Michele Faehnle interviews nurse and healthcare chaplain Teresa Sipos about ways to improve your spiritual well-being.
During this pandemic, everyone is struggling. Life is difficult, our strength to keep going in our situation may be waning. The peace and joy we normally feel during the joyful Christmas season has been dulled. As a nurse, I have read a lot of research on the toll this pandemic has had on everyone’s mental health, but I also noticed it has greatly impacted many people’s spiritual health.
Today I am featuring an interview with a friend, mentor, nurse and mental health professional Teresa Sipos MSEd, BSN, RN, who shares some tips on spiritual well-being from a Catholic perspective. Teresa is an adjunct professor of Mental Health Nursing and ministers as a Healthcare Chaplain. She serves as Chair for the National Association of Catholic Nurses, Columbus (Ohio) Council.
What is spiritual health?
As a mental health nurse, we define a person with good spiritual health as an individual who identifies meaning and purpose in life that reinforce hope, peace, and contentment. They are able to verbalize acceptance of self as a worthwhile human being and accept and incorporate change into life in a healthy manner. People with good spiritual health are able to express understanding of the relationship between difficulties in current life situations and interruption in previous religious beliefs and activities. They can discuss beliefs and values about spiritual and religious issues and express the desire and have the ability to participate in beliefs and activities of desired religion (Mary C. Townsend, Essentials of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, 6th ed., p. 98).
How is our spiritual well-being connected to our mental health?
Research has shown that religion and good spiritual health contributes to both physical and mental well-being. Those who connect with their faith have a sense of purpose, find comfort in their faith, are grounded and develop love and compassion for others. However, in times of spiritual distress or crisis, we may lose this grounding and peace, and in turn, this impacts our mental health.
What is spiritual distress?
Spiritual distress defined by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association (NANDA) as "the impaired ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through connectedness with self, others, art, music, literature, nature, and/or a power greater than oneself."
What are the symptoms or signs of spiritual distress?
Typical signs and symptoms are:
- Feelings of anger or hopelessness
- Feelings of depression and anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling abandoned by God
- Questioning the meaning of life or suffering
- Questioning beliefs or sudden doubt in spiritual or religious beliefs
- Asking why this situation occurred
- Seeking spiritual help or guidance.
Sometimes I have seen patients have symptoms such as “losing it”; “checking out”; “bingeing”; feeling isolated and disconnected.
What are some remedies?
The best way to strengthen our Catholic faith in difficult times is through prayer. Catholic meditative practices such as the Rosary, reading the Scriptures, and listening to uplifting praise and worship music are especially helpful to our mental health as well. Attending Mass; receiving the Eucharist and reception of all the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation, can be extremely beneficial. Take up good spiritual reading (Lessons in the School of Suffering by Fr. Jim Willig has been a recent favorite). Also having sacramentals in your home such as a blessed crucifix, or an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary can be a source of peace and consolation.
Don’t forget to ask your guardian angel to help you!
Any parting words of wisdom for our Catholicmom.com readers?
I have three things I would suggest to your readers:
- Please stay connected!! Go to Mass, if you cannot attend in person, attend on-line Masses. Consider joining an on-line prayer group. If you do not have one available, take time to have a phone call where you can pray with friends and family.
- Create a quiet dedicated space to pray. This can help you really connect with God. In this space, read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the Scriptures. Also have a prayer journal and write down what you heard/felt that day in prayer, even if it is only 5 minutes per day. I have a bible I write in. I mark my Bible with the date and may highlight verses that were very meaningful to me that day and then journal about it. In my journal I write about the day and definitely write about all that I am grateful for that day.
- End your day with the Healing Prayer at Bedtime (below). I pray it especially if I can't sleep or am having nightmares, and recommend the prayer for my patients. It is a beautiful prayer, and I hope it brings you peace and consolation during this time.
The Healing Prayer at Bedtime
Lord Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, go back into my memory as I sleep.
Every hurt that has ever been done to me, heal that hurt.
Every hurt that I have ever caused another person, heal that hurt.
All the relationships that have been damaged in my whole life that I am not aware of, heal those relationships.
But, Lord, if there is anything that I need to do;
If I need to go to a person because he or she is still suffering from my hand,
Bring to my awareness that person, I choose to forgive, and I ask to be forgiven.
Remove whatever bitterness may be in my heart, Lord, and fill the empty spaces with your love.
Copyright 2020 Michele Faehnle
Image: Priscilla Du Preez (2020), Unsplash
About the Author
Michele Faehnle is a wife, mother of 4 and a school nurse. In her free time she enjoys volunteering for the church and is the co-chair of the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference. She is also the co-author of The Friendship Project, Divine Mercy For Moms, Our Friend Faustina and Pray Fully; Simple Steps to Becoming a Woman of Prayer. Read more of her work at InspireTheFaith.com.