It is almost impossible to turn on your TV, computer, or browse on your phone and not be exposed to the latest information on the Corona virus (COVID19). Let’s face it, COVID19 has made a major impact on a great deal of the world’s population, even to those that have not been directly infected by the virus. COVID19 is a real threat to our wellbeing and maybe not in the way you would first think. With all that is going on surrounding COVID19 it is very easy for a person to become overwhelmed emotionally and develop anxiety related to the virus. Even if you are not a person who is at a particularly elevated risk of contracting the virus or dying from the virus, the stress surrounding COVID19 can take an emotional toll. Whether it be over worry for your loved ones, your retirement going down the drain, no longer being able to attend church, whatever the case maybe this can be a very scary time.
This type of the stress or anxiety about the Corona Virus can be very overwhelming and can impact not only our ability to function in day to day life but also it can affect our spiritual life. Worry is something that we are commanded not to do as Christians but sometimes, perhaps often times, that is easier said than done. After all we are fallen creatures, that live in an imperfect world and sometimes that imperfect world can be all too big for us.
So, what can we do to balance out the anxiety in our life? Luckily for us, Saint Thomas Aquinas offers 5 remedies to rid ourselves of anxiety and sorrow in general. Given St. Thomas is known as the “Angelic Doctor” I cannot think of a better person to consult under this a situation.
First, a little background. Saint Thomas offers these remedies as a solution to sorrow. Thomas says that there are 4 types of sorrow: pity, envy, anxiety, and torpor. I am focusing on anxiety as it is the most applicable given our current situation, but it is worth noting that these methods are meant to be remedies for all types of sorrow.
Thomas describes anxiety as that “which weighs on the mind, so as to make escape seem impossible”. As someone that suffers from chronic anxiety, I think that description fits anxiety perfectly. With daily numbers of COVID19 rising by the second, it can seem that no end is in sight and build up our anxiety accordingly.
Let’s look at Thomas remedies one by one and what he has to say about them. Some of these remedies may seem like common sense but sometimes the most brilliant solutions to a problem can be the most simplistic ones.
- Do Something You Enjoy
St. Thomas likes to quote Aristotle, or as he calls him “The Philosopher” and this situation is no different. “Sorrow is driven forth by pleasure, both by a contrary pleasure and by any other, provided it is intense” says Aristotle and St. Thomas agrees. Thomas goes on to say “pleasure is to sorrow, what, in bodies, repose is to weariness” in other words, doing something that brings you pleasure is a way to refresh your mind, as taking a nap refreshes your body and mind when you are tired. Whether it be fishing, doing a puzzle, going for a walk (while practicing good social distancing), or whatever makes you happy, just do it! It will help to relieve stress and recharge your batteries.
- Just Let It Out
St. Thomas realized, as many of us have, that when you hold your emotions in, eventually everything will burst forth. He says “a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened.” When we let things build up inside often it leads to a boiling point where everything just explodes. Learn to let it out before you reach that boiling point. Talk to someone, have a good cry, whatever it takes. Let it all out! You will feel better, I promise. Which leads to St. Thomas next remedy…
- Talk to Your Friends
When we can relate with someone else and know that they understand what we are going through and that they are suffering from some of the same issues, it can help ease anxiety. St Thomas says:
“When one is in pain, it is natural that the sympathy of a friend should afford consolation: whereof the Philosopher indicates a twofold reason. The first is because, since sorrow has a depressing effect, it is like a weight whereof we strive to unburden ourselves: so that when a man sees others saddened by his own sorrow, it seems as though others were bearing the burden with him, striving, as it were, to lessen its weight; wherefore the load of sorrow becomes lighter for him: something like what occurs in the carrying of bodily burdens. The second and better reason is because when a man’s friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them, and this affords him pleasure.”
In a time of social distancing it can be easy to lose track of our friends and family but with todays technology it is easier than ever to stay in touch even when we cannot physically be close to one another. One thing about this virus is its basically affecting everyone in one way or another. Talk to your friends and family, be a comfort to them, and they will be a comfort to you.
- Read the Bible
St. Thomas says, “the greatest of all pleasures consists in the contemplation of truth” and what better way to contemplate the truth than to read the bible? St Thomas goes on to say:
“And therefore in the midst of tribulations men rejoice in the contemplation of Divine things and of future Happiness, according to James 1:2: ‘My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into diverse temptations:’ and, what is more, even in the midst of bodily tortures this joy is found; as the martyr Tiburtius, when he was walking barefoot on the burning coals, said: Methinks, I walk on roses, in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Your stuck at home, you got plenty of time on your hands, you might as well pick up the bible and see what’s inside. Don’t just read the bible though, contemplate it, digest what its saying and the good news within will bring you great joy.
- Take a Nap or a Hot Bath
This is probably the simplest remedy that St. Thomas offers but it works! The simple things in life can bring us some of our greatest pleasures. Everyone likes a good hot shower or bath and who doesn’t want to take a nap every now and then. St. Thomas realized that these simple pleasures can go along way in recharging our batteries. He says:
“sorrow, by reason of its specific nature, is repugnant to the vital movement of the body; and consequently whatever restores the bodily nature to its due state of vital movement, is opposed to sorrow and assuages it”
Take some time to yourself, take a long hot bath or just take a nap. Resetting your body will help your mind to relax.
In conclusion, try each of these remedies and see what works best for you. We are all different and what may be great for me may not work as well for you but your quarantined, you might as well give it a go! I bet you will be rewarded for your efforts.