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Upcoming event looks at pandemic one year later

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A virtual workshop hosted by Christian Theological Seminary on March 12 will examine the silver linings to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 23rd Annual Spirituality and Psychotherapy Conference is co-sponsored by IU Health’s Department of Spiritual Care and Family & Community Partners counseling agency and headlined by Dr. Chris Johnstone. Johnstone has a background in psychology and previously worked with people struggling with addiction.

The workshop will focus on “active hope,” a phrase coined by Johnstone that essentially requires one to determine what their goals are for the future and create a realistic plan to achieve those goals. Johnstone wrote the book “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy” with author Joanna Macy in 2012.

“I worked as a medical doctor and with people who had severe addiction problems,” Johnstone said. “Many of my patients felt hopeless about getting better, but they were clear about what they hoped for and worked toward it anyway. … Active hope means that you don’t let feeling unhopeful stop you from taking action.”

Johnstone said the pandemic has forced everyone to pay more attention to the community around them, and while lockdowns and economic stress can cause mental health issues to arise, there may be some surprising benefits to the ways COVID has changed our day-to-day lives.

“We need to recognize that we’re bruised collectively,” Johnstone said. “There are so many things that we can’t do anymore, but it’s causing people to stop and ask themselves what really matters and actually leads us to pay more attention to what’s around us.”

While prioritizing what’s important to you is good for your physical and mental health, Johnstone said taking time to reflect on things that bother you can help change your community for the better. “Inspirational dissatisfaction,” as Johnstone calls it, is taking something that makes you uncomfortable and taking steps to change it, whether it’s issues within your neighborhood or global warming.

“When you do something, even if it’s small, you get a warm feeling inside when you do something you feel good about,” Johnstone said. “That’s good for mental health and good for communal well-being … and makes others more likely to pay it forward.”

Throughout the workshop, Johnstone will discuss how active hope can get us through the rest of the pandemic and how to handle the fatigue many have felt over the last year.

Beyond advice on how to navigate our COVID-riddled reality, Johnstone will also ask participants to think about how they’ve become more resilient over the last year and what they’ve learned from living through a pandemic. Other topics include getting “back to normal” and how to nourish energy and compassion during the pandemic and beyond.

Click here to learn more about the workshop and register.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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