A Christian Perspective on Well-Being and Resilience in a Pandemic
by Dr. McKenzie Grinalds
No one needs convincing that healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, struggle with burnout and mental health crises. Burnout was a reality prior to the pandemic and is raging even more as we seek to cope with professional and personal burdens. (1,2) Clinicians and professional organizations are advocating for support at organizational and national levels in light of the current significant mental health burden on medical providers. (3-5)
While we wait for systemic changes and operate within physically distanced environments, we need to be creative in how we personally mitigate stress for our own well-being and for those around us. The end of a difficult year for many of us provides a great opportunity for self-reflection and rest.
Well-being and resilience
Well-being, also described as health and wellness, has been defined as “an optimal and dynamic state that allows people to achieve their full potential.” (6) Another common term is resilience, which is defined as the “profession of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” (7)
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration breaks down health and wellness into eight dimensions: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. (8) The Four Wheels of Health has its own components of health and wellness – physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. (9)
While there may be countless ways to break down well-being, it is important to remember that we as humans are multi-faceted and complex. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach for maintaining well-being, and yet the Bible provides both the means and grounds for true well-being.
Biblical foundation for well-being and resilience
The Christian faith establishes a foundation for promoting well-being and pursuing resilience; however, for Christians, our source of well-being and inspiration for resilience does not come from inside ourselves, but rather from God. Well-being was an inherent part of Creation in its perfect state, but the impact of sin means that well-being is hard to achieve and maintain in a world broken by sin, impaired by shame, and crippled by fear (see Gen. 3). Faith in Jesus Christ makes it possible for Christians to pursue well-being, not because of their own capabilities, but through the Holy Spirit now empowering them. We joyfully anticipate Christ’s second coming and the new heavens and the new earth when “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4).
Well-being is not just an internal mindset for the Christian but one that leads to action, particularly action that seeks to serve others. Jesus again is our example. His life was fraught with opposition and challenges (Isa. 53, Heb. 4:14-16; 5:8), and yet he rested in the will of God the Father (John 4:34, 17:4). Paul, the great missionary of the early church, also endured tremendous hardships (2 Cor. 11:16-28) but with great resilience because of his trust in the Lord (2 Cor. 12:9-10; Phil. 3:7-8).
In addition to Jesus as the source of our resilience, the Church is another means by which God empowers and encourages believers. Paul encouraged Christians to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). The Apostle John encouraged Christians to “love one another” (John 13:33-34; 1 John 4:7). Additionally, the author of Hebrews also challenges believers to “encourage one another in good deeds” (Heb. 10:24-25). As Christians in community, we can lean on one another and, ultimately, the Lord for our strength and endurance.
So, where do I begin?
If you don’t know where to start with all this, you are not alone. Don’t let feeling overwhelmed hold you back from taking the first step. To help you get started, here are some potential strategies to help you cultivate your well-being. The ideas below are framed by the Four Wheels of Health as an example.
Physical – Subscribe to a workout app (which costs money) or find a YouTube fitness instructor to follow (which is free!). Buy fitness equipment through Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. If you prefer to work out with a group, consider ways to exercise outdoors with friends in a way that is safe and responsible. Plan to grocery shop and make meals at home. Cultivate healthy sleep habits. Ensure you are hydrated by drinking more water (and less coffee, sugary beverages, etc.).
Spiritual – Select a Bible reading plan through a Bible app (free or via subscriptions); there are countless reading plans based on specific topics or books of the Bible. Consider reading books or listening to podcasts about theology. Make time to pray for yourself and others. If you have a hard time concentrating during prayer, write out your prayers, read a book about prayer, or pray through the Psalms. Plan your week so that you can take time to rest and “go” to church.
Emotional – Take a break from social media or other news platforms. Create boundaries between work and home life, such as setting a time after which you will not check your work email or schedule time to decompress right after work. If you need counseling, reach out for help. Some churches will have internal support or can connect you with local resources. Consider picking up a new hobby that is relaxing and enjoyable, such as yoga, drawing, playing music, etc.
Relational – Turn off the TV and spend time with your spouse, family, or friends. Get connected with genuine Christian community through a small group in your church. Take time to send snail mail or call or text friends and family you are unable to visit (and be thankful for technology!) Find a mentor you trust and schedule time to talk with them on a consistent basis. Start a virtual book club. Seek to serve as needed or as you are able at your church or in your community.
Take the first step
In order to set yourself up for success, it’s important to have a plan. (Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”) Establishing a plan starts with self-reflection. I would encourage you to schedule some time for yourself to reflect on the dimensions of your well-being. Since there is no cookie cutter approach, it is important to assess what dimensions are most important or impactful for you.
- Be SMART. In the School of Pharmacy, we talk with students about making SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely – goals with patients. We also need to be SMART about our own goals.
- Start small. Consider one habit you would like to cultivate. Once you achieve this, then move on to the next opportunity.
- Practice thankfulness. Refocusing our attention on the things we have been given by God can serve to reset our perspective. Pick one person who has been a positive influence in your life and express your thankfulness for them.
- Celebrate the small victories. How we define success is really important. It’s not just the end result that matters but achieving each small step along the way. Take time to celebrate those milestones, which will help reinforce the commitment you made to yourself.
- Seek to serve. Consider how you can serve others as you pursue each of these areas. Can you invite someone to join you and get creative about physical distancing? What can you do to serve your spouse/roommate, small group member, or neighbor? Remember, Jesus “came to serve rather than to be served” (Mark 10:45).
McKenzie Grinalds, Pharm.D. serves as Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Cedarville University School of Pharmacy. She also serves as a clinical pharmacist of neurology at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH. Her professional interests include treatment of epilepsy and migraines and cultivating a growth mindset.
- Bridgeman PJ, Bridgeman MB, Barone J. Burnout syndrome among healthcare professionals. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2018;75(3):147-52.
- Mospan CM, Olenik A. Empowering pharmacists to address burnout and resiliency. JAPhA. 2018;58(5):473-75.
- Dzau VJ, Kirch D, Nasca T. Preventing a parallel pandemic – a national strategy to protect clinicians’ well-being. N Engl J Med. 2020;383(6):513-15.
- APhA Enhancing Well-Being and Resilience Among the Pharmacist Workforce: A National Consensus Conference. Accessed December 14, 2020. Available at: https://www.pharmacist.com/enhancing-well-being-and-resilience-among-pharmacist-workforce-national-consensus-conference.
- Feist JB, Feist JC, Cipriano P. Stigma Compounds the Consequences of Clinician Burnout During COVID-19: A Call to Action to Break the Culture of Silence. NAM Perspectives. Commentary, National Academy of Medicine. Accessed December 14, 2020. Available at: https://nam.edu/stigma-compounds-the-consequences-of-clinician-burnout-during-covid-19-a-call-to-action-to-break-the-culture-of-silence/.
- NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education & ACHA – American College Health Association. Inter-association definition of well-being. Accessed December 14, 2020. Available at: www.nirsa.org/hands-in.
- American Psychological Association. Building your resilience. Accessed December 14, 2020. Available at: https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience.
- Kobrin M. Promoting wellness for better behavioral and physical health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed December 14, 2020. Available at: https://mfpcc.samhsa.gov/ENewsArticles/Article12b_2017.aspx.
- Larimore W. God’s Design for Highly Healthy Person. Accessed December 14, 2020. Available at: http://www.drwalt.com/highlyhealthy/GDHHP.html. (Book: Larimore W. God’s Design for Highly Healthy Person. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2004.)
- The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles