This Washington Post headline caught my eye: “Quarantine reset: 5 steps to make you feel more in control.” This sounded like good news since we are all feeling a loss of control in the face of this pandemic.
No one is sure when therapies for COVID-19 will be developed, much less a vaccine. No one is sure how restarting the economy will go, or if there will be a spike in infections when we do, or if the virus will be seasonal, or what “normal” will look like on the other side of the outbreak.
I opened the article expecting to find sophisticated advice that would help with all of this. Here is what I learned:
- Take a shower, standing under cold water for at least a few seconds.
- Change your clothes, dressing as if for a normal day.
- Make your bed.
- Spend ten minutes cleaning the house.
- Get some fresh air.
You’re probably thinking you could have written that. It doesn’t take an expert to know that making your bed is a good idea.
Actually, the article is based on advice from experts. For instance, the suggestion that you make your bed at the start of the day comes from a therapist who says, “While we are under quarantine and so much of our lives are out of our control, it’s important to feel in control of your immediate environment. Keeping both yourself and your home environment clean and tidy will significantly improve your sense of calm.”
The cold shower suggestion comes from a 2016 report that people who took such showers experienced “an increase in perceived energy levels (including many reported comparisons to the effect of caffeine).” Five studies of undergraduates found that more formal clothing helps with cognition and in particular with abstract processing.
A psychological study showed that people with cluttered homes are more likely to feel stressed and fatigued. And regarding fresh air, the American Heart Association reports that “nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves instead of frazzling them.”
Advice from experts and God’s first commission to the first man
So it turns out, taking care of ourselves and our immediate environment is scientifically proven to help us bring order to our lives. Adam would have agreed.
In Genesis 2:15 we find the Lord’s first commission to our first ancestor: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” “Work” translates the Hebrew ob-da, which means to “cultivate” or “improve.” “Keep” translates the Hebrew som-ra, meaning to “guard” or “preserve.”
Taken together, these mandates call us to develop God’s creation while protecting it as his possession. We typically think of such work as essential for the environment, which it obviously is. But it is also essential for us. When we partner with our Creator to care for his creation, we care for ourselves as well.
Jonathan Edwards is often considered America’s greatest theologian. He observed, “Surely there is something in the unruffled calm of nature that overawes our little anxieties and doubts: the sight of the deep-blue sky and the clustering stars above seem to impart a quiet to the mind.”
How will you “work” and “keep” your garden today?