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The prayer of many people’s hearts during this pandemic is probably similar to the disciples when they were hit by a storm at sea: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). As the days drag on we may feel hopeless, trying to make sense of why this is happening to us. The heavy questions stirred by fear, anxiety, and depression can become stronger as the impacts of the pandemic continue. Our mental health may be waning with anxious thoughts and a depressed mood. Taking care of our mental health has never been more important than now. Staying joyful in a time of hardship begins with gracefully parting with our expectations in order to see life in a new light. 


Life is full of transitions, and the quicker we learn to adapt, the easier we can navigate the new territory. However, change can be painful because familiarity provides comfort. No one expected, or wished for, COVID-19 and the quarantine that followed. Expectations for 2020 may have included taking a nice vacation, going to graduation, or attending a long-awaited event. With shattered expectations, how are we to respond? One response is to allow the mind to be plagued with thoughts of all the good things lost, leading to a spiral of sadness. Another response is to adapt to the change even if that involves mourning the loss of great plans and adventures. As Catholics, we are taught that God has our best interest in mind, but it can be challenging to believe when we experience life’s sorrows. Trust in God’s mysterious plans must anchor us in the confusion and chaos of a worldwide catastrophe such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This trust is not without struggle. Reorienting ourselves after a jarring change takes the important mental work of reframing.


Paul George, a Catholic speaker and writer, explains, “people who redefine success and place it in proper perspective have a much greater chance of finding lasting joy” (George & Maher, 2018). Our perspective has everything to do with successfully navigating change. We change our perspective by reframing our thoughts, which requires shifting from a negative view of a problem to an opportunity for growth and challenge. When we embrace difficult life situations, we can grow and navigate change more effectively. However, when we get stuck in a loop of anger, we remain paralyzed in a cloud of negativity. Remaining in the negativity long term can lead to depression. Here are four suggestions of how to reframe our thoughts:

  1. Anger: Deeper emotions, such as hurt or fear, often hide under anger. The anger cannot dissipate without processing these primary emotions, leaving us stuck.
  2. Control: There are two ways to see a situation, from an “internal locus of control” or from an “external locus of control.” Control placed in the power of an individual person is considered an internal locus of control whereas control outside of an individuals’ control would be considered an external locus of control. We establish more stability in life’s storms by finding what we can control. For example, do we look at COVID-19 as a calamity that suppresses us within our homes? Or do we conceptualize this isolation as a time to fill with productive tasks, prayer time, and family development. If we simply see what has been imposed, we lack the creativity to make the best of this time.
  3. Mindset: When we lack creativity in the way we approach life’s difficulties, we remain stuck in a fixed mindset, which implicates the impossibility of change. Shifting to a growth-oriented mindset allows for greater acceptance and perseverance facing trials.  Believing growth is possible provides strength to move forward. For example, viewing this pandemic as a time for personal and family growth as opposed to a time of boredom and devastation, shifts the perspective recognizing the possibility for positive growth.
  4. Prayer: Inviting Christ into life’s struggles opens the crisis to be transformed. As Christ walked this earth, He also experienced the pain, sorrow, betrayal, and anger that can plague life. By bringing our anger and devastation to Him, He is able to journey with us providing empathetic support. By shifting the perspective, taking control where we can, and processing anger and pain, we can see how God makes all things good. We begin to understand His loving intercession within the most painful moments of our lives.


As negative life events are embraced and processed, we can begin to share deeper empathy and connection with those in our communities. Empathy is the ability to connect with the emotional experience of another and connect with them. Empathy does not seek to fix the other person’s problem, but it simply provides human connection and understanding. Sharing in the emotional experience of another ultimately leads to greater love of another. The coronavirus has impacted us all in one way or another. By using this time to reflect on those who have been ‘quarantined’ since before this pandemic, we can build a greater empathetic connection for members of our community like those in nursing homes, new moms, or the sick. As we empathize with their daily experience, we can provide compassion to them moving forward.

Christ asked His disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (Mark 4:39-40). He extends the same question to us during this pandemic. Why are you afraid? Do you trust? The work of recognizing our unmet expectations, reframing the way we view this time, and responding with empathy will ultimately lead to greater trust in the Lord. Move past the anger and negativity so you can embrace this time as a challenge, not as an unsolvable problem.

Recommended Reading:

  • Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic by Craske and Barlow
  • The Mindful Catholic by Dr. Gregory Bottaro: Faith based book on anxiety
  • Rewire Your Anxious Brain: how to use the neuroscience of fear to end anxiety, panic and worry by Catherine M. Pittman 
  • Rethink happiness: dare to embrace God and experience true joy by: Paul George