Warm greetings of peace, hope, and healing to you and yours. As we navigate these perilous waters of our common life – with all the grace and gratefulness we can muster – you might find support in exploring these thoughts on “Caring for Self and Others in Times of Trouble: Some Spiritual Tools and Tips.” Please share these wherever you wish, taking what you need and leaving the rest. If you would like to share your own best practices, please do so in the reflection area below.
Editor’s note: Originally published in March 2020, we uplift this piece again now to highlight its timeless advice for navigating difficult times.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe some more. Take time in your day, at any moment, to take ten deep even breaths. Carve out 5-10 minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness or contemplative prayer. Start here, now, wherever you are.
Ground yourself in the present moment. Focus your awareness on something real, enduring, or beautiful in your surroundings. Look up often. Discover the wonder and awe that is already here.
Acknowledge your fears, anxieties, concerns. Offer them up in prayer, if you pray. Write them in your journal. Share them with others. Feel what you feel, honor it, and know that it is not the final word.
Remember you are not alone. Ever. You are surrounded by care and support. Reach out.
Create and sustain community. Show up for one another. Listen compassionately. Practice empathy. Message the people you care about. Stand with those most vulnerable and those who suffer the brunt of prejudice and fear. Check in on folks. Call your mother, father, guardian, mentor, little sibling, long lost friend.
Unplug, judiciously. While staying aware of developments, do not let the information govern you, but forgive yourself when and if it does.
Practice kindness. There is a temptation in health scares and other times of uncertainty to view others as potential threats. Remember we are in this together. Remember to engage one another. Smile when you can. Bring good deeds and good energy into our world.
Stay healthy through sleep, diet, exercise. See healing and wellness holistically – mind, body, and spirit.
Make art. Discover, imagine, engage your hopes and fears, the beauty and ugliness of our world. Write, paint, sing, dance, soar.
Practice gratitude. In the face of crises, make note of the things for which you are grateful: your breath, the particular shade of the sky at dusk – or dawn. The color blue, the color green, the gifts and strengths you have, other people in your life, the ability to laugh. A pet.
Connect with your spiritual, religious, humanist, cultural, or other communities. Find strength and solace and power in traditions, texts, rituals, practices, holy times and seasons.
Pray as you are able, silently, through song, in readings, through ancestors. Remember the long view of history, the rhythms and cycles of nature, the invisible threads that connect us all.
Practice hope. Trust in the future and our power to endure and persist, to live fully into the goodness that awaits.
Alexander Levering Kern is a Quaker chaplain, interfaith leader, poet, writer, and Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service at Northeastern University in Boston. He is co-editor of the publication, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts and editor of the book, Becoming Fire: Spiritual Writing from Rising Generations. Alex’s poems and nonfiction appear in many publications, and he lives with his spouse Rebecca and children Elias and Ruthanna in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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This is powerful advice. Practising kindness is one of the things I am passionate about.
Thank you. This list is just what I needed – today. Well, every day, but I connected so strongly today.
Thank you to the Gratefulness Team for sharing this wisdom again. So timely, timeless….Love to All here & to us All trying to make sense of our world. ❤️🙏
This is a real helpful text. Thank you very much.
Thank you for the beauty and simplicity in your guidance this past week and this summary of tools. I have found them to be very helpful. Greetings from San Diego. May you and your loved ones be well. Peace.
Thank you inspiring such a great 7-day reflection for us this past week!
Thank you. It helps!
Such a useful article!
I forget to be grateful sometimes, but here I am at home working and so far my whole family is well. We are working as a team, we all getting our work completed daily, and we have shelter, food and hugs.
Thank you for this, Alexander. I felt lost and disconnected on other areas of the site this morning, until I found your message.
Thank you for these gentle, joyful reminders. When life is at its most stressful and chaotic, it’s easy to forget these simple practices — and these are precisely the times when we need them most.
Thank you judiciously
Thank you, thank you, Alexander.
Thank you for this. I’ve forwarded it to many people who have replied, Thanks, I need this!
Hey, man, this is beautiful. Your message brings a smile and tear (or two). Greetings from beautiful Edgewater, Colorado. Many blessings to your heart and the hearts of your ancestors and dear ones.
Alex, thank-you so much for sharing these helpful reminders. My best practices are: being grateful for everything, listening to healing, soothing music, taking a walk outdoors, only spending a very small amount of time listening to and reading the news, connecting with friends and family, having quiet time, helping others and receiving inspiration from a few internet sites. I have a sense of peace much of the time that I know I could not humanly bring about. Thank-you, God!!! May the world live as one and peace reign everywhere.
Love, peace and blessings to all ???
Alex, thank you. What clear and beautiful reminders….practices that keep us in this very moment.
Thank you, Friend, for your helpful, spirit-filled words here in this piece. Greetings from Westport Friends Meeting, as well!
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