BY RABBI BARRY COHEN
As the days of the COVID 19 pandemic continue to mount, I often feel as if I am living in a pressure cooker. Every single day I have to deal with varying degrees of anxiety, stress and fear.
• I wonder how prevalent the virus will become close to home.
• As the parent of teenage children, I feel stressed out about the coming fall. I want them to attend classes, but I also want them and their teachers to be safe. I understand why they will have to attend staggered virtual classes, but I don’t believe virtual instruction is nearly as effective as in-person instruction.
• My mom lives in a retirement community in Houston. Tragically, the adverse affects of social isolation are becoming clear.
• I have difficulty sleeping through the night, and my back stiffness persists throughout the day.
• I continue to mourn for what this summer could have been for me and my family, and I mourn for what their sophomore year will come to be.
• Oh, and I still have to fulfill regular household responsibilities: head out to the grocery store, cook dinner, clean the dishes, do the laundry and clean the apartment.
I am confident that you have your own version of what dials up the knobs of your personal pressure cooker.
So what can we do about it? It all comes down to control. We need to stop wasting energy on what we cannot control and devote our energy to what we can control.
We can begin by designating a block of time every day devoted to what we want to do for ourselves. And we need to protect this time with clear boundaries. I recommend 1 hour. I have a hard time believing that we cannot set aside 1 hour a day to preserving our health and welfare.
What we do with this hour is up to us: get outside, exercise, create art, read, listen to music or meditate. We can also take advantage of the incredible virtual offerings our synagogues have created. I continue to be impressed with how our houses of worship have adapted and created innovative ways to learn, pray and socialize.
The result of carving outtime for ourselves is the Hebrew word “bitachon,” which means “inner calm.” Granted, we know that our sense of “bitachon” will fade away, and the knobs of our pressure cookers will turn up. But with disciplined and protected times for self-indulgence, that “bitachon” will return, if only for a little while. How can we feel guilty about that?
As the Community Chaplain for the Greater Portland Jewish community, Rabbi Barry Cohen serves as a resource for all Jews in our community. He can be reached at 503-892-7401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.