By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
One month into the new year, many people’s resolutions for a fresh start may be waning, fading or in the wastebasket of discarded good intentions. Mental health nurse practitioner Chris McCormick Pries of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf offers a fresh perspective on how to approach this still new year by taking a step back to replenish, reflect, refocus, recommit and rejoice.
“It is very important sometimes to switch off what is going on around us, to get rid of the noise. … If we get rid of the external noise that allows us to begin to hear what’s inside. And spiritually, it allows us to hear or listen for God’s voice to help direct us and to help support us and to help us find our path and to find God’s will,” McCormick Pries said during an ecumenical retreat Jan. 27 at Grace Lutheran Church in Davenport.
She gave this advice after encouraging participants to turn off their smartphones for perhaps a half-day or even a full day. One participant asked how to deal with family members, relatives and friends who express alarm when they cannot reach her because she didn’t answer her phone.
McCormick Pries advised this response, “I have decided in this new year to take a half-day off from my phone. … If you call me (Tuesday morning, for example), I’m not going to answer. I’m taking some ‘me’ time.” McCormick Pries added, “If you have nothing to give, you can’t give it. We’ve got to be able to take care of ourselves. We’ve got to be able to draw boundaries.”
Today’s culture has grown accustomed to instant gratification, which “does not help the world go round in a healthy way,” she said. “I think the other thing is that people try to make you feel guilty. Don’t let them. They are going to hand you guilt and you say, ‘No thank you.’”
She spoke of the importance of replenishing oneself spiritually, physically, and emotionally. “Spiritually, we can start replenishing ourselves by sitting at God’s feet and resting there.” Take time daily, she recommended, “to really leave technology and spend time listening and talking to our Lord, whether that’s meditating, whether that’s reading Scripture, whether that’s praying with a set of prayers that are important to us. This is part of how we fill ourselves and make ourselves available. We start by grounding ourselves and finding that anchor.” She quoted St. Augustine, who said “… Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”
McCormick Pries identified five stages that help people to move forward: replenish, reflect/remembering, refocusing, recommitment, and rejoicing. Over the next week, take time to think about “what I can do to replenish myself,” she encouraged. Replenishing includes renewing and restoring one’s energy, making time for self-care, resting, taking “down time,” “switching off,” and playing.
“Reflection allows us to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, our values, and our beliefs. It helps us to become more aware of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors, enabling us to make conscious choices that align with our true selves.” Ask yourself, “Do my actions match what I say is important to me?” Remember “the great things God has done in the past. God is with us through the most difficult times in our lives” as well as the good times, McCormick Pries said.
Reflecting and remembering are especially important “as we approach life’s transitions.” Identify your strengths, talents, treasure and talents, she advised. Journaling, one way of reflecting, “Helps us keep track of where we’ve been and where we are going.”
Refocusing acknowledges, “Our focus lies where our eyes are fixed. What things do you value in your life? Choose a couple of things and structure your life around those things,” she recommended. “Live out the behaviors in line with those values.”
McCormick Pries advised the gathering to “assess the way you use your phone,” and admitted that is a challenge for her, personally. She also recommended getting rid of clutter. “If we don’t need it (a piece of clothing, a souvenir, a book), pass it on to someone who does.” She advised, “Spend time with people who matter to you” but also make space for alone time.
In the recommitment stage, “commitment is what keeps us going when motivation wears thin.” It means, “Doing things we may not want to do but know will yield the results we want in the end. It means not abandoning our goal when something comes up or we feel tired or discouraged.” Share goals with people who are important in your life. “Ask for their support, their acknowledgment.”
Then, make time to rejoice. Celebrate achievements and milestones on the journey. Practice gratitude and positive reinforcement. Celebrate other people’s accomplishments. “Even if we didn’t achieve what someone else did it helps us experience more joy and it opens doors to us,” McCormick Pries said. “We are anchored in our faith and spirituality. That’s what gives us joy.”
Embrace the journey
Connect the concepts of replenish, reflect, refocus, recommit and rejoice, which build on each other, she said. “Personal, spiritual and emotional growth is cyclical. Embrace the journey!”
Participants took McCormick Pries’ message to heart, but none more so than Linda Clayburne of Davenport did.
“I’ve been out of school for 20 years and I’m going back to get my bachelor’s degree,” said Clayburne, who is married and employed full time and has set this same education goal for nine years. This time she is committed, and starts classes this week. “I heard the Lord speaking through you,” she told McCormick Pries. “You did an awesome job.” Clayburne shared her appreciation for all of the retreat attendees. “We’re all one body … I’m asking for all of your prayers.” The gathering responded with applause.
Char McGovern, a health advocate for Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, said she has heard McCormick Pries speak many times. This presentation, especially, resonated with McGovern as a health advocate, wife, mother, grandmother and sister, she said. “We don’t realize how much we have to take care of ourselves to support everyone in our lives.”