking time to listen showed that I care for them. Even when I am busy, I answer their phone calls and Google Meet invites.

As a teacher in this pandemic, my days are full of teaching, planning, grading, meetings and contacting parents. To care for myself, I make sure to close my laptop and leave my work for the next day as soon as the workday is done.

Ellis Montes makes music, stays connected and looks ahead

For self-care, I walk, drink water and hot tea, eat a lot more homemade foods (this year, from my garden), and make music.Motivation has been one of the biggest difficulties, and I am now faced with what I want to do next with my life. I am making a lot of music and gardening videos, trying to take some bigger risks and aiming to go back to school.

I’m a very introverted person and haven’t really felt much loneliness. I stay connected with lots of friends through messages, phone calls, video chats and am part of a few social groups. Not able to see people face-to-face, means I’ve had to put more effort into maintaining relationships. I’ve tried to make myself available to people by offering whatever I can – tech support to my older friends, music that people like to hear, a listening ear to friends.

There are days when I feel I have done absolutely nothing productive or good for myself, so I’m trying to value my talents, rest and relax more. I’ve been reaching out to people to help talk me through some of these issues, and that helps me feel mentally and spiritually healthy.

Adia Milien relies on her support system

I have a support system around me that keeps me going. Since the pandemic started, some friends and I get together on Zoom to exercise during the week. That way, we are also in constant communication and avoid loneliness. We created a Zoom prayer group, so that we can be there for those who are sick and those who have lost someone. I make a weekly list of people that I need to call or Facetime to see how they are doing and to feel closer to each other.

Sandy Milien believes in naming our frustrations and fears

I find time to be active, work out, dance and go on socially distanced walks at least once a week. Staying hydrated has helped a lot with my energy and mood. I try to be proactive and schedule times to chat with friends and family to talk about how we’re feeling and the things that are weighing on all of us. It helps to actually name those feelings, frustrations and fears.

Some of my friends have recently lost someone, so I make sure to check on them without asking too many questions, just so they know I’m there for them. I have a prayer list and include their names. I like to journal and read, and doing my hair is a good way to care for myself. Having virtual happy hours with friends is another way to care for myself.

Jaivan Ortiz, 16, works to stay positive and checks in with friends

I try to tell myself when I wake up that “today is better than yesterday.” I look forward to certain things like, “Friday is only three days away,” and that helps me have a daily goal. I have hope every day.

I know people who write motivational thoughts on the mirror and on sticky notes or read repetitive phrases to keep mentally and spiritually healthy. Personally, I take time to tell myself “You’re ok and it’s ok to not be ok.” If I feel overwhelmed, I have a cup of green tea. I always check up on my friends, because you never know if someone’s having a bad day. I also reach out to others when I need help. I’m a hugger, and it’s been hard not to hug others.

For the holidays, my grandpa always dresses up as Santa to pass out gifts to needy families. I look forward to that, but don’t know if they will do it this year. I feel happy when I help others feel happy.

Jaidani Ortiz, 10, connects with friends and hopes for a family Christmas

Sometimes, if I’m really tired, I might just sit and read. If I’m really angry, I might do some mindful breathing. I sit up with my palms on my legs, close my eyes, hold my body straight and then breathe in and out. I like to breathe in, holding it for four seconds, and breathe out for five.

It’s difficult not to be able to hang out with my friends, and I try to stay connected with them via text. Sometimes we are able to play dolls or ride our bikes together. I am hoping to see my family for Christmas and be together.

All of these thoughtful, honest and deeply personal responses to my questions give me hope and ideas for what to do when I struggle with my feelings. They also show me that, no matter what our age, we are all trying to stay connected and remain healthy and are helping each other to do the same.

Sandra Montes is the Spanish Language Resource Consultant at ECF. She was born in Perú and grew up in Guatemala and Texas. Sandra has been developing original bilingual resources for the church, school, and others for years and earned her doctorate in education in 2016. Currently, she is the Interim Director of Worship at Union Theological Seminary and her book, Becoming REAL and Thriving in Ministry, came out in May.

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This article is part of the November 2020 Vestry Papers issue on Spiritual Wellbeing